Any self-respecting fan of “Breaking Bad” who spent hundreds of hours with Bryan Cranston’s Walter White shouldn’t miss Cranston’s performance in “The Upside.” This film demonstrates Cranston’s ability to convey emotional intensity with a single deadpan look. It demonstrates his exceptional capacity to calculate sentimentality and to play up wit and caginess. Kevin Hart, his partner in all this, submerges his exuberance for outbursts, making you understand, and ultimately respect, his character Dell Scott.
In other words, Cranston and Hart work really well with what they have in “The Upside.” The American version of this story owes everything to another film. An award-winning French film “The Intouchables” (2011) conveys the story first, which is based on a true situation. Writing credits for “The Upside” identify Jon Hartmere as screenwriter, as well as the writers of the French film Eric Toledano and Oliver Nakache. I plan to rent “The Intouchables” to see if the original makes the same mistakes as Hartmere’s version.
In spite of all the Hart and Cranston do to create the sometimes harmonious, but often volatile relationship with each other, gaps occur in the underpinnings of some important and revealing situations.
Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) accidently ventures into an interview as a caregiver for the wealthy Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston). Scott has a long history of bad judgment and a rap sheet to prove it. He’s grown up believing in streets smarts and muscle. Lacasse is a quadriplegic who met this fate in a terrible parasailing accident. He’s short on patience with his staff, fires caregivers frequently, and does not suffer fools.
His administrative assistant Yvonne Pendleton (Nicole Kidman) tempers his rages and tries to keep the peace.
She’s more than ready to dismiss Scott, but Lacasse demands that he sit for an interview. All Scott wants is a signature on a form, so he can continue to draw unemployment. Lacasse, against all advice and common sense, hires Scott on the spot.
What ensues is an unlikely bonding between the two. Unfortunately for this version of the film, Lacasse’s ability to forgive two major issues related to Scott’s shortcomings lack motivation and a measure of believability that could’ve easily been dealt with in a better script. Maybe the French version holds up.
Cranston’s ability to look paralyzed from the neck down proves his powers of concentration. It can’t have been an easy task. In spite of Hart’s negative publicity of late, you’ll like what he does here. Cranston, Hart, and Kidman together offer the upside of going to see “The Upside.”
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use.
Marilyn Robitaille writes film reviews for the Empire-Tribune and the Glen Rose Reporter.