Mr. Movie says there’s re­ally no down­side to ‘The Up­side’

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY GARY WOLCOTT Mr. Movie

‘THE UP­SIDE’

“The Up­side” is a won­der­ful feel-good flick. It isn’t a twohanky event but you might want to have one handy just in case.

Bryan Cranston plays Phillip. He’s fab­u­lously wealthy. A para­sail­ing ac­ci­dent left him a quad­ri­plegic. As such, he needs care 24/7. En­ter Kevin Hart’s Dell. He’s on pa­role and needs to find work or he’s go­ing back to the slam­mer.

Phillip isn’t happy with his care, or his con­di­tion and wants to die. He thinks maybe hir­ing the ob­vi­ously not qual­i­fied Phillip will get him his wish. But the two men bond and each of­fers the other things miss­ing from their lives.

Nicole Kid­man — who’s in a lot of movies these days — plays Phillip’s busi­ness man­ager who is adamantly op­posed to Dell’s hir­ing. Pre­dictably, she thaws. Also need­ing thawed is Dell’s ex-wife and es­tranged son.

Cranston, Hart and Kid­man have in­cred­i­ble chem­istry. It’s a big part of why the movie works. We all know that Cranston has in­cred­i­ble act­ing tal­ent. The same knowl­edge ap­plies to Kid­man. How­ever, Kevin Hart is mostly seen in un­funny come­dies. Like con­tem­po­raries Adam San­dler and Will Ferrell, when given a chance to ac­tu­ally act, Hart comes through.

As it turns out Hart has out­stand­ing dra­matic act­ing chops. He’s so good at a straight role that he ought to fire his agent the next time the sug­ges­tion comes up to do a dumb com­edy.

In­sert groan here. There isn’t a down­side to “The Up­side.” At the same time, it’s not quite as good as the 2011 French flick upon which it is based.

“The In­touch­ables” is the ti­tle. It’s a bit more se­ri­ous, and a lit­tle darker. While “The Up­side” is a bit more Hol­ly­wood­ized, the two films are es­sen- tially the same, based-on-truth, story. Both also — once the cred­its roll and you learn the two men re­main friends — leave you with an ear-to-ear smile.

Rated PG-13 for ma­ture

● themes. It’s play­ing at the AMC Ken­newick Clas­sic 12, the Fairchild Cin­e­mas Pasco and Queens­gate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cin­e­mas.

●Rat­ing: 4 out of 5

‘ON THE BA­SIS OF SEX’

In the 1960s, U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg was at the fore­front of the push to get rid of dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex. The film’s fo­cus is on one of her early vic­to­ries. She and her hus­band Marty did bat­tle on be­half of Charles Moritz who was de­nied a tax credit for hir­ing health care help for his ail­ing mother.

The Gins­burg’s won the case in the U.S. Court of Ap­peals. How they won it is the sub­ject of this movie.

Felic­ity Jones (“The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing”) stars as Gins­burg, Ar­mie Ham­mer (“Call Me by Your Name”) plays Marty and “Bad Times at the El Royale’s” Cailee Spaney gets the nod as their daugh­ter Jane. It is her ded­i­ca­tion to fem­i­nism, and how things were chang­ing in the streets in the 1960s, that in- spired Gins­burg to find a way to move that change along.

Or so says the movie.

As you know, movies are often pumped up for dra­matic pur­poses. That might — or might not — be the case here. The film is writ­ten by Daniel Stieple­man. He’s Gins­burg’s nephew and ought to know.

Or at least he has in­side fam­ily in­for­ma­tion.

Jones is a very good ac­tress. Stieple­man’s script and di­rec­tor Mimi Leder (“Pay it For­ward”) don’t give Jones much to do but look like she just popped out of an episode of a 1950s sit­com. She’s way too up, way too smi­ley and way too styl­ized.

