By: Paige Nelson
?The Upside,? is based on a true story. Well, kind of. In 1993, wealthy Frenchman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo became paralyzed from the neck down after an accident. In 2011, ?The Intouchables? (Untouchables), a French film, was made about di Borgo?s life as a quadriplegic. Director Neil Burger (?Divergent? and ?Limitless?), adapted much of the story from this film to create ?The Upside?.
In one of the first scenes, Phillip Lacasse is faced with the difficult reality of his immobility and the inability to care for himself. He decides to hire a caregiver to help him navigate a life with the physical and emotional challenges he faces daily. This is where Kevin Hart (Dell) enters.
Dell, a paroled convict in need of a job, has to get signatures to satisfy his parole officer?s requirements. After stumbling into an elevator, Dell finds himself in Phillip?s penthouse, where Phillip and his secretary Yvonne (played by the dynamic Nicole Kidman) are interviewing potential candidates to fill the role of Phillip?s caregiver. Dell, the most unlikely and least qualified candidate is chosen to take over the role.
Berger could have done better at including more information about both Phillip and Dell?s pasts and how they got to where they are now in these beginning scenes. We know why Phillip is wheelchair bound but aren?t provided information into what life looked like before. Dell?s past isn?t expanded on either, we know that he has a child and an ex-girlfriend but no context. Knowing more of this information could have helped the flow of the film and furthermore developed Phillip and Dell as characters.
Unaccustomed to the majority of tasks needed to care for Phillip, Dell trains with Yvonne, who is not particularly fond of her new colleague. Dell, from the moment he met Phillip, never takes pity on him, a quality Phillip appreciates. He really treats Phillip as a friend, not the patient he is taking care of. This really helped their relationship and roles evolve.
Hart is respectable as his comedic self, with a soft side that makes him a dependable and attentive caregiver. Cranston played the role of Phillip well, despite the backlash and criticism he received for accepting the role of a quadriplegic character as an able-bodied man.
Dell assists Phillip in experiencing life in the most exhilarating, non-traditional ways. They venture on a spontaneous night trip to a New York park where they get high together after smoking marijuana. Dell made a mechanical adjustment to Phillip?s wheelchair which makes a place for Dell to ride behind and for Phillip?s chair to go faster. Among other things, these scenes did a good job of portraying the enjoyment that can still be found in the life of a wheelchair bound man.
There are many heartwarming moments in the film regarding important relationships. Phillip?s love life shows the reality of fears of romance for some handicapped individuals. Dell?s son also plays a large role in the story, showing the progression of a father-son relationship and their need for each other.
The film shows an obvious distinction between the different backgrounds of the two men. Dell, with little to no money to his name, follows in his father?s footsteps leading him to prison. Phillip, a businessman and author, leads a successful life including a penthouse and wealth. An unexpected friendship develops between the two men. They help each other in different ways they?d never expect. Dell, assisting Phillip by literally being his arms and legs. Phillip, helping Dell get back on his feet again and make some money. Opposites attract and you see throughout the film how the men complement each other. Dell helped Phillip with his physical mobility, and Phillip helped Dell mobilize for a better life.
The film was real and raw. The relationship of Phillip and Dell was constructed and portrayed well throughout the film. The progression and uniqueness of their friendship was engaging.
If you go to see the ?The Upside? be prepared to laugh while also being touched by the humbling storyline, two unlikely men who changed one another in different ways.
?The Upside? is playing at AMC Barton Creek Square 14 and Regal Cinemas Westgate 11 theaters in Austin, TX.