The Upside is based on the inspirational true story of two men from very different backgrounds who form an unlikely friendship built on compassion and respect for one another. Philip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) is a wealthy businessman who made his fortune investing in startups and helping to turn around failing companies. His wife passed away from cancer around the time that an accident left him a quadriplegic. Philip can only move his neck, and requires a full time life auxiliary to help him get in and out of his chair, feed him, dress him, and so on. Philip had hired Yvonne Pendleton (Nicole Kidman) years earlier to help him run his business, but now she spends most of her time serving as his nurse. She doesn’t necessarily mind this as she admires and respects Philip, and may even have feelings for him, but her skills would be put to better use in the boardroom. Philip has been lonely without his wife, and Yvonne is concerned that he may have given up on life.
Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) has just been released from prison. He has missed a lot of his son Anthony’s (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) life, and his ex Latrice (Aja Naomi King) doesn’t want him around her or their son. Dell has become used to just looking out for himself, but after seeing his son again, he wants to change, and make a better life for Anthony and Latrice. While getting signatures to prove he is participating in his parole officer’s mandated job search, Dell accidentally ends up in Philip’s Manhattan penthouse apartment, where interviews are being done to fill the vacant life auxiliary position. Philip finds every candidate as boring as the next, that is until Dell comes storming into the room, interrupting an interview to ask for someone to sign his P.O. form. Philip not only sees a breath of fresh air in Dell, but also someone that would just let him die if he desired, and offers him the job on the spot. Yvonne, of course, is mortified that Philip has hired the least-qualified candidate.
While Dell and Philip would initially appear to have nothing in common, the two men quickly find a common bond, and form a mutual respect for one another. Philip sees potential in Dell, and helps him to get his life in order, and put his skills and intelligence towards a business goal. He also introduces Dell to cultured things like opera and art. Meanwhile, Dell helps Philip get out of his rut, loosen up, and enjoy life again. He helps Philip to re-enter the world he had retreated from after his wife passed away.
In addition to being a heartwarming and uplifting drama about these two men helping each another turn his life around, The Upside is also a solid comedy. It mines a lot of humor out of Dell’s initial incompetence at his new job, and his shock at what some of his new duties entail—like when he realizes that he will need to remove/insert Philip’s catheter, or evacuate his bowls with his finger. Dell is also constantly trying to get Yvonne to loosen up and smile with his bad puns. Meanwhile, Philip is able to joke about his own condition, and has some fun messing with those around him.
Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart both deliver excellent performances. While Cranston has proven himself adept at both comedy and drama (Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad), this was really the first time we’ve seen Kevin Hart in a drama, and he nails it. The two actors have great chemistry and comedic timing, and you really fell like a genuine friendship and respect is being formed between their two characters. Nicole Kidman is also a delight, playing the overly-protective and overly-serious woman looking out for Philip’s best interests.
Universal’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds excellent. The picture is crisp and clean throughout, whether it’s showcasing Philip’s immaculate penthouse apartment, or the more gritty parts of New York City. The DTS soundtrack not only provides clear dialogue, but also adds an immersive element to the film—whether it’s the bustling sounds of New York City, the roar of a speeding luxury sports car, or the beautiful aria of an Italian opera filling the room.
The Blu-ray release comes packed in standard HD keepcase with a slipcover, and contains an insert with a code to redeem for a HD iTunes digital copy of the film (it is not Movies Anywhere compatible). Both the Blu-ray and DVD discs contain the same assortment of bonus material, which includes two short deleted scenes, a gag reel, and five short promotional featurettes—however, these feel more like trailers/ads with just a couple comments from the filmmakers.
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service)
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- 480p / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DVS (Descriptive Video Service)
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- HD Digital copy redeemable via iTunes (Not Movies Anywhere compatible)
Digital (for redemption deadline, see NBCUcodes.com):
All of the bonus material can be found on both the Blu-ray and the DVD discs.
- Deleted Scenes (2:21)
Collection of 2 deleted scenes. Play All, or select from:
- Beside Manner (1:13)
Philip asks Dell to scratch his nose.
- Tough Room (1:07)
Dell makes a joke that fails to make Yvonne laugh.
- Beside Manner (1:13)
- Gag Reel (3:16)
Fun with the cast as they flub lines, deal with misbehaving props, dance, and have fun on set.
- Onscreen Chemistry: Kevin and Bryan (1:02)
Stars Kevin Hart (“Dell”) & Bryan Cranston (“Phillip”) and director Neil Burger talk about the characters and the chemistry between the actors.
- Creating a Story of Possibility (:45)
Stars Kevin Hart & Bryan Cranston talk about their characters and their unique relationship.
- Bridging Divisions (:44)
Director Neil Burger and star Kevin Hart talk about how these two men from very different backgrounds find common ground through respect and compassion for one another.
- Embracing Positivity (:41)
Stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston talk about how these two men help one another in this story of hope.
- Presenting a Different Side of Kevin Hart (:48)
Director Neil Burger, and stars Kevin Hart & Bryan Cranston discuss how this is a very different dramatic role in Kevin’s career.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:37)
The Upside is a delightful and uplifting comedy-drama about two men from very different backgrounds who form a long-lasting bond and friendship. Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart both deliver strong performances, and make this friendship feel genuine and real. Universal’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great, but is extremely light on bonus material. That said the release still comes highly recommended based on the quality of the film itself. I first saw the film in the theater, but enjoyed it even more this second time around.