What happens when you run out of options? Those moments where you feel like universe, family, friends and even you have given up on YOU. Dell (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con who no matter how many times he tries to turn it around, fate intervenes throwing him a curveball full of roadblocks. Phillip (Bryan Cranston) sees no reason to live without the love his life and is literally just existing. When these two lives intersect, the results will break your heart, make you laugh and remind you to never take life for granted…not even for a second.
Now, let me address the obvious. Bryan Cranston portrays a quadriplegic billionaire has been criticized by many citing a disabled actor should have been cast in this role. Cranston responded “We live in the world of criticism, if we’re willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism. We’re very aware of the need to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities. I think being cast in this role as a quadriplegic really came down to a business decision. As actors, we’re asked to be other people, to play other people. If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual? I don’t know, where does the restriction apply, where is the line for that? I think it is worthy for debate to discuss those issues.”
How is this any different from Robert Downey, Jr. putting on blackface and being nominated for an Oscar, Tilda Swinton and Mickey Rooney playing Asian or the Kevin McHale spinning in a wheelchair when he is able-bodied? Think about it. What if Jenji Kohan didn’t cast Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black or if the cast of POSE was full of straight drag queens? I can see and understand both sides of the controversy, but there are still questions that make you go hmmm.
Regardless of the controversy, Cranston does a remarkable job. The most compelling, heart-breaking thought-provoking scene is where in a fit of anger Phillip realizes he’s incapable of expressing physical frustration signals with his eyes to Dell. The room is left a mess with Dell looking like a puppy who pulled down an open trash can and is ultimately busted.
Although this character and story feel very similar to the plot line in Night School with Tiffany Haddish, Dell is based on real story and a real friendship. Hart gives a tender, heartfelt performance infused with humor and it was very nice to witness.
Nicole Kidman (Yvonne) is on a roll y’all (last year with Destroyer, Big Little Lies, Aquaman and Boy Erased) yet again is taking on a role that is sweet, endearing, smart and not by any stretch a victim
At the end of the day, The Upside will leave you feeling great about life. If you have bucket list, you better get started on it…like yesterday. Life can change in an instant and The Upside will remind you to leave no stone unturned. Produced by STX Entertainment and based “Les Intouchables,” The Upside is in theaters TODAY.