Ar­ti­cles I’ve read say Gins­burg likes the movie but ar­gues that she didn’t freeze dur­ing the oral ar­gu­ments in court. The brain-fart is done — no-doubt — for dra­matic ef­fect and the ex­pected rous­ing, vic­to­ri­ous cli­max.

In court, I might ar­gue “On the Ba­sis of Sex” is pre­dictably schmaltzy. It never misses an op­por­tu­nity to look and sound cliche. By the time you — and the film — get to the court scenes, your own judg­ment will likely be to de­clare the movie a mis­trial.

Case dis­missed.

Rated PG-13 for ma­ture

● themes. It’s play­ing at the Fairchild Cin­e­mas Queens­gate 12 and at the AMC Ken­newick Clas­sic 12.

●Rat­ing: 2 1⁄ out of 5

2 ‘IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK’

“If Beale Street Could Talk” is set in early 1970s Har­lem and is the story of 19-year old Tish Rivers and her 22-year old boyfriend Fonny Hunt. Their re­la­tion­ship blos­soms dur­ing the heavy racial ten­sion of times. At the point where it looks like they’ll marry, he gets ar­rested for rape and is jailed.

Fonny is in­no­cent and framed for the crime by a crooked cop.

On a visit to Fonny, Tish tells him she’s preg­nant and prom­ises he’ll be out of jail and at home by the time the baby is born. The wheels of jus­tice — es­pe­cially for a young black man in 1970s New York City — turn slowly.

The film points out in the 1970s black meant au­to­mat­i­cally guilty so when jus­tice turned, it often turned neg­a­tive.

By the way, while the strug­gle of Tish and Fonny and their fam­i­lies is told with the ugly racial tones of the times ly­ing un­der­neath, “If Beale Street Could Talk” is a love story. It is bril­liantly told in a se­ries of flash­backs and flash for­wards by writer/di­rec­tor Barry Jenk­ins (“Moon­light”).

His script is based on a 1974 novel by James Bald­win.

Jenk­ins’ sopho­more ef­fort is even more im­pres­sive than the Os­car and Golden Globe-win­ning Moon­light. Jenk­ins has a rest­less cam­era. In parts of the film he shoots close­ups of his ac­tors and then moves the cam­era from one to the next and back. It fo­cuses at­ten­tion on the deeper parts of his di­a­logue.

Those scenes and oth­ers are done in a way that feels more like a play on a stage than a movie. They — like the di­a­logue — of­fer up a pow­er­ful pic­ture.

On Sun­day night, Regina King — who plays Tish’s mom — won the Golden Globe for best sup­port­ing ac­tress. The film picked up a best mo­tion pic­ture drama nom­i­na­tion and a best screen­play nod for Jenk­ins. I agree King is very, very good but the best act­ing in film is done by KiKi Layne who plays Tish.

She qui­etly and skill­fully runs up and down an emo­tional lad­der. Tish is re­served, strong on

the sur­face but un­der­neath the uncer­tainty of what will hap­pen to the love of her life and their child is an enor­mous strug­gle.

It’s a per­for­mance that de­served more no­tice. The movie ought to get more no­tice, too. No doubt it will get an Os­car nomi- na­tion for act­ing, the screen­play and maybe even the di­rect­ing. Is it the best film of last year’s crop. No. But yes.

Like Jenk­ins’ “Moon­light,” once you see it, the movie is one of those that stays with you and that you can’t get out of your mind. You’ll have to de­cide but to me, that’s best pic­ture ter­ri­tory.

Rated R for ma­ture

● themes, lan­guage and brief nu­dity. It’s play­ing at the AMC Ken­newick 12.

●Rat­ing: 5 out of 5

DAVID LEE STX­films via AP

Kevin Hart, left, and Bryan Cranston star “The Up­side,” a Hol­ly­wood­ized ver­sion of the 2011 French flick upon which it is based.

JONATHAN WENK Fo­cus Fea­tures via AP

Felic­ity Jones por­trays U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg in a scene from “On the Ba­sis of Sex.”

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