Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.
Release Date: June 1st, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano Actors: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy
t’s rare for a film that deals with the generally depressing subjects of life-altering injuries and extreme poverty to manufacture such a light-hearted, pleasant, feel-good mood that confidently delivers a positive message. Audiences will likely be expecting a curveball of fate to intervene in momentary contentment, announcing a sinister antagonist or morbid predicaments. But like “Driving Miss Daisy” or “Amelie,” dark tragedy is frequently overshadowed by robust emotional energy, humor, and the stirring examination of values in completely opposite worlds. While similar to “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” in content, it’s much less morose.
Philippe (Francois Cluzet) has become a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident and now requires constant physical therapy and care. Fortunately, he’s wealthy, with a massive estate in Paris furnished with kind, matronly attendant Yvonne (Anne Le Ny), secretarial assistant Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), therapists, chefs, gardeners, and more. In need of a new live-in caretaker, Philippe interviews dozens of candidates, but shockingly chooses Driss (Omar Sy), a young man interested only in receiving three refusals from prospective employers to qualify for government benefits. Acclimated to a life of crime and destitution, Driss begins a clashing relationship with the aristocratic Philippe that evolves into understanding and inseparable friendship.
Many viewers might find themselves at the edge of their seats in anticipation of a swift deterioration in the uplifting tone. But despite the inescapable matter of physical vulnerability or disarming social and economic inequalities, “The Intouchables” opts for inspiration and prosperity instead – through elevated music, including powerful operas, melancholy violins, peppy rock, and a piano theme that magnificently narrates expressions and actions without direct dialogue; and through fun-loving flippancy. There’s a bounty of humor in every scene, keen on navigating the atmosphere of freedom, second chances, and reevaluating varying items of importance – especially self-esteem, sentimental belongings, and independence. Many times the comedy is laugh-out-loud funny, utilizing jokes that easily transcend the foreign language.
“The Intouchables” is based on a true story, which is nothing new. Unfortunately, although expected, the epilogue briefly shows the real life duo that inspired the film, which distances viewers from the fictional characters that made such an agreeable concept (also drawing attention to the change in ethnicity for Driss’ part). It’s Cluzet and Sy, with their clashing personalities, differing outlooks on life, unyielding performances, and sarcastic back-and-forth hubbub that populates the winning formula. It’s a simple premise with a complex companionship and a sensationally moving turn of events. A stranger entering the lives of others to present a simultaneously bad and beneficial influence is the ideal setup for equal parts comedy and drama – and that special cinematic dynamism that’s not easily forgotten.
– Mike Massie