Review: The Upside
January has a reputation as a time when studios dump the films they have less faith in for critical and commercial success. With a beginning-of-the-year release, The Upside already had me skeptical, but it comes with the added baggage of messy distribution drama. The Weinstein Company originally produced the film, which means it’s hitting theaters well over a year after its premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Not promising.
Based on a true story (the word ‘loosely’ probably should be applied—it’s a remake of a French film inspired by the life of a French businessman), the plot centers on Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), a wealthy quadriplegic, and his unorthodox caretaker, Dell Scott (Kevin Hart), a recently paroled ex-convict. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship, and you probably know exactly where the story is going. The Upside follows the formula for an uplifting comedy-drama to the letter, which robs it of any dramatic stakes. It’s cliché, and the handling of race and disability comes across as a little trite.
But there is, well, an upside. Cranston and Hart are both charismatic performers, and the pair have a winning chemistry. The film is most enjoyable when the overwrought sentimentality falls away and the duo just plays off one another. There’s the making of a great buddy comedy here, and in January, you take what you can get.
Should you see it? Not really, but it certainly won’t be the worst thing in theaters this month. —S.W.
Viewed at AMC Esquire