The Upside

A remake of the highly successful and acclaimed 2011 French film The Intouchables that itself is based on a true story, The Upside is a comedy drama about an unlikely friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic and a struggling African American who becomes a caregiver. Phillip Lacasse, played by Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston, is a rather grumpy and depressed billionaire living in a New York City penthouse who is in need of a caregiver after becoming a quadriplegic several years prior. His personal and financial affairs are run by the strict by-the-book Yvonne, played by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman, who is horrified to learn that Phillip hires a convicted felon named Dell Scott, played by comedian Kevin Hart in a somewhat more serious role, as his personal caregiver after an extensive search with much more experienced candidates. Dell is trying to keep down a job in order to support his young son and his mother who are living in a public housing development, as well as staying out of jail on parole. Like the original, their relationship is more transactional at first, but, over time, the two men with drastically different backgrounds begin to develop a close friendship. Dell encourages Phillip to go out in the world more and to pursue a female pen pal who Phillip is interested in romantically but too shy to reveal himself as disabled. There are moments of humor that help to personalize the unique relationship between Dell and Phillip, but, unfortunately, the film is filled with a number of somewhat patronizing clichés that prevent the audience from truly understanding Phillip and how having a disability has affected his life. For instance, there was a rather unnecessary scene involving a catheter that is primarily used as a gag to elicit cheap laughs. As someone who is disabled, I do appreciate the fact that Hollywood decided to make such a movie about the disabled, but I kept on debating with myself whether it was the appropriate casting choice to have a able-bodied person play someone with a disability. Overall, I did find it to be an occasionally endearing depiction of the extraordinary relationship between the disabled and their caregivers; although I applaud its efforts to raise awareness about disabilities, I came away questioning whether the movie was necessary at all because the original is so much better. If you enjoy the basic story of this film, I would highly recommend going back and watching the original French movie with an equally talented cast.

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