Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on September 14, 2012
The Intouchables is my new favorite French feel-good film! Based on a true story, I must admit, the premise sounded like a total downer. A rich Parisian quadriplegic hires an angry, young black man from the projects to take care of him, and they develop a real friendship. It’s a cross-cultural buddy film plot that could easily have fallen into cheesy clichés, but instead is funny, sweet and totally engaging with a kickin’ soundtrack. A large part of the film’s success lies in the casting of the two leads. Omar Sy plays Driss, a ne’er do well who has no interest in the job, but only shows up at the interview to get a paper signed so he can say he has applied and get his welfare check. And Francois Cluzet plays Philippe, the super-rich aristocrat who became wheelchair bound after a paragliding accident and is sick to death of being pitied.
Driss comes to the job on a temporary basis with no previous skills as a nurse, but with his lack of pity or knowledge of what it is he is supposed to do, he is perfect for the job. He doesn’t necessarily want to do things the way they have been done, and it is just the right antidote to the monotony of Philippe’s life. Before you know it, they are driving the fancy car rather than the handicapped accessible van and smoking a joint in the middle of the night and laughing, and Driss is bringing Philippe back to life. And it is not entirely one-sided. By trusting Driss with his life and treating him with respect and even love, Philippe gives him a new vision of who he is and what he is worth. And some of the best parts of the movie are the scenes where Driss takes the piss out of the high society Philippe lives in. There is a party where Philippe tries to get Driss to appreciate classical music, and Driss recognizes each song the private orchestra plays by its pop culture reference. “Oh, that’s in an ad.” “Please stay on the line and we’ll be right with you.” “Ah, Tom and Jerry!” And then he plays a song for Philippe by Earth, Wind and Fire and dances. It is brilliant!
The Intouchables would be appropriate for just about any adult audience. Of course, one has to be up for subtitles and I know that is a deal breaker for a lot of folks, but that is a shame, because it is such a funny and warm movie. It has American remake written all over it with Dustin Hoffman playing Philippe (cause Francois Cluzet looks a lot like him.) But I can’t imagine the English version will do it as well, since the French were able to give it a soft touch, and we can’t do comedy without caricature. I would recommend seeing it in a theater if only to see Omar Sy’s big smile lighting up the screen, but it will make a great rental, too.