Sunday 10 February 2019

Film: 'The Upside'

Some will berate me for paying to see a film having in one of the two principal roles, Kevin Hart - he of recent standing down as Oscars ceremony host due to coming to light of homophobic tweets of (not so distant) past. Well, I've seen it now and I can't exactly unsee it - though perhaps wishing it were  possible. 
A further controversy, but attached to this film itself, is the casting of the able-bodied Bryan Cranston as a paraplegic, able only to move his head. 

Based on a true story (how many films aren't?) it's the story of widowed Philadelphia billionaire (Cranston) in his severely dependent physical condition (brought about by paragliding accident) looking for a carer who's to be on demand at all times. Supervising the appointment out of a large number of applicants is Nicole Kidman, when in barges Hart, out from prison on parole, all mouth and bluster, not especially looking for this particular job for which he's eminently unqualified and inexperienced, but anything to help him re-connect with his former partner and their now teenage son. He pushes into the room where interviews are taking place and Cranston takes two seconds to decide that he's the one he wants despite the vigorous objections of Kidman.  It's one of those 'chalk and cheese' relationships, only this time instead of the two squabbling from the off as per the template of such films, only to have them develop true affection for one another, this time the Cranston figure is immediately star-struck and amused and entertained by the other's gaucheness and clowning around, while Hart takes time to come round to valuing their friendship, which we all knew was going to happen anyway. The latter's especially squeamish about the intimate level of care required, especially the changing of catheter. Not very imaginative. 

I only wonder at the otherwise justifiably morose Cranston's extraordinary level of tolerance for Hart's ludicrous capers, always smiling benignly and allowing him a leeway of independence, not to say remuneration, which beggars belief.
Cranson is sophisticated with a profound love of opera - all the handful of excerpts we hear would be very high on a 'greatest operatic hits' chart, not a single one being even slightly unfamiliar. Needless to say, Hart's taste is completely down-to-earth, he worshipping the Great Aretha above all (and why not?) - but, would you believe it, it's not very long before he himself acquires a love of opera!   

There's an absurdly theatrical scene when the two of them are having a row and Hart offers to break valuable ornaments etc on behalf of Cranston to help the latter get his anger out. Dear me!

Kidman's role is quite a substantial one, appearing in more than a few scenes, and for me she was, as so often, the film's saving grace.

At over two hours, the film is far too bloated to be the successful comedy it purports to be. If it hadn't been based on true (to what degree?) I would have believed very little of it.

Director Neil Burger ('Divergent', 'Limitless') must have had great fun making this, and that is probably at the root of why I didn't care for it, finding it sentimental and manipulative. But some who are able to suspend their critical faculties better than I can may well enjoy going along with it for the ride. Pity that I couldn't............4.

(IMDb.................6.3 / Rott. Tomes...............5.2 )


  1. I saw this film 3 weeks ago when the showing of Ollie and Stan in the cinema broke down. I enjoyed it very much and found it entertaining. It was not a demanding film, was quite funny in parts and I found it a joy to discover that it was based on a true story and they remained friends in real life, and they helped each other.

    1. You may have seen it in the best way, Rachel, namely with no expectations at all. I think the first think that put my back up was Cranston's constant kindly smiling at Hart's silly antics and pronouncements as though he'd discovered a jewel in the mud which only he, the invalid, could appreciate. It got dangerously close to discovering the Hart character as having a life-affirming wisdom underneath his loud exterior, though it didn't go quite that far.
      I dare say that a number will indeed enjoy the film - though not that many who've managed to show themselves in the film site ratings I quote above. Maybe it's best to have watched it, as you did, without taking any extraneous baggage along with you as I seem to have done.

  2. I'd give anything to see Kidman-Cranston film, but not this one.
    I find Kevin Hart unfunny and offensive--and that was before his homophobic child abuse "jokes" surfaced.

    1. Cranston was tolerable in this - even as Hart also just about was, playing the loud-mouth character (it suited him!) - but my rating would have been lower had not the luminous presence of Nicol Kidman been there to give it a lift.