15th Jan2019

‘The Upside’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Aja Naomi King, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Genevieve Angelson, Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan, Julianna Margulies, Suzanne Savoy, Michael Quinlan | Written by Jon Hartmere | Directed by Neil Burger

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The Upside has been in a form of legalistic limbo for over a year after the Weinstein Company seized to exist and slowly defunct into liquidation after the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandal. Eventually being acquired to STX Films for distribution it has finally seen the light of day. Directed by Neil Burger, The Upside is the English language remake of the hugely successful French film Intouchables directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano. A film that not only brought worldwide attention to the acting ability of star Omar Sy but also brought worldwide attention to disability on screen. Even gaining the support of Christopher & Dana Reeve’s non-profit Foundation. So, to say The Upside was fighting an uphill battle would be a slight understatement.

All in all, The Upside is a pleasant and efficiently produced film. The thematic threads and emotional power is held quite strongly and conveyed in a poignant compelling manner but more on that a little later. Burger’s aesthetic approach to camera movement is slightly over-indulgent and far too expressive for its own good throughout the films first act. The fluidity of movement is all over the place. Not working on a contextual level nor sustaining and expressive merit on a conceptual level either. The cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh does slowly shift to a more restraint delivery opening the film up to relax and focus on the subject. Allowing a deeply compelling narrative to take shape and when The Upside wants to dive deep into emotionally endearing drama it does so in a beautifully poignant manner. Exploring the social and psychological prisons of identity and self-exile in the wake of complete devastation.

Cranston is rather fabulous in the lead role of paraplegic Phillip Lacasse. He brings a compelling sense of gravitas, understanding and commitment to a role that demands respect with what depth such a character entails. The emotional state is fractious, and the venomous debris of depression holds an astonishing amount of weight in the films third act. However, a poor and elongated structure of a bloated second act ultimately leads to a rushed and slightly blotched emotional climax. Hart impresses in a more straight-laced performance that has often escaped him advertently or not due to his range. The Upside is sadly plagued with tone deaf and often misjudged Hart-isms that are far too frequent and unfunny for the desired impact. Yet Hart does put forth an impressive turn and the emotional substance he brings to the table is exercised efficiently, although a comedic actor of Chris Tucker’s capability would have gladly sufficed.

The Upside is in UK cinemas now.

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