The Upside movie from the perspective of a disabled viewer

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star in THE UPSIDEDavid Lee/Photographer
Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star in THE UPSIDEDavid Lee/Photographer /

The Upside movie depicts the humorous story about a quadriplegic man and his underqualified caretaker. One writer weighs in on the film’s authenticity of portraying a person of disability.

Vulnerability is a universally tough thing for most anyone. It’s not an easy concept, giving one’s self the ability to depend on another or admitting that one does not have the capacity to survive on their own accord. Most people confront these situations as they get older. Unfortunately, it’s possible that more than half of the disabled population has never had a choice their entire life but to remain vulnerable.

Even right now opening myself to this topic places me in a vulnerable state. There’s no reason to dive into specifics, but the main gist of it is that I’ve been wheelchairbound my entire life. And before you get all sad and stuff, stop it! My life rocks more than most, and truth be told, I’ve probably done way more in this life than the common able-bodied individual.

So, don’t even feel sorry or any emotion for that matter. This is all to say the new film The Upside was inevitably going to impact me differently than most film critics.

The new film, which stars Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, is not a perfect movie by any means. In fact, it’s rather predictable to an unfortunate fault at different times. This said, underneath the lack of surprises is a very authentic portrayal of coping with a disability, death, and a heartfelt message about second chances. The disabled community is rarely represented in mainstream cinema in such a satisfying way and for that alone it makes the experience of The Upside all the more important.

The Upside
Credit: David Lee. Courtesy of STXfilms /

In the film The Upside–which is a remake of a French film called The Intouchables— Kevin Hart plays Dell– a thief who has recently been released from prison and is trying to find a job to meet parole requirements.

More from Movies

In the midst of searching, Dell happens to stumble into a job he believes to be a janitorial position, but ends up being something called a “Life Auxilliary”, which is basically someone who helps with a disabled person’s quality of life. Not knowing the term though, Dell continues with waiting for an interview but mainly wants a signature for his parole officer.

As seen in the trailer, Dell storms in and makes an impression on the disabled man Phillip Lacasse, who then hires him for the job. Dell being the least qualified individual to be his caretaker is clearly in over his head but the decision is so crazy that the relationship works.

Once he starts, small things begin to reveal themselves about Phillip. He doesn’t seem to care about living or dying, which shows itself to be a factor in why he hired Dell. We also discover the tragic cause of him becoming quadriplegic involving a terrible accident. Phillip became somewhat of a thrill seeker to distract his wife from the fact she is dying from cancer. But moreover,  seemed about distracting him most of all–which ironically left him paralyzed from the neck down.

The Upside
Credit: David Lee. Courtesy of STXfilms /

One of the more surprising aspects of The Upside is the surprisingly earnest performance by Kevin Hart. Don’t get me wrong, Hart still has moments in the film where some of his haters might still find him obnoxious. That being said, The Upside displays that a serious performer might be hiding underneath the jokes. At the very least, it shows that even Kevin Hart doesn’t take himself seriously enough as a performer.

Bryan Cranston remains a treasure delivering such an endearing performance. His role of Phillip is tragic and humorous, and anyone knows trying to convey comedy within tragedy is no easy task.

As a disabled person, though, what I love about this performance is all the small authentic touches he is able to communicate through his acting and the writers through the script. There is a scene that causes a rift in the relationship of Dell and Phillip that is more real than most people are aware.

The Upside
Credit: David Lee. Courtesy of STXfilms /

Speaking for myself– it’s hard not to lose yourself when someone takes away the few small things you have control over. For most of us, it’s a constant battle of maintaining the small things in our life we have any say over. And when someone removes that from you unwittingly it’s hard not to hold resentment. Cranston communicates this emotion and so much more to the audience. It makes one wonder if he might’ve consulted R.J. Mitte from Breaking Bad to get insight.

Furthermore, these two actors have extremely good chemistry and I can totally see them working together again. It really is both of them that make the formulaic feel of the story become elevated. Trust me when I say that some of the scenes are way funnier than they are in the trailer, including the catheter scene which had most of the theater rolling.

dark. Next. Oscars 2019: 5 host replacements for Kevin Hart

I know most critics are not crazy over this film–which is fine– but in an era of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, I found this film to be just as important. It shows a side to disabled people rarely seen and most of all, it’s a positive depiction unlike the strangely self-destructive suicidal story demonstrated in Me Before You.

Most important of all, it’s one of the best crowd-pleasing experiences with a disabled lead in quite a while. It may not be as captivating as the original film from France but it’s one I’m happy that the American public gets to share.

The Upside is in theaters now.