The Upside: Movie Review
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The Upside is a comedy about a poor African-American man and a paralyzed white millionaire who help each other learn valuable life lessons. Beautifully crafted, funny and heartfelt, The Upside has a strong moral, pro-life worldview undercut by brief foul language and two scenes showing marijuana usage.
Kevin Hart stars as Dell, an African-American ex-convict, who's always sweet-talked his way through life and shirked true responsibility, including paying child support for his young teenage son. Dell's probation officer tells him he has to find three signatures from prospective employers proving that he's looking for work within the next 24 hours or go back to prison. Dell scrambles and stumbles into the penthouse apartment of a paralyzed millionaire named Phillip played by Bryan Cranston.
Phillip and his assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) are trying to find a new caretaker for him, and the millionaire takes an instant interest in the streetwise Dell because of his take-no-prisoners attitude and sass. Phillip has been depressed since an accident paralyzed him and killed his wife and even has orders not to be resuscitated if he chokes. However, Dell is determined to help him regain his zest for living while Phillip teaches Dell to set higher goals and standards for himself.
These higher standards pertain particularly towards Dell's barely existent relationship with his ex-girlfriend and mother to his teenage son. As Dell moves into the penthouse for the job and makes the biggest paychecks of his life, however, he quickly becomes more responsible and a better man.
Dell tries to convince Phillip to meet a mysterious woman with whom he has a longstanding, long-distance romantic correspondence via letters. However, things go awry and the two men find that trying to improve and change one's life can be far more complicated than expected.
Based on the smash-hit French movie The Intouchables, which in turn was based on a real-life friendship between two Parisian men, The Upside nonetheless stands on its own merits as a vibrant movie with many positive life lessons. Each of the two leading men have universally relatable issues that viewers will find extremely affecting.
Hart delivers his deepest, most nuanced performance to date in a role that bounces between drama and comedy repeatedly. Cranston pulls off the remarkable feat of delivering a powerful performance using only his face, due to his character's paralysis. Finally, Kidman provides sweet support as the woman who quietly yet strongly ensures that Phillip's life is running as best it can, but is wary of Dell's boisterous presence.
The Upside is a beautifully told story about the impact that people can make in each other's lives, and a life-affirming tale of a man learning to regain his spirit after tragic circumstances. It is filled with kindness and yet is also very funny in many scenes, as Hart and Cranston establish a terrific chemistry together.
The Upside has a strong moral, pro-life worldview, but there is some brief foul language and marijuana use. The movie's life-affirming messages and heartfelt, funny moments will inspire mature audiences, but extreme caution is advised.
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