A comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy man with quadriplegia and an unemployed man with a criminal record who’s hired to help him.
Based on a true story (and the 2012 film The Intouchables), The Upside tells of the comic relationship between a billionaire quadriplegic Phillip (Cranston) and his parolee caretaker Dell (Hart) as they both find new reasons to live. Dell, unemployed with a criminal record, somehow gets the job as Phillip’s caretaker. Soon, he finds that his depressed employer, who had lost his wife to cancer around when he became paralyzed, needs an entertainer more than a caretaker and does whatever it takes to keep Philip interested in life. The two pull pranks on the cops, eat fast food and bond over art, Aretha Franklin and opera. Dell has a way of cheering Phillip up.
Dell goes through some changes as well. Before meeting Phillip, Dell was a deadbeat. He was in and out of prison with a long criminal record and neglected his ex-girlfriend and son. At first, Dell only cares about himself and what money can buy him. But after caring for Phillip, Dell realizes that there are much more important things in life. He starts caring for his ex-girlfriend and becomes more present in his son’s life. By the end of the film, Dell is a genuine, caring person and Phillip is a man happy to be alive.
The Upside can be approached from a variety of angles. It can easily be viewed as a feel-good comedy that promotes a kind of warm tolerance and entertains without the constant use of crassness. Alternatively, it can be seen as a quaint comedy that is lacking credibility when addressing the treatment of the disabled, broadly stereotypes class and race, and does little to reinvent the film it is closely based on: The Intouchables. Still, The Upside manages to communicate that its heart is in the right place and maybe that is the most important thing.
The film has some genuinely funny scenes and is fairly unreliant on crassness or vulgar jokes—even scenes involving catheters and colon hygiene are less uncomfortable than one might expect. Still, there is more than enough cautionary content in The Upside to think twice before watching it.
Dove.org does not award The Upside approval for any age.