‘The Upside’ shows great potential, underwhelms


David Lee/The Weinstein Company

A lot of people have a problem with the 2013 film “Jobs” with Ashton Kutcher. Not because it is an intrinsically bad movie, but because Kutcher was typecast as a goofy comedy actor.
Because of his past roles, many critics and people that I know personally went into the film already “knowing” they would hate it.
They just didn’t give it a chance. Now I’m not saying that “Jobs” is a cinematic masterpiece, but Kutcher did a respectable job portraying the titular technology mogul.
I bring this up, because I heard a lot of these same comments going into “The Upside” with Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart.
Many people made a judgment call about Hart’s contribution to the movie and decided before they had even seen it that the movie was going to be a flop.
In an effort to push these people out of my head, I went into the movie giving Hart the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, I was kind of disappointed with the movie as a whole despite my best efforts.
“The Upside” follows the unlikely relationship of Dell (Hart), a down-on-his-luck ex-con who is looking for a job, and Phillip (Cranston) a wheelchair-bound millionaire who hires him as his caretaker.
Although Dell is completely unqualified for the position, he and Phillip soon reach a point of mutual respect and friendship for each other.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of “The Upside.” It had its good moments, but it really suffered from not having a clear tone.
A lot of this came down to how it was marketed.
In all the trailers, shots of Hart screaming and Cranston laughing led many moviegoers to believe that this would be a typical comedy.
This isn’t even speculation; I had multiple vocal members of my movie theater angrily expressed their discontent at the screen.
I, for one, saw this coming, and went into the theater expecting a serious film with a couple of laughs.
I was kind of right, but not in the way I wanted to be.
Like I said before, the tone of “The Upside” is all over the place.
To their credit Hart and Cranston share a good couple of scenes having genuine heart-to-hearts, and the story is moved along in a way that is not only good, but genius.
There is a point in the film where Cranston’s character is commenting on his intense nerve pain and Hart’s character helps him with his street smarts by buying some marijuana on the street.
This helps Cranston’s nerve pain, and the two bond over a conversation about what put Cranston’s character in his wheelchair and his deceased wife.
It’s this kind of heart and emotional realness that I was expecting throughout the movie, but the film only gave it in small doses.
This excellent scene is contrasted by a couple minute ordeal between the same two characters in which Hart refuses to put in a catheter for Cranston, and the two have a conversation about who will say the word “penis” first in a game of chicken that only small children would play.
It’s this kind of goofy comedy that would normally seem right at home in a movie that Hart is in, but here, it just seems out of place.
And this isn’t this only time that the “comedy” of “The Upside” dips into this brand of jokes that have the emotional weight of someone passing gas on screen.
The one saving grace of “The Upside” is its performances.
Both Hart and Cranston give great performances, the latter more so than the former, but nevertheless, a lot of Hollywood talent was presented here.
While I certainly complained a decent amount about the jokes, I don’t blame Hart.
In his more serious scenes, Hart shines. If anything, I blame the less than stellar script.
The gorgeous Nicole Kidman gives a great performance as well, and is a shining light throughout the film. She really brings an amount of professionalism to each scene that she’s in, and I would have loved to see her talents utilized more.
Overall, I would have loved to have seen a more grounded film that was more serious than funny. The story itself was good for what it was, but it missed the mark too many times for me to really like it.
I think in an effort to keep an open mind about Hart being in the film, I over compensated and expected too much.
I cannot say that I would recommend going to see “The Upside.” It just didn’t do it for me. If you are interested in a movie that has a similar plot, but takes it in a different direction, I would highly recommend “Me Before You.”
Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones” fame stars in this romance movie where she falls in love with a quadriplegic millionaire played by Sam Claflin. “Me Before You” is an excellent example of how to integrate comedy into a story that would be normally really melancholy.
In short, go see “Me Before You,” not “The Upside.”

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