Movie Review: The Intouchables
The French are funny. Genuinely funny. You can try to resist the humour in The Intouchables, a lovely light-drama about an unlikely friendship, but you won’t last long. The set up seems clichéd– young black man with a troubled family life becomes the reluctant personal assistant to an old and well off quadriplegic man—but the French film surprises.
Looking to get officially turned down from jobs so that he can live off the government, Driss, a tall and muscular man with the blackest of skin and whitest of teeth, light on patience and heavy on charm, meets Philippe, a wealthy wheelchair-ridden man in need of some assistance
Philippe it would appear is plagued by the incompetence and ineptitude of caregiver after caregiver, while Driss has never been given a chance to grow up. That is, of course, until the two meet. Driss treats Philippe no different than anyone else, while Philippe of course finds refreshing, while Driss is exposed to a lifestyle he has never known. Needing money and a place to live, and challenged by Philippe as to whether or not he can actually handle the job, Driss accepts, and the unlikely partnership begins
Driss helps Philippe loosen up and have fun, while Philippe teaches Driss to be responsible and open-minded. It is about growth and companionship, but it’s really about the comedy—and a lot of political incorrect jokes.
Omar Sy plays Driss, and is simply relentless. Some jokes are easily predictable, such as his endless flirtation with the beautiful assistant Magalie, but it is dedication to his character and the material that makes the film work. He is not a caricature relying on the same types of jokes, some that are crass and rude, but others that are self deprecating and clever. Sy is infectious: when he learns that Philippe has no feeling in his body, he giggles with glee as he tests out this idea by pouring hot water on his leg. You don’t want to laugh, but you can’t help it.
The film is a pleasant surprise simply because there are so many traps it can fall into, so many tired stories told over and over again, and so much melodrama to embrace. It’s not about being a different race, it’s not about charity or pity, and it’s not about overcoming some past hardship to better the future. It’s about enjoying the moment, such a simple yet overlooked theme in film.
A genuinely heartwarming film that only occasionally gets too serious (whenever Driss visits his family the music changes not-so-subtlety and the camera becomes shaky), The Intouchables is almost pitch perfect, working tirelessly to make you laugh and succeeding every step of the way.