tal­ents wasted in the up­side

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

The Up­side

(out of 5) Direc­tor: Neil Burger Star­ring: Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Ni­cole Kid­man Run­ning time: 2 hours, 5 min.

Back in 2011, France re­leased the in­touch­ables, a buddy com­edy in which a rich white quad­ri­plegic hires an un­qual­i­fied black ex-con as a live-in care­giver, and sub­se­quently learns to loosen up, smoke weed and live a lit­tle. it was adored by au­di­ences and fret­ted over by crit­ics. Sam­ple think-piece head­line: the in­touch­ables — racist or Cheesy?

So why not have the we­in­stein Com­pany re­make it in english, set it in the racially charged present­day u.S. and re­lease it in 2019? this just after the Golden Globe went to the “is-it-racist?” Green Book, while Black Pan­ther and BlacKkKlans­man came home empty-handed. and if Beale Street Could talk was beat out by Bo­hemian rhap­sody? i mean, what could go wrong?

turns out, quite a bit, in direc­tor neil Burger’s adap­ta­tion, which closely fol­lows the beats of the orig­i­nal.

the big­gest ad­di­tion, aside from a bloated, two-hour-plus run­ning time, is the ad­di­tion of an ex-wife and son for the char­ac­ter of dell, played with rel­a­tive re­straint by Kevin hart. oh, and dell steals a book and spends the rest of the movie try­ing to fig­ure out how to give it back.

For this they needed a new screen­writer?

Bryan Cranston takes up the role of Phillip, who was par­a­lyzed in a paraglid­ing ac­ci­dent and sub­se­quently lost his wife to can­cer. it is sug­gested, with far less sub­tlety than in the orig­i­nal, that he hires dell be­cause he doesn’t care if he lives or dies.

an early scene has him ex­plain­ing his do-not-re­sus­ci­tate or­der to his new care­giver.

a sim­i­lar ob­vi­ous­ness goes into craft­ing the char­ac­ters of dell and Phillip. one likes opera; the other aretha. one can quote yeats; the other falsely claims to know who that is. one con­sid­ers him­self a ladies’ man, in the pre-#Me­too sense of the word; the other fears in­ti­macy. no points for guess­ing who’s who here.

For all its racially charged setup, the up­side doesn’t com­pletely crash and burn, mostly thanks to Cranston’s and hart’s ef­forts to dance around the worst of their char­ac­ters’ cliches.

Phillip’s world in­cludes thinly sketched em­ploy­ees played by ni­cole Kid­man (as his ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant), Suzanne Savoy (the cook) and Ju­lianna Mar­gulies (phys­i­cal ther­a­pist), while dell spars with ex-wife la­trice (aja naomi King). there’s also tate dono­van, wasted in the role of Phillip’s grumpy down­stairs neigh­bour.

there’s a real Phillip, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, the son of a French duke who hired al­ge­rian ex-con ab­del Sel­lou back in the ’90s. the two re­main friends to this day. So the up­side is based on a true story but also based on a pre­vi­ous movie, which in­volves quite a drift from the orig­i­nal truth.

the 2003 doc, a la vie, a la mort, tells their tale, but i’d rec­om­mend the in­touch­ables. Sure, you’ve got to track it down and it’s got sub­ti­tles, but that’s just the kind of mes­sage the up­side is clum­sily ped­dling: Vive la dif­fer­ence!

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star in The Up­side, a re­make of 2011 French film The In­touch­ables, a buddy com­edy that was fret­ted over by­crit­ics for racist over­tones.

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