Entertainment » Movies

The Upside

by Noe Kamelamela
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 11, 2019
'The Upside'
'The Upside'  

"The Upside" is the third remake to date of the beloved French film "Intouchables." The friendship of French quadriplegic aristocrat Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Algerian ex-convict Abdel Sellou made for an original motion picture that is heartwarming while exploring the intersections of race, age, sex, disability and class.

While the Indian and Argentinian remakes had their charming takes about such divisions, I was prepared to hate Hollywood's version and believed I'd be watching something that should have been titled "Driving Mister Daisy." The American version is a bit more vulgar in some ways, but it also explores American culture and our own particular expressions of bigotry that presents a more authentic setting than simply transplanting the story from Paris to New York City. I think a movie where people discover each other primarily through conversation is not going to be the stuff of a blockbuster in this country, but it does remain faithful to the source material — at least through the humorous anecdotes and emotionally difficult exchanges to a light-hearted ending.

Bryan Cranston plays Phillip and Kevin Hart co-stars as Dell, a recently paroled ex-convict from the projects. There is an overall impishness and bombastic quality to both of their performances. It is good to see that here Kevin Hart is capable of holding his own in scenes opposite of various actors and not just Cranston, including Nicole Kidman and Julianna Margulies. Cranston, famed for humanizing problematic anti-heroes, conveys an overwhelming amount of emotion, all by using just the muscles of, and above, his neck.

For all the work Cranston does — and certainly he is very captivating in this role — he is not an actor with a disability. All three actors who have taken on the movie role of the real life Phillip are not disabled. This is not a gripe specific to this movie, but most of media in general. This movie has been vocally accused of cripping up around the world, something that the original in 2011 did not have to deal with at the time. ('Cripping up' is the practice of casting able-bodied actors or actors who do not have a common disability with a character for a role.) Disabled actors exist. This kind of cross-casting is problematic, especially for viewers who do not know anything about the disabled. Seeing an actor who can walk play a quadriplegic may perpetuate the myth that a person with a disability could stop being disabled at any time if they just believe hard enough, since in order to portray a disabled man all Cranston has to do is pretend.

Despite that one quibble, there is a lot of material about racism, classism and ableism to which audiences can connect. New York City is a perfect microcosm for this, where the ridiculously wealthy and the homeless live side by side. The producers should take pride in the fact that they made a movie that insists all people have their own strengths and intelligences, all people have the ability to relate to each other. That is the one upside of being alive.

The Upside

Phillip is a wealthy quadriplegic who needs a caretaker to help him with his day-to-day routine in his New York penthouse. He decides to hire Dell, a struggling parolee who's trying to reconnect with his ex and his young son. Despite coming from two different worlds, an unlikely friendship starts to blossom as Dell and Phillip rediscover the joy of living life to the fullest.


Runtime :: 126 mins
Release Date :: Jan 11, 2019
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States

Noe Kamelamela is a reader who reads everything and a writer who writes
very little.


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