The Upside

The Upside

MojibMojib   October 05, 2017  
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The Upside

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It’s always fascinating to watch an actor known for comedy explores their darker, more serious side in a drama. Against-type roles for funny people have come in many different forms in the past: an AIDS-themed legal drama, a Peter Weir fable about a man who doesn’t know he’s on a TV show, whatever Dane Cook was doing in Mr. Brooks. But the most reliable way that a comedian can show us that they’ve got deeper, more contemplative aspects is in a feel-good dramedy, some kind of uplifting film where they can be funny and sweet, misty-eyed and mirthful. Thus, along comes The Upside, premiering here at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a movie that offers the biggest comedian working right now, Kevin Hart, a chance to reveal previously unseen dimensions.

There’s a joke a friend’s father used to tell, a variant of an old Mae West line. “I’ve been rich and miserable, I’ve been poor and miserable. And let me tell you: rich is better.” The Upside, a Hollywood remake of the runaway French smash Untouchable, is a movie about a depressed quadriplegic and unloved ex-con, and still manages to be an aspirational film in the Nancy Meyers vein because of friendship, the triumph of the human spirit and really luxurious Park Avenue apartments.

“The Upside” will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September in the Gala Presentations and will hit theaters nationwide on March 9.

“The film is about two people giving life a second chance and learning to connect through small acts of respect and compassion,” Burger said. “We’re all very proud of the movie and especially the performances of these two brilliant actors who have amazing chemistry together. The whole team behind the film is incredibly eager for audiences to experience this very funny, heart-felt story.”
What The Upside does do, I think, is set up Hart for a dramatic follow-up, an as yet only imagined future film that could really get him mixed up in an Oscar narrative. He’s adept at switching off, or at least turning down, his comic verve when need be, in moments when we see a naturalistic actor emerging. There’s a lot of potential there, if that’s the route he wants to head down. Again, no one is saying he needs to, or even should—striving for that kind of recognition has driven many a previously likable, charming actor kind of insane. But if he does want it, The Upside proves that he’s up to the task. So if Kevin Hart ever opts to give up those comedy tour riches for a few months to film some dramatic little indie, you should probably pay attention to it. I know I will.

This is not much more than a light crowdpleaser, but when you’ve got two powerhouse performers like this it is very difficult not to find oneself at least temporarily charmed. (Kidman, alas, is very much in the background, but is sturdy, as are smaller players like Julianna Margulies and Golshifteh Farahani.) There are some extended sequences, like a drawn-out bit involving a catheter, that mostly plays to the cheap seats, but much of the verbal jousting is really sharp. Truly, this extremely by-the-numbers, manipulative and formulaic film is as funny as its framework allows it to be. It wouldn’t surprise me if the American remake is as financially successful as the original.

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