I have been asked by several people what my opinion is of the movie, “The Upside”, so I decided to write a blog about it. If you haven’t seen the movie,, and would like to watch it some time then here is your heads up spoiler alert. You may want to stop reading now and read it later after you’ve watched it. For those of you that don’t care, or have seen it, continue on.
The movie “The Upside” is actually the Hollywood film industries version of one of France’s biggest box office successes, “The Intouchables”. Both are based on true stories of the life of quadriplegic, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caregiver Abdel Sellou. After watching “The Upside” I decided to watch the French version as well. It was a really, really good movie and I totally see why it was one of France’s biggest box office successes.
While both depict different truths throughout Philippe’s life, I must say I am quite disappointed in the Hollywood film industries version compared to the French. I was so bothered by the Hollywood film industries version that I decided to do my own research to find out what was true and what wasn’t true. I even read the Memoir, “A Second Wind”, written by Philippe about his life.
THE BASIC TRUTH THAT BOTH MOVIES SHARED
Philippe was injured in a paragliding accident that left him a quadriplegic. His wife was sick and dying from cancer when it happened and passed away 3 years after his accident. He really did have a real-life female assistant that helped with his business related needs. They really did interview about 90 people before finally hiring Abdel. Abdel had really just been to released from jail and was looking for a job only because the government required him to be employed through his probation.
Once he was hired, Abdel really was given a private apartment in Philippe’s home. The basic fun, playful relationship Philippe and Abdel had going on was true. Abdel opened Philippe’s world to many new fun and exciting adventures. The crazy car ride with the police pulling them over and Philippe faking the seizure to get out of a ticket really happened. Abdel really did modify Philippe’s wheelchair so that it was capable of going as fast as 9mph, with Abdel riding on the back. They also really went paragliding together and went on different trips together.
THE DIFFERENCES IN THE TWO MOVIES
There were a few small differences between them. In “The Upside” it shows Abdel’s character stealing a book during the interview, but in “The Intouchables”, he steals a Faberge egg. The truth is Abdel really stole Faberge egg. Another minor difference in the two movies is the music Philippe listened to. In “The Upside” they said he loved opera music, but in “The Intouchables”, they said that he loved classical music. The truth is Philippe really loves classical music. The last minor difference in the two movies is the party for Philippe’s birthday. In “The Upside” Philippe’s character didn’t want a party and was upset about it, but in “The Intouchables” that didn’t happen. He was happy about his party and didn’t show any animosity toward it at all. I don’t know why the Hollywood film industry chose to change those things to something different is beyond me, but they did. While those minor there were some major differences too..
This is where the “The Upside” really began to bother me after watching the “The Intouchables” and doing my research. Through out the movie they keep referring to his suicide attempt and how he is absolutely adamant about having a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) in place. This is NOT TRUE. Well, partially. The first year Philippe was injured he did try to commit suicide once because he thought his new quadriplegic life would be a burden on everyone. Especially his sick wife dying from cancer. While that part was true, he actually stated that he was glad he was not successful because he loved and adored his life and was glad he was still living it.
In the French movie “The Intouchables” they don’t even mention his suicide attempt or anything to do with him not wanting to be here anymore or having a DNR. Leave it to the Hollywood film industry to accentuate his DNR requests and a desire to not be here anymore when that is not how Philippe feels at all. It’s just like the movies, “Me Before You” and “Million Dollar Baby” where the quadriplegics commit suicide in the end. They all give the impression that life as a quadriplegic is too hard and difficult to be worth living. Having been a quadriplegic for the last 27 years I can absolutely say life is definitely still worth living and it makes me very sad when they portray this outcome. Learning that Philippe feels the same way is very frustrating the Hollywood film industry found it necessary to put in the film at all.
The other reason “The Upside” really agitated me was the love interest that Philippe’s character had in the movie. He had been exchanging love letters with a woman and when they finally met, Abdel’s character left to give them some privacy. By the end of the date she rejected Philippe character and told him it was too much to handle that she made a mistake and Abdel’s character should have never left.
In “The Intouchables” that doesn’t happen. They just have a nice dinner together. In real life Philippe ended up marrying a women and they moved to Morocco where she’s from. They had a wonderful life together and had 3 kids. Of course “The Upside” makes zero mention of this which is wrong to me. In “The Intouchables” when the movie is coming to a close they put a written paragraph on the screen to show that both, Philippe and Abdel, got marred, moved to Morocco where their wives were from. and remain close friend’s to this day.
Overall while they both were good movies for the most part, I believe “The Intouchables” gave a more accurate portrayal of Philippe’s and Abdel’s lives. I do not understand why the Hollywood film industry choose to change the things they did, especially the main two points about suicide, the DNR, and his love life. Speaking from experience as a quadriplegic, life is most definitely still worth living and worthy of a beautiful love story. Philippe’s life as a quadriplegic and his friendship with his caretaker Abdel is a fun, beautiful relationship to be shared. There is no need to change anything.