Film Review: The Upside

The Upside, Neil Burger’s remake of 2011’s Les Intouchables, is sentimental yet sufficiently charming.

Recently out of jail, Dell needs to prove he has been looking for work. Wealthy quadriplegic Phillip needs a new carer, and the unlikely Dell just might fit the bill…

A remake of Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s Les Intouchables, The Upside moves the action from Paris to New York. Director Neil Burger makes a few changes from the French film, but these work well enough. Some of the updates are enhancements, putting the two characters on a more even keel, in terms of their actions. 

Dell is the fish out of water character in The Upside. He is plunged into a world of opulence – a stark contrast to prison. Dell is given enough backstory to become more than simply a vessel to improve the life of Phillip. The odd couple pairing works well, with each of them experiencing each other’s world. There is plenty of humour to be found, even if the catheter jokes don’t always hit the mark. 

The narrative moves at a good pace, with the burgeoning friendship given sufficient exploration. The Upside is more concerned with an idealised version of the central pairing than a realistic one. The film does not focus on the race or class disparity between the two protagonists in any meaningful way, despite their differences being key to the unusual friendship. Instead, Burger relies on schmaltz to propel on the narrative. The result of this is a sufficiently entertaining film, but not a particularly memorable one.

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart have good chemistry. The pair work well together; it is their combined charm that endears viewers. Nicole Kidman provides good support in a rather thankless role, whilst Tate Donovan is amusing in a small role.

The Upside is a saccharine affair; it will prove just the ticket for those looking for something sentimental but not too deep.