Intouchables (The Intouchables)
Autumn 2012 Features series
November 4, 2012 at 4:00pm
November 4, 2012 at 7:00pm
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Screenplay by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Starring Anne Le Ny, François Cluzet and Omar Sy
Rated 14A ·
French with English subtitles
Intouchables (The Intouchables)
Already breaking box office records as the second highest grossing non-English language film ever (behind The Passion of the Christ), Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s The Intouchables has become a worldwide sensation. Nominated for nine César Awards (France’s equivalent to the Academy Awards), and winning Best Actor for Omar Sy (beating The Artist’s Jean Dujardin) The Intouchables tells the story of the improbable friendship between Philippe (François Cluzet, Little White Lies, Tell No One) a wealthy quadriplegic, and Driss (Sy, Micmacs), a young offender of Senegalese descent, who is hired as his live-in caregiver.
A widower, Philippe lives with his teenage daughter in a luxurious Paris apartment. When a paragliding accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down, Philippe requires a caregiver to assist him with his daily physical needs. With the help of his assistant Magalie (Audrey Fleurot, Midnight in Paris) he interviews a number of highly qualified candidates, all of whom he subsequently rejects in favour of Driss; a recently released ex-con who has only applied for the job to ensure he keeps getting welfare payments. Charmed by Driss’s brash self-confidence and sometimes brutal straightforwardness, the jaded Philippe finds the young man’s lack of pity precisely what he wants in a caregiver. Thus begins an unlikely pairing, one of which will change both their lives in a remarkable ways.
Propelled by Sy’s charismatic performance, The Intouchables is well-executed and thoroughly enjoyable culture-clash comedy about a friendship that transcends the social and economic divide. Based on a true story, writer/directors Nakache and Toledano add just enough real-life seriousness to anchor their narrative, but this simple yet elegant film never loses its sense of humour.
“The Intouchables is an exuberantly charming French buddy comedy that proves an audience will suspend disbelief and follow an unlikely story as long as it’s superbly crafted… It’s a defiantly feel-good story, with a few subplots that could be easily jettisoned. But what makes it so entertaining is the powerfully appealing chemistry of odd couple Cluzet (who looks like a French Dustin Hoffman) and Sy, a strappingly handsome and charismatic actor. As Philippe, a millionaire aristocrat who lives in a bubble of privilege, Cluzet potently communicates stillness, regret and repression. Driss is his polar opposite — always in motion, easygoing, uncultured and outspoken. Both actors do terrific jobs in their roles, which, in other hands, might have fallen into caricature.This is not weighty French cinema. But if a lightweight comedy happens to spark an open debate about race, that’s a hefty accomplishment.” (Claudia Puig,USA Today)
“This hugely likable comedy, a box-office phenomenon in France, takes place in contemporary Paris. Loosely based on a true story, it finds unlikely uplift, along with tenderness, in a friendship between two men who are untouchables in different ways: Philippe, a wealthy white aristocrat left quadriplegic by a parasailing accident; and Driss, a black ex-con from the projects who becomes Philippe’s caretaker. There’s still room for misunderstanding in the script’s manipulation of racial and cultural stereotypes—it’s very French, on and below the glossy surface. Yet the film fulfills its feel-good promise, as long as it’s seen as the fairy tale it was meant to be.” (Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal)