The Intouchables Reviews
The film's heart and soul is in the developing relationship between the apparently diverse men, and it's just wonderful. The caretaker is hired because of his lack of compassion and lack of pity, and Cluzet is lost and lonely in his immobile body, as well as his great wealth, which distances him from everyone.
The structure of the story doesn't really matter that much. This film has arbitrary plot points and a litany of mostly unbelievable situations to keep the engine of the film going. For example, the billionaire, who is a widower, is having a passionate epistolary affair with a pen pan, to whom he has not revealed his condition. He is afraid to meet her or tell her about his condition. The caregiver, Driss, tries to push them together. This relationship never resolves and it's the main driving force of the plot. Arbitrarily, Driss is fired at the end of Act 2, for no good reason, except to create an Act 3.
Directors Toledano and Nakache have directed a slick and colorful film that looks more Hollywood than Paris, oddly full of hand held shots and an American pop soundtrack including Earth Wind and Fire and Kook and the Gang. None of this matters as much as the wonderful buddy aspects and the well rounded and emotional connection between the two actors. It's not surprising that it's one of France's biggest ever box office hits, it's pretty irresistible. But it sure ain't Jean Luc Goddard.
The unexpected beauty of the opening drive scene caught me off guard. Inspired music selection throughout. The look and nod Francois Cluzet gives Omar Sy by the water is my favourite moment of the film.
After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker.
You will not see a comedy this year on either side of the pond than The Intouchables. Or a better treatment of disability, without pity and filled with humanity. Or a better buddy story than this one about quadriplegic Phillipe (Francois Cluzet) and his aide, Driss (Omar Sy). It's a bromance without sex, a hands-across-the-social-divide that avoids clichés but still gives anticipated humorous setups a new vigor. Expecting tears and pity, I found laughter and love as Driss, a poor black man with a very big heart and personality, is hired by wealthy entrepreneur Phillipe to tend him. Although the eventual reinvigoration of daredevil Phillipe under the exuberant if rough Driss is to be expected with this formula, the wholesome affection and lack of pity are infectious.
Intouchables has numerous moments of hilarity and humanity such as when the two men speed down the highway almost hoping for police who will fulfill Driss's prediction that the two end up with an escort. Both men are speed freaks; both men are happy to indulge that passion. Another mirthful moment is Driss's reaction to his first opera. Opera lovers will especially like his unaffected amazement and amusement that this is how the rich spend their time. Sy is so good as Driss that even I would enjoy his spontaneous disruption of a serious operatic production. Buried in the joyful surface is the subject of class differences. Driss comes from living with several cousins in a small apartment, may have been a druggie and a dealer, and avoids work. Phillipe is a wealthy entrepreneur who went too high on a para sail to fulfill his danger lust. Beyond a small fee Phillipe wrangles from a friend for Driss's painting, Driss gets no other improvement in his living situation and Phillipe deteriorates while he makes a tough decision about Driss. It's not difficult to see why the film has been seen by over 300 million people so far and just begun to flourish in the US.
Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is rich quadriplegic and looking for a new caregiver to his many needs. In walks Driss (Omar Sy), a brash and headstrong man from a very different world: lower class, urban, and black. Philippe responds to the man's irreverence and gumption and hires Driss on a trial basis. The upper-class lifestyle is like a fantasy to Driss, but the many responsibilities of caring for a man with no feeling below the neck are harder than anticipated. He objects at the very idea of having to manually evacuate the man's... insides. The two opposites attract and the men become close friends and open one another up to new experiences.
At its core, The Intouchables is the story of two men and their unlikely friendship. It's told with enough weight, conviction, and character development that it's easy to get wrapped up in the movie's sweeping emotional tide. It's a familiar tale, essentially that of the coming together of two people from distinctly different walks of life. You've seen this type of story before, where the upper class learns to cut loose and embrace life more fully, where the lower-class individual finds a path of dignity and responsibility. It's been done before but rarely has it been done with such aplomb. Any storyline that involves a quadriplegic man and an inner city youth coming together sounds rife for after-school moralizing and sappy life-lessons. Thankfully, The Intouchables finds an angle that hits the emotional highpoints without tipping over into overt maudlin territory. Phillippe doesn't want anyone's pity. What is meant as good intentions can become another handicap; public perception of the individual's limitations. Like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the 2007 inspirational French film about a significantly paralyzed man who could only move his left eye (what is it about French films and paralysis?), The Intouchables brings you into a world few glimpse and shows us what the perseverance of the human spirit can reap. Even a conversation that steers to sexuality can be illuminating and, for concerned male viewers, comforting that even if you can't feel anything below the neck, the human body can adapt. In this regard, the film is a fascinating look into the life and care of a quadriplegic man (albeit an insanely wealthy one), and the fact that it's also a moving and winning buddy comedy is yet another virtue. It's like France's version of a bromance.
