Yet another true story film being released during Oscar season, The Upside is a remake of a 2011 French film ‘The Intouchables’. Telling the story of a paralysed billionaire who has an unlikely friendship with his new carer, an ex-convict on parole, the film’s cliché narrative lets down what could be a great film with fantastic performances.
The casting is by far the best thing about this film. Bryan Cranston stars as the paralysed billionaire Phillip Lacasse, and Kevin Hart stars as ex-convict Dell Scott. It’s clear from the off that though Cranston excels at comedy and drama, this is not something that comes as naturally to Hart, and his dramatic scenes are more ropey. Some work very well, others are predictable and not that great. His softer way of acting is also very juxtaposed when he’s doing his big shouty comedy, and though those moments are funny, they do cause a major contrast with his more serious scenes. The comedy scenes, however, are fantastic, and it should be said that for its flaws, the film is often hilarious thanks to both leads. Nicole Kidman is also in the film, but for an Oscar winning actress, she is criminally underused playing what is essentially a glorified secretary and love interest. This was very disappointing.
The narrative of the film has almost every cliché in it: The unlikely friendship where they’ll learn a little about one another; the love interest that was there the whole time; the falling out to add more drama; the ‘subtle’ social subtext; the son he’s trying to impress but always messes up, it’s all there. Though the comedy kept the film going through most scenes, the complete predictability of the film definitely impacted slightly.
The look of this film is also quite strange. It uses very natural cinematography, with simple lighting set-ups. The cameras use fairly wide lenses which don’t give the most cinematic look, and Go Pros and drone footage aren’t graded well enough to fit with the film’s aesthetic. As well as this, the film uses an odd image stabilising technique in several moments, and this warps the image. More surprisingly, the film seems to be using motion interpolation (or motion smoothing) which made the characters look strangely fluid in some scenes. This did not work stylistically.
Overall, The Upside does work as a buddy comedy drama film. Though it’s based on a true story, I very much doubt the narrative is that similar. However, thanks to the fantastic performances of the two leads, the film manages to get through its most cliché moments to present an ultimately enjoyable film.