By Dwight Brown NNPA News Wire Film Critic
On paper, a story about a low-income black health-care aid who’s befriended by a rich white male quadriplegic sounds suspect. Patronizing films like Driving Miss Daisy come to mind, and potential filmgoers upon hearing the plot line may feel anxious, angry and nauseous all at the same time.
On-screen, The Upside, an American remake of the 2011 Cesar-winning French blockbuster called Les Untouchables, which launched the career Omar Sy Jurassic World, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is iffy but still quite touching. Three-dimensional compelling performances by Bryan Cranston (that’s to be expected) and Kevin Hart (a welcome surprise) are its saving grace.
Kevin Hart fans may think that this role of an underling is beneath their favorite comedy actor. Instead they should view it as an opportunity to see him show more than his class-clown approach to performing. Thrown into the deep-sea depths of a dramedy, Mr. Hart proves he can swim just fine.
Dell (Hart), a young man with a criminal past is behind on his child support payments; pity his wife (Aja Naomi King, The Birth of a Nation and son (Jahi Di’Allo Winston, The New Edition Story. He needs a job and money in a bad way. Dell haphazardly gets a position as a caregiver for a wheelchair-bound millionaire, author Phillip (Cranston), a grief-stricken widower. Queue the violins! How rich is he? Only boxer Floyd Mayweather has more high-end cars in his garage.
Dell’s budding relationship with Mr. Moneybags is heavily scrutinized by a snoopy secretary, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman). Yet, the two men learn a lot from each other (apparently opera music is not so bad, and Aretha’s Franklin’s voice can light up a room) and a friendship forms.
Screenwriter Jon Hartmere takes the real-life experience of Tunisian-born French businessman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, who became a diabetic quadriplegic in 1993 after a paragliding accident and Americanizes it. The social and racial dynamics in the U.S. are different that those in France (more progressive), so the entire premise feels passé—boarding on offensive—even with a modern New York setting. That said, the nuts and bolts of the screenplay are short on sentimentality and long on the viable bromance.
If prospective moviegoers can’t get past the film’s premise, so be it. If they can, they’ll watch a shallow film become a touch deeper because Cranston and Hart create an authentic chemistry.
Visit NNPA News Wire Film Critic Dwight Brown at http://www.blackpressusa.com