The Upside, rated PG-13
The Upside is an enjoyable film based on a true story about the friendship between two men, one in a wheelchair and the other his caregiver. The film is directed by Neil Burger (Divergent, The Illusionist). The screenplay is written by Jon Hartmere based on the 2011 French film Les Intouchables directed by Eric Toldedano and Olivier Nakache. The film features a strong cast, including an Oscar winner and an Oscar nominee and was shot in Philadelphia.The film is set in New York City. Dell, played by Kevin Hart (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), is an African American, street smart, ex-con. He has been kicked out of his apartment after failing to provide for his ex-girlfriend Latrice, played by Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation), and their teenage son. He has all but given up hope in finding a job.
His probation officer tells him that he needs to obtain three signatures from possible employers to prove that he is looking for work in the next 24 hours or she will send him back to the judge. Dell goes to apply for a janitorial position, but ends up in the penthouse apartment of Phillip, played by Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston (Trumbo). Phillip is a wealthy white man who is a quadriplegic in a mouth-controlled wheelchair, the result of a para-sailing accident. He also recently lost his wife to cancer and is badly depressed. He has lost his will to live, and wants everyone to know that he has a “DNR” (do not resuscitate) order. His devoted executive assistant Yvonne, played by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) is helping Phillip to find a new caregiver. Although Yvonne is not impressed with the rude and unqualified Dell, Phillip takes a liking to him and decides to offer him the position. Dell isn’t sure, but the large paycheck Phillip offers him changes his mind.
We see how their unlikely friendship grows and how they positively impact each other. We see Phillip begin to come alive again and Dell begin to take more responsibility and show empathy. Phillip introduces Dell to the opera, and Dell introduces Phillip to the music of Aretha Franklin. The two actors have excellent chemistry as Hart tones it down a bit for this role, and there are some both truly funny and touching moments in the film.
Phillip has been exchanging letters with Lilly, played by Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife, E.R.), but they have not met. Against Phillip’s wishes, Dell dials Lilly’s number and eventually the two agree to meet for a meal.
Content concerns include some adult language, including an abuse of God’s name, and a brief scene of sexuality in a flashback. Themes in the film include caring for another, friendship, responsibility and the will to live.
The film premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was to be distributed by the Weinstein Company in March 2018. But the film was put on hold after the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations, and later picked up by STX Entertainment and Lantern Entertainment.
The Upside is a funny and touching film that I really liked, based on a real-life relationship between two men that has some relatively minor content issues.