Episode 19: The Upside
Join Jill and Chris for an in-depth discussion of the new film The Upside starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, and Nicole Kidman.
Rating: PG-13 (for suggestive content and drug use)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Directed By: Neil Burger
Written By: Jon Hartmere
Starring: Bryan Cranston (Phil), Kevin Hart (Dell), Nicole Kidman (Yvonne), Julianna Margulies (Lily)
Synopsis: Rotten Tomatoes
Inspired by a true story, The Upside is a heartfelt comedy about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston). Directed by Neil Burger and written by Jon Hartmere, The Upside is based on the hit 2011 French film The Intouchables.
Chris: The Intouchables, 2011 film
Differences and similarities
Scene with Lily wasn’t part of the original film….
Exploration of love relationships gets more attention in 2019 film
- Scene with Lily in the restaurant is more developed in 2019 film
- Disability is complex
- Assumption that she could jump in feet first and be okay with everything (part of her process/therapy) – shows that access intimacy is impossible if you don’t have an ongoing dialogue if you don’t have an ongoing conversation/false confidence
- Really saying: like every human relationship there has to be an awareness of everybody’s needs in the relationship –
- He was trying to perform an identity that was no longer authentic for him, denial
Gaining confidence and comfort with who he is…Lily (test of where he’s at – rejected because of disability)
What is this film saying about disability? What might we be critical of…
- Stereotypes supported by this film:
- Angry isolated cripple
- Saviors needed for minorities
- Disability is not a life worth living
- Down and out poor with a limited future outlook Black man
- Yvonne as a saintly figure – always giving and not gaining anything from the relationship for herself
- Critical about: Money and its role in getting physical needs met minimizes the effort it takes to live a Disabled life
What we find to be true – what the film is doing a good job of showing…
- Just because he’s disabled doesn’t mean he automatically understands what it means for him to be disabled or that he is ready to identify as part of a Disability culture.
- Lack of self understanding or direction to discover what it means to be disabled and the choice to be part of a Disability culture
- Disabled people have sexual drive and needs
- Complexity necessary to love in that context (caregiver, respects, looks out for him,
- Glimpse…that both people can be fulfilled by a relationship, authentic,
- Pity has no place in an authentic relationship – from the beginning we knew that Dell was not going to pity Phil, but rather, recognize that Phil’s disability only one part of him
- Humor is a necessary part of living for all people
- Left understanding that Phil can continue living a full life as a Disabled person
Rotten Tomatoes, Critics Consensus: Preachy, manipulative, and frustratingly clichéd, The Upside showcases Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart’s chemistry without ever taking full advantage of it.
It isn’t uncommon for Hollywood to snatch up a popular film produced in another country and put its own spin on it for English-speaking audiences, and sometimes the process can yield fantastic results (think Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia or Martin Scorsese’s The Departed). That was likely the thought behind The Upside, a remake of the 2011 comedy The Intouchables, which was a wildly successful hit in its native France. Kevin Hart stars as an ex-con who stumbles into a job interview to be the full-time caretaker of a wealthy quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston). He accepts the position, and as the two get to know each other, an unexpected bond begins to form between them. Critics say the film’s talented leads give it everything they’ve got, but they’re unable to escape the by-the-numbers execution and overly sentimental, cliche-ridden script. Fans of Hart and Cranston may find it worth a watch, but you’re likely better off catching the original.
Chris: no speculation on our part, very Hollywood-y