Premise: A comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy man with quadriplegia and an unemployed man with a criminal record who’s hired to help him.
The Upside is a pretty middle of the road comedy that’s fairly inoffensive, if unimaginative in its execution. It’s a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables. It premiered at TIFF in 2017 and finally got a wide theatrical release now in 2019.
I haven’t seen The Intouchables, so I can’t compare the two. But The Upside is hard to nail down simply because its two leads are enjoyable. Cranston and Hart elevate an otherwise dull script by simply being charming and sharing some decent chemistry onscreen.
However, chemistry only gets you so far. The movie feels like it was pieced together in the editing room as it makes leaps in the plot without any real connective tissue.
There is an emphasis on Phillip’s wishes to not be resuscitated if he were to stop breathing. This is directly due to the grief he feels for his late wife as he has dreams about her and the accident that made him a quadriplegic. None of this is paid off in any significant way. Instead, the movie suddenly introduces a romantic penpal storyline and completely drops the grieving widow angle. It’s really bizarre storytelling and did not connect with me at all.
There’s also a dramatic element introduced to Phillip and Dell’s relationship involving a book. This plot thread does have a throughline, but it’s nothing of major consequence to the story. It just seems like lazy storytelling to all but dump that plotline instead of seizing the dramatic opportunity it could have presented.
The Upside resolves itself as well as it can with a slight time jump followed by a rush to wrap of some dangling storylines quickly. The way Nicole Kidman’s character is handled feels forced and ends on a note of sentiment that the movie really doesn’t earn. Dell’s personal growth as a character and the resolution of a back and forth with Phillip about Dell’s aspirations feels too much like the movie is tidying up its loose ends, rather than finding the resolution organically.
Finally, there’s something in the last 20 minutes that’s featured in the trailers that really comes out of nowhere and feels tacked on. Given the fragile mental that Phillip is in at the beginning of the movie, I was left confused and not at all “relaxed” by this scene late in the movie.
The Upside is somewhat of a narrative mess that is elevated by decent performances from its two leads and the chemistry they share. There is little else that is special about it, unfortunately.