"The Upside" Review: Solid Performances, Formulaic Story

The Upside is one of those films that tackle how two vastly different people’s lives can intertwine to help one another see the brighter side of life. The film is based off a true story and a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables. While the performances are solid, this version ultimately lands a bit flat.

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Philip (Bryan Cranston) is a quadriplegic in need of a live in assistant. Dell (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con in search of employment. After Dell stumbles upon the job interview, Philip hires him as the worst candidate for the job in hopes that he might just kill him with his lack of experience. As the two get to know one another, they are called out on their excuses that they make for the cards that life has dealt them.

This film is certainly Hart’s film. When he’s in scenes, they come to life, and when he’s not the film’s energy is sucked out. As a comedian at the top of his game, this film is Hart’s vehicle that will help him crossover in being taken seriously as a dramatic actor. The interactions between Hart and Cranston are authentic and at times hilarious. Due to their blunt honesty with one another, we’re able to analyze life truths that resonate. Nicole Kidman turns in a subtly wonderful performance as Philip’s executive in charge of his affairs. 

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The issue with the film is that it’s full of beautiful but formulaic moments. These moments are loosely strung together with choppy start-stop pacing. Furthermore, it fails to pull you in and genuinely care for its main characters. You may appreciate Dell and Phillip’s relationship, but you don’t really feel the connection to them that is necessary for the film to soar. 

If you’re looking for a feel good film to take grandma to see this weekend, this is it. However, this is a film that I’d suggest you wait to catch when it’s streaming. You’ll forget about it moments after leaving the theater.

Rating: C

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.