The Upside – Film Review by Pat Viale
Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Jon Hartmere (screenplay by), Éric Toledano (based on the motion picture “Les Intouchables” by)
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston
Why does Hollywood insist on coming up with sentimental, soft-centred remakes of outstanding foreign movies and, for the most part, making a total mess of them? Do they think English speaking audiences are too slow-witted for any kind of intricacy or subtlety? In recent times we’ve seen the complex Argentinian thriller, “The Secret in their Eyes”, dumbed down for American audiences and the awful caricatured portrayal of the title character in “Florence Foster Jenkins” (by the usually excellent Meryl Streep) based on the elegant French film, “Marguerite”, to name but a couple.
Director Neil Burger’s latest film, “The Upside”, a remake of the 2012 French film “Les Intouchables” falls right into this category. It is a bigger, brasher and altogether a far more simplistic version of the original. The millionaire of the French version is here a billionaire, donating tens of thousands of dollars to charities he takes no interest in and buying exorbitantly expensive pieces of art on a whim. Burger’s direction lacks any sense of intrigue or mystery. Within ten minutes of the opening credits we can tell exactly how the story is going to unfold and by the end, there have been no surprises.
However, that’s not to say that the film is not worth seeing. If you’re looking for an entertaining, well-acted romp and a happy ending, look no further. The two central performances of Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart (probably best known these days for being dropped as host of the 2019 Oscars after some homophobic tweets he made came to light) give us a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and while pathos may be sacrificed to slapstick, it’s enough to hold our interest.
Cranston plays Philip, a wealthy businessman who has been left quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. Living in an extremely plush penthouse apartment with his cook, housekeeper and long-term assistant, Yvonne (a mousey Nicole Kidman), we first meet him when he and Yvonne are interviewing a number of candidates to act as his personal nurse. Dell (Kevin Hart), recently released from prison and looking for a job, mistakes this interview for that for a janitor’s post he’s applying for, and to his surprise and Yvonne’s horror, he is the candidate that Philip chooses.
What follows are the usual odd couple tensions and misunderstandings that segue into a kind of bromance that we’ve seen in so many other movies. Thrown into the mix is the nervy Yvonne – will she, won’t she end up with the man she wants? However, there are no prizes for guessing how the film will end. In spite of what could be a depressing storyline, “The Upside” has a lot of good gags and some great performances and if you’re looking for a couple of hours of undemanding entertainment, you could do a lot worse than going to see it.