The Upside Parent Guide
An entertaining, off-beat buddy picture with a superb performance by Bryan Cranston.
Parent Movie Review
Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) has a problem. He has just been released from yet another prison term and his parole officer is demanding that he provide proof of a serious job search. Dell has to return the next day with signatures from potential employers or he will be back in custody.
Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) has a problem. Paralyzed from the neck down after a paragliding accident and grieving his wife’s death from cancer, he has no interest in living. His devoted assistant, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), is trying to find a suitable personal care attendant but Phillip refuses to engage with any of the applicants. And then Dell walks in…
Against Yvonne’s strenuous objections, Phillip hires Dell and the two forge an unlikely, but in the circumstances of the film, quite predictable friendship. Anyone familiar with “odd couple” buddy films will not be surprised at the direction this movie takes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the ride. Cranston and Hart have a believable on-screen chemistry that draws the audience into the story. Furthermore, Cranston is brilliant as Phillip, imbuing the character with a rich emotional life and repressed vulnerability. He neatly avoids disability stereotypes: Phillip is neither a cheery, inspirational Tiny Tim character nor a bitter, empty shell. He is frustrated at not being able to do things for himself, he is tired of living with pain, he is sick of being patronized. He is simply human – a man living a life he did not expect and often doesn’t want.
The Upside is not trying to be a motivational film. It is simply trying to tell its story, which is based on a real friendship, in as authentic a way as possible. Sadly, sometimes that includes content that may not appeal to adults considering the film for their teens. Parents might be concerned with frequent anatomical discussions – a catheter is changed in a few scenes and while all camera work is above the waist, there is some discussion about male genitalia. There is also a lot of humor relating to the catheter scenes which viewers will either find offensive or hysterically funny. (There was lots of laughter during the screening I attended.) What is likely to cause the greatest concern in this film is its very positive portrayal of drug use. Phillip suffers from neve pain so Dell takes him to a park, disappears, and returns with a joint for Phillip to smoke. Phillip gets high on the drug and mellows into cheerfulness. When faced with a stressful social situation, Phillip asks Dell for more marijuana, which he smokes so he can relax and enjoy the party.
The negative content in The Upside is frustrating because this film comes with strong positive messages, particularly those relating to second chances and the power to change. It demonstrates the truth of the old adage about not judging books by their covers, or in Dell’s case, by their criminal records. And it reminds us that everyone has something to teach us – not just people who are well educated or successful. Those messages are the real upside and make this movie worth watching.Directed by Neil Burger. Starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman. Running time: 125 minutes. Theatrical release January 11, 2019. Updated January 11, 2019
Watch the trailer for The Upside
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Upside rated PG-13? The Upside is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for suggestive content and drug use
Violence: A man drives recklessly, tries to evade the police, and pretends that his passenger is having a seizure when he is pulled over. A man and woman argue about his lack of child support; she tells him to get out of her apartment. A man remembers paragliding and crashing. A man says he thought about suicide when his wife died. A man backs his wheelchair into a restaurant table; hot liquid is poured into his lap by accident. Two men shout at each other and one of them starts throwing and breaking things: the other man encourages him to break more.
Sexual Content: A catheter is changed in a few scenes but all camera work is above the waist. There is frequent discussion and comedy relating to catheter changes. Two women (possibly prostitutes) come up to a room with a man: one kneels on a man’s unclothed back and gives him a massage, the other sits on another man’s lap and strokes his ears. A man is shown topless in the shower. A man remembers sexual activity with his late wife: the scene is dimly lit and no nudity is seen.
Profanity: There are 18 moderate profanities, including scatological curses and terms of deity. There are fseveral references to male genitalia.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man gives his employer marijuana for pain. On another occasion, he gives him marijuana to help him face a social situation. Alcohol is seen in social situations but no one is seen drinking heavily.
Page last updated January 11, 2019
The Upside Parents' Guide
When Phillip suffers from nerve pain, Dell gets him some marijuana. Is marijuana use legal where you live? Is it legal for medical use or for general consumption? Do you think marijuana should be legal? Why or why not?
Read books about The Upside
This film is clearly not for children. But parents looking for a way to discuss disabilities with children can turn to Jane Cowen Fletcher’s Mama Zooms.
Teen readers will be touched by Wendelin Van Draanen’s The Running Dream, an award-winning novel about Jessica, a runner who loses her leg in a car accident. Also for teens is Harriet McBryde Johnson’s Accidents of Nature, the story of Jean, who gains greater acceptance of her disability after attending summer camp.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be paralyzed? Andrew I Batavia’s posthumous memoir, Wisdom from a Chair: Thirty Years of Quadriplegia will give you real insight into life with a disability.
Famous actor Christopher Reeve has chronicled his adjustments to life with quadriplegia in Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life.
There’s a comic side to almost anything, and disabled cartoonist Joh Callahan has turned his sharply honed wit on living with a disability. The Best of Callahan gives an introduction to his popular comics.
News About "The Upside"
"The Upside" is a remake of "The Intouchables" a 2012 French production and runaway hit in France and across Europe. This tale of a paralyzed millionaaire and his ex-con caregiver, played on traditional odd couple motifs for a warm-hearted movie about friendship, honesty, and humor. The film's drug-related content and sexual conversation and innuendo meant it was only suitable for mature audiences.
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The Upside is a remake of a French film, The Intouchables.
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