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Film Review: “The Upside” (2017) ★★★★


Most people oppose remakes largely using excuses that Hollywood does not have fresh ideas any more and encourage others to see the originals. Moreover, every single piece adapted for the English audience is being widely criticized as unnecessary versions that should never be made. But let’s face it – if you and I like reading subtitles, then why on Earth does foreign cinema never get a wider release in North America? Because those films disappear quickly from theaters like they do not exist, while the majority enjoy watching films like “Avengers”.

This is why stories like the ones told in “The Upside” must be told and retold as many times and in any language felt necessary to not only reach a wide audience or travel across the globe but to deliver one message – Every person with a broken past is like unfinished art with great potential for improvement. All what it needs is the right artist to finish the job, like the friendship between Dell and Phillip. Directed by Neil Burger and starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, and Nicole Kidman, the film touches upon an uplifting friendship of two men who learned from each other – one to become more patient, another to become responsible. But through that learning, they both start appreciating life with all its up and downs, become better human beings, and laugh when there’s literally nothing to laugh at.

Dell, played by Kevin Hart, is just released from prison. He, seemingly, does not want to fix anything in his life, as he walks away from one job opportunity after another so as to show his parole officer that he tries. Having a son does not seem to add any responsibility to his already disturbing attitude and he turns more and more into a dislikable character. But that is the most fascinating part of this story, when you start disliking Dell, he turns into a hero, a man that you will admire more and more, who, when the right opportunity comes, does not reject the challenge, and in fact faces it as a true fighter to go against who he was to give birth to a new and refreshing version of himself he had no idea he could become.

It all happens due to Phillip, a wealthy man who, after a paragliding accident becomes a diabetic quadriplegic. After firing one caregiver after another, he interferes in Yvonne’s (Nicole Kidman) decision and hires the least qualified candidate to look after him. One may ask why someone like him would hire Dell, a man who clearly displays the lack of interest in any job, but for Phillip, Dell appears as the only person who might fail to provide the necessary help that can eventually end his nightmarish condition. But to Phillip’s great surprise, and to Yvonne’s as well, Dell slowly starts changing himself as well as Phillip, for whom the image of life takes new shape.

Bryan Cranston creates an absolutely unforgettable character in Phillip and you will never stop cheering for him. Through his performance, you start seeing the struggle of a man who does his best to find reason in his life when it seemed it has abandoned him after an accident. Nicole Kidman’s Yvonne is a truly gentle and inspiring character who does not hesitate to go beyond her responsibilities to ensure Phillip, her boss, has everything he needs to enjoy life to the best of his abilities. And Kevin Hart, who apparently can act and be a genuinely romantic character, delivers the performance that will make anyone who’s skeptic about him to change their mind about him and start appreciating him as a seriously gifted actor.

In the end, Neil Burger’s “The Upside” does not deserve all the negativity it has received. And for those who do not know, it’s the third remake of “The Intouchables” after the Indian “Oopiri” and the Argentinian “Inseparables”. That said, the premise of this film is so important and urgent in the world today where the lack of empathy and compassion is at an alarming level. After watching it, faith in humanity is restored and gives hope that there might be more people like Phillip and Dell we should learn about. And as for the film, it has a very well-balanced humour, perfectly acted from start to end, and delivers a heart-warming atmosphere you would wish to never leave. And if that is not what we need from films we watch that makes us feel good, then what is?

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