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'The Upside' is uplifting audiences with a true story buddy film
REVIEW

'The Upside' is uplifting audiences with a true story buddy film

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“The Upside” is a crowd-pleaser, an uplifting movie that’s an English-language remake of the even-better French “The Intouchables” from 2011.

Both are based on a true story of an unlikely friendship that forms as the result of a transaction, a similar theme reflected in “Green Book,” a favorite from 2018 that’s still in theaters.

Not only is it a buddy film, but it also a “fish-out-of-water” story. There’s plenty to like about the characters who find themselves in an unusual situation.

Kevin Hart plays Dell Scott, a felon who must find work. The mother of his son won’t let him stay with her, so he reluctantly “seeks employment” — that is, he wants someone to sign a sheet that says he was looking for a job so that he can show it to his parole officer.

Bryan Cranston is Phillip Lacasse, a billionaire who, in this version, lives in a Manhattan penthouse and maintains a fleet of collector cars.

Dell presumes that the job for which he is applying is some kind of janitor. He is surprised to find that Phillip is a quadriplegic from injuries suffered in a paragliding accident.

Nicole Kidman plays Phillip’s secretary who decides that he needs someone to help him — someone on call who will live in the penthouse with him.

Dell’s wiseacre, street-smart personality endears him instantly to Phillip, who has trouble finding a reason to live. Dell also is clever and a problem-solver, and despite protests from Phillip’s secretary, Phillip hires him on the spot.

The stunned Dell can’t believe his good fortune when he finds out his salary. He also can’t believe that he will be caring for Phillip in the most intimate of ways.

Cranston and Hart are enjoyable, reliable performers. Here they have great chemistry. Hart’s motor-mouthed delivery is toned down a bit in a role that’s more serious than what he usually plays. Cranston, using only his vocal expressions and his face, is great at portraying a sophisticated character who is so angry and filled with grief that he is ready to quit.

It’s just plain fun to watch Dell give Phillip a new perspective on his life, and just as entertaining to watch how Phillip’s generosity gives Dell, and his family, a chance at a new life, too.

Music plays a major part in the film, and that will please the music lovers in the crowd whether the scene is enhanced by opera, Aretha Franklin, or both (just wait and see/hear).

It’s no wonder this good-natured movie is selling out auditoriums in the Quad-Cities and elsewhere. When you have enjoyed it, learn a little more about the real people involved and treat yourself to “The Intouchables.”

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

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