Philippe (François Cluzet). a wealthy Parisian quadriplegic is interviewing for a live-in carer when street smart Driss (Omar Sy) turns up just wanting a signature to show he has been looking for work and so be eligible for benefits. Philippe hires him for a trial period and keeps him on even after learning of his conviction for robbery. Philippe, who was disabled after a paragliding accident is a widow since his wife died and they were childless. But they had adopted a daughter (Alba Gaia Bellugi), who is now a spoilt teenager. Meanwhile Driss has problems dealing with his younger brother Adama (Cyril Mendy) who is keeping bad company. Driss and Pihllipe develop a relationship that changes both their lives. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Louise Keller:
The unlikely combination of a wealthy paraplegic and an ex-crim with a zest for life is the premise of this surprisingly uplifting film that made my heart laugh, cry and sing. Based on a true story, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's wonderful screenplay takes the odd-couple concept and stretches its limbs to the extreme, as serious drama collides with comedy that is always carefully contained within its credible reality.
Just like in the opening scenes, behind the wheel of a sleek black Maserati that exceeds all speed limits as it zooms in and out of the traffic, there comes a moment when the powerful car comes safely to a stop. Similarly, as the narrative spills into shades of black comedy and almost reaches too far, the reins are pulled in sharply, to bring the action and reality back to manageable proportions. Boasting two brilliant, complementary and perfectly measured performances by acting stalwart François Cluzet and the charismatic, irrepressible Omar Sy, The Intouchables is impeccable entertainment, as its French title translation implies.
Philippe (Cluzet) blends seamlessly with his luxurious aristocratic surroundings, art collection, private jet and full time staff. He likes Vivaldi, Chopin and Berlioz and dictates intellectual, poetic letters to a woman pen friend he has never seen. As his paralysed condition demands, he is waited on hand and foot 24 hours a day but it is not his paralysed state that is his greatest regret. He is an onlooker of life, watching it pass as if through a glass window. Enter Driss (Omar Sy), whose chaotic life is seemingly bundled within his tall, well-built frame. He is a street-wise, dope-smoking con-man with no tact that takes what he wants, has an eye for women and no regard for etiquette or class. Earth Wind and Fire is his kind of beat, only recognising well known classical music if it happen to be identified with an advertisement or cartoon. Schubert's Ave Maria is the music that plays as Driss lets his eyes soak up his luxurious ensuite bathroom for the first time.
It does not take long for us to discover the unique thing that Driss can offer Philippe and what he craves - no pity. Not intimidated by his plush surrounds, but more like a kid in a candy shop, Driss brings his inimitable brashness and love of life to the once serenely quiet, elegant household. Laughter and the outrageous replace the tedious, everyday events. When Philippe suffers a turn in the middle of the night and can't breathe, Driss takes him for a 4am ride in his wheelchair; they bond over conversation at an unusually empty Les Deux Magots in Saint Germain des Pres. All aspects of a paraplegic's life are addressed candidly including sex, when alternate pleasures are revealed. Suddenly life is filled with laughter and the unpredictable as Philippe becomes a willing participant, no longer an onlooker.
All the performances are excellent and the running gag of Driss lusting after Philippe's secretary Magalie (Audrey Fleurot) has a pay off. Anne Le Ny as another assistant Yvonne grounds the scenes at Philippe's elaborate home. Story strands involving the families of both men are also woven into the mix, adding touches of pathos. There are countless magical moments worth recounting - many with humour and involving the clash of the classes - it is not surprising that the film has been a runaway hit in France and elsewhere in Europe. Don't miss it!
Postnote. During my privileged years of working as public relations consultant for Champagne Pommery in Australia, I had the pleasure of meeting Philippe. He was as charming as you would imagine.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Buddy movies don't come more moving, funnier and more successful than The Intouchables, based on a true story about the wealthy, wheelchair bound Parisian Philippe (Francois Cluzet) whose broken neck is only a small part of his trouble. He has no feelings in his body below the neck, but he feels the loss of his beloved wife with every fibre of his consciousness. Surrounded by his loyal staff in Yvonne (Anne Le Ny), the sexy and mysterious Magalie (Audrey Fleurot) and Marcelle (Clotilde Mollet), Phllippe needs a strong male carer to physically move him around. It's not a job for the fainthearted, and even the macho Driss (Omar Sy) baulks at some of the personal hygiene tasks he has to perform. But then he never expected to get a job at this luxurious mansion full of antiques and art.
How he came to take the job and how he came to keep it is part of the compelling story that takes us inside this relationship from its inauspicious beginnings through some bumpy but hilarious moments to its exhilarating conclusion. Omar Sy is fantastic as Driss, the young man sent to France from Senegal at age 8 when his own family could hardly cope and his uncle and aunt could use a child.
And just as we learn this and other aspects of his life through his frank exchanges with Philippe, we learn about Philippe's life, too. No two men could be more different, never mind Driss being a poor black guy from Africa and Philippe a rich white man in Paris. The essence of what Driss brings to Philippe is what makes the film so special - because we enjoy it too; his lack of pity for Philippe is a plus, as is his sense of humour, his wicked, flirting ways (Magalie is in his sights from the moment he sees her) and his instinctive response to the circumstances.
Driss is no saint, though, and we have to accept him for what he is. It's what he is able to become that inspires the filmmakers and us - and Philippe, to whom he is an indispensable part of his restricted life. As for Driss, he grows in self esteem from simply being himself. Not a bad message, if we needed one from this remarkable. It's a superbly made film, a powerful story and explosively funny.
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INTOUCHABLES, THE (M)
CAST: François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri
PRODUCER: Nikolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou
DIRECTOR: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
SCRIPT: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mathieu Vadepied
EDITOR: Dorian Rigal-Ansous
MUSIC: Ludovico Einaudi
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 25, 2012 (previews from October 13)