The Intouchables, directed and written by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano.
The film, based on a true story (detailed in the documentary À la vie, à la mort), is set in Paris and follows Phillipe, a wealthy tetraplegic and Driss, a young thief of Senegalese descent who is surprisingly hired by Phillipe as his live in carer after Driss initially interviewed only as a means of receiving welfare.
Phillipe (Francois Cluzet) lives in splendour with his daughter and house workers and loves classical music, art and epistolary relationships with women, especially one called Eleanor. Driss (Omar Sy), initially, is motivated by little but women and hanging with friends in the French projects. Obviously, they are both very different but throughout the film Phillipe and Driss become closer and closer. Their worlds intertwine. Driss helps Phillipe, and vice-versa. Instead of writing letters, Driss makes Phillipe call Eleanor, giving Philippe romantic hope. Thanks to Driss’ precocious nature, Phillipe finally has to confront and show authority over his bratty daughter, and Driss generally brings a sense of fun and occassion (Driving in a sports car, Parisian walks, weed, smoking) to Phillipe’s arguably drab life. Phillipe inspires Driss to mature, as well as taking him paragliding (the extreme sport that paralyzed Philippe) and inspiring him to start painting.
Towards the end Phillipe grows inpatient when waiting for a date with Eleanor and leaves the restaurant, just missing her, whilst Driss is forced to move back to the projects after his step brother finds himself in trouble with the local gangs. Phillipe and Driss have to part, “You weren’t going to drive a wheelchair your entire life”.
Phillipe is obviously unhappy with his new conservative carers and Driss returns and, much to Phillipe’s surprise and happiness, sets up a date for Phillipe with Eleanor.
So, why should you watch this film? Here’s some interesting facts;
- It was voted the cultural event of the year by 52% France’s general public.
- Its Rotten Tomatoes average score? 82%!
- It’s the highest grossing movie in a language other than English, with $343,746,221 worldwide (Box Office Mojo) thus far.
Impressed? You should! The film, although not particularly original or challenging, is the epitome of a feel good drama and is superbly crafted; every beat, whether dramatic or comedic, and like your favourite song, is felt effortlessly, much like the beats of Phillipe’s classical music, or Driss’s ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ affect them. Though it won’t win France another best film Oscar next year, it will warm anyone who watches it. Driss and Phillipe’s friendship is both affecting and more humorous than any recent American comedy, such as American Reunion. For example, Phillipe revealing how he can still get pleasure from women by the massaging of his erogenous ears, “So, if you have red ears it means’s you’re turned on?” asks Driss, “That’s it,” replies Phillipe, “Sometimes I even wake up with hard lobes!”
Importantly, Phillipe and Driss are superbly acted by Cluzet and Sy, and Sy even won the César (The French Oscar) award for best actor over The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, who won the Oscar. Their charismatic performances also distance the film from the arguably unrealised racial/social issues surrounding Driss and Phillipe, which is surprising considering the real life Driss was changed from North African to sub-Saharan African for the film, insinuating a contemporary view on France’s social issues that is never really characterized. Overall though, The Intouchables is an excellent film that’s success is understandable and I encourage everyone to give it a go.
Final Rating: 4/5