The Upside.


Chris and I went to see this film on a rainy day in Arizona last year. We both liked it a lot. It is a remake of 2012 French film. Dave Driedger, a friend,  told us he saw the original with English subtitles. That makes him a super intellectual. The movie tells the story of Phillip (played by Bryan Cranston) an extremely wealthy paraplegic and Dell (played by Kevin Hart) a black ex-con who applies for the job only because his Parole Officers demand that he get a job or come back with 3 signatures from possible employers saying they turned him down. Nicole Kidman plays Phillips crusty and protective assistant. Phillip hires Dell because he is the least qualified applicant and yet detects some ephemeral bond between him and Dell. The choice reveals for the first time his rebellious streak.

The black parolee ends up restoring life to Phillip beyond listening to opera which until then seems to be Phillips only pleasure and it seems a pretty thin one at that (even to one who enjoys opera like me). There is no doubt that there is some class stereotyping in relation particularly to Dell. Dell is a father to a young man who has about as much use for Dell as does his ex-wife.

The two main characters learn from each other. Dell learns that it is useful to have some money and job. Phillip learns to have some fun. Both exchange musical tips. In the meantime they have fun riding around in Phillip’s fancy car, yanking the legs of cops, eating ice cream, smoking joints, and trading insights. Little insights that are sometimes the best kind. Dell learns that Mozart is not half bad. Dell learns that Aretha Franklin has something to offer. Both learn that a little rebellion goes a long way.

There is some genuine unforced humour in the film that fills it with joy. It is not a bad thing to go to a movie theatre and get filled with joy. Sometimes that is all it takes. Today was one of those days. I liked it.

The joy allowed me to overlook some of the more unlikely aspects of the film such as Dell creating a work of “art” that Phillip persuades his fellow owner in the New York condominium in the ritzy building. I say ‘go and see it for yourself.’ Perfect for a rainy day or, come to think of it now, a self-isolating day.

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