- Running time:
- 110 minutes
- François Cluzet -
- Omar Sy -
- Anne Le Ny -
- Audrey Fleurot -
- Clotilde Mollet -
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.
And it might even overlook political incorrectness and characters that teeter on racial stereotyping because of a larger compassionate message, told with upbeat verve.
Irreverent and uplifting, The Intouchables, in French with English subtitles, is already a huge success in Europe. It has made more than $300 million worldwide and earned star Omar Sy a Cesar Award (beating out Oscar-winning best actor Jean Dujardin of The Artist).
Regrettably, as is the pattern with successful foreign films lately, an English-language remake is already in the works. The wrong casting and a broad rewrite could turn this slightly subversive and winning comedy into a soulless and offensive debacle.
But as is, it's an unabashedly lighthearted story of transcending socioeconomic, racial and class barriers and finding commonality in humor and honesty.
Set in Paris, the story centers on a moneyed, middle-aged white quadriplegic man and his twentysomething, black caretaker from the projects. Easy to embrace for its sharp humor and underlying sweetness, it has also been criticized for racial stereotyping. But filmmakers Eric Toedano and Olivier Nakache have attempted to tell a story that transcends color and class by bringing it into the open and eschewing politeness.
Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a widowed millionaire injured in a paragliding accident. For reasons that at first appear inexplicable, he hires Senegalese ex-con Driss (Sy) to be his caretaker. We soon learn that Philippe has a wry sense of humor, doesn't want to be pitied and enjoys trading barbs with Driss. He admires the younger man's honest gutsiness and is tired of caretakers who treat him like either a child or a project or handle him with kid gloves. They soon develop a respect and fondness for each other.
The film immediately pulls the viewer in as we see Driss driving Philippe, speeding and being chased by the police. They zip along, accompanied by a blasting soundtrack of Earth, Wind & Fire, and the film's infectious vitality has us hooked.
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.
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