Articles: "This is not your typical Kevin Hart movie," says “The Upside" producer Jason Blumenthal




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By Samantha Ofole-Prince/Photos by David Lee

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart

Inspired by the 2011 film, “Les Intouchables,” “The Upside” follows a handicap millionaire and his ex-con caretaker who become best buddies. This Hollywood version stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston and puts a comical, but still inspiring spin on the French film, which was nominated for several César Awards, (France’s equivalent to the Oscars).

Hart steps into the role made famous by Senegalese actor Omar Sy bringing humor to the script as ex-con Dell Scott, a parolee who needs to prove to his case officer that he is actively seeking gainful employment. Self-centered and exceedingly arrogant, Scott has a hostile relationship with his son and an acrimonious one with his ex-girlfriend Latrice (Aja Naomi King), who is fed up of his lackadaisical attitude about life.

Kevein Hart

Facing a parole violation, and frustrated by the menial opportunities available to an ex-con, Scott shows up to a job interview for a home care assistant merely expecting a signature from the interviewers to prove that he is actively seeking work. However, Scott is offered a job to take care of Phillip, a quadriplegic played by brilliantly Bryan Cranston. What follows are several scenes of banters and blowups between the pair and protests from his chief-of-staff Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), but despite a rocky start they end up forming a life long friendship.

"When people hear Kevin Hart, they immediately think it’s going to be broad and funny,” shares producer Jason Blumenthal. “We will see funny Kevin for sure, but also a more serious, dramatic Kevin and though he brings humor to the film, his role goes beyond comedic relief while his character struggles to turn his life around.”

Kevin Hart and Aja Naomi King

Directed by Neil Burger, there is great camaraderie between Cranston and Hart who play two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common. In one scene, Dell (Hart) demands Phillip sign a letter and when Phillip asks how he should do so, Dell responds "Slowly" drawing out his speech is a manner which ensues laughter. There's also another scene during an opera show where Scott informs Phillip he's found him a girlfriend. "She's can't move her face because of the botox, and you can't move your legs and arms so you would be good for each other."

“The movie is about people bridging the divisions between us, which to me is an incredibly important theme,” Burger says.  "People are going to be blown away, because Kevin has incredible dramatic chops that nobody’s seen before.”

Set in New York, "The Upside" follows the same formula and style of its French inspiration starting off with duo in a car driving through the city before offering audiences a flashback of their initial meeting six months earlier. The music of Barry White was heavily featured in the French version, and it's great to see a nod to Aretha Franklin whose music is played in the movie by Dell who initially dismisses Phillip's musical choices.

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston

Audiences will be able to identify with Dell's life struggle and discover what it is like to be a person with quadriplegia. Both have different struggles, and although there is a serious dramatic tone to the film, Hart and Cranston bring balance to it.

"It was a challenge that I welcomed with open arms,” Hart says.  “I’ve yet to do something like this. I’ve yet to step into this space. I’m about opening up doors. And this is a door that I’ve been hesitant to open because I wanted to make sure that the project was right when I actually did it. 'The Upside' is the perfect project for me to step in that direction of a drama-esque performance but still stay true to my comedy roots.”

"The Upside" is now out in theaters.

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