It's quite easy to see why The Intouchables has had runaway success in Europe, totaling over $300 million before ever opening in the States. This thing is a born crowd-pleaser. The characters are given room to roam, flesh out, and the interaction between two different men and their growing affection is a natural emotional foundation. We care about these characters, we smile and laugh with their interactions, the way that both men realize they need the other. It's touching without being cloying and rich with emotional rewards by film's end. Then there's the fact that it's also consistently funny without overplaying the class conflicts. There is an amusing subplot about the nebulous nature of modern art and what qualifies as "art": the work or the knowledge that it's from an "artist." There's a nice payoff with that one, but most of the humor is character-based, with the jovial Driss bouncing off the staid sarcasm of Philippe. There's one comic subplot that seems to be hitting the same note time an again -- Driss' dogged romantic pursuit of Philippe's assistant (Audrey Fleurot). It's almost forgivable given the immense charms of Sy, but her character gets reduced to little more than a potential love match for Driss' energetic libido. The humor, buoyant but also sensible, gives the film a defter touch when it comes to the more dramatic moments of loss and isolation and mourning. It's easy to see why audiences have been falling in love with The Intouchables around the globe; they're programmed to cry and laugh in equal measure.
And it's that vague sense of programming that lingers. This is a film that knows exactly what chords to strike and how often. It can be accused of pandering and you'll be able to guess every point of the plot. You think Driss will get Philippe to finally meet the woman he's corresponding to for months? You think the upper crust will break from their immaculate stuffy prisons and learn to cut loose, spurned from Driss' involvement? Do you think Philippe's bratty teen daughter will learnt to shape up and fly right? Will Driss take a stand and stop his younger sibling from falling under the sway of criminal influences? Will the two men realize they truly need one another's companionship? The answers are obvious; as are the plot turns and the happy ending, but The Intouchables goes about its business with such mass-appeal precision that you don't really mind being manipulated. When someone can pull strings this skillfully, and quite transparently, almost daring the audience to resist, I almost admire the manipulation. Unlike Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, another blatantly manipulative teary adult drama, at least this movie succeeds because we care about the characters rather than just bad things happening to people onscreen. The Intouchables isn't subtle about its aims, but it is hard to resist a film this beguiling and tender and involving.
Sy (Micmacs) is the breakout star of the movie. His gregarious, jubilant charisma instantly engenders the character of Driss to the audience. He's constantly smiling, laughing, and cracking wise, and pushing others to be better. Sy brings such life to the movie that you instantly miss him when he's gone. Cluzet (Tell No One), a dead ringer for Dustin Hoffman, has the more restrained role, no pun intended. His performance has to be very controlled yet believable, and Cluzet does an admirable job of building a character from the neck up. He's a wounded man still recovering from the loss of his wife as well as his own crippling fears of loneliness. When these two are together onscreen, that's when all the movie's potential problems become a distant memory. The conviction in their big-hearted performances makes all the sentiment easy to swallow.
Several critics have accused the French film of being borderline racist. I think the charge of racism is overdone. Just because Driss' family lives in low-income housing doesn't mean it's making some blanket statement about the black experience in France. I suppose some chafe at the energetic, outspoken, and general virility of Driss. But I think critics looking for racist depictions of black males are overlooking the point that Driss had to be outspoken and energetic because Philippe is immobile and reticent. It's in service of character contrast, not just recapitulating the figure of Loud Outspoken Black Male (a.k.a. the modern-equivalent of the age-old Noble Savage treatment). The significant part of Driss is that he has a sketchy past and comes from a low-income family struggling to get by. His race certainly plays up the contrast between the world of white privilege in France, but it's not the central difference between these two men. Critics have also brought up the fact that the facts of the true-life story are different than what we see onscreen. Philippe's caregiver, Abdell Sellou, was a Muslim man from Algeria, not a black man from Senegal. Does this truly bother anybody? Does the man's heritage and ethnic background drastically alter the relationships formed or the earnest connections made? The movie doesn't seem to think so and closes with the real-life figures onscreen, showing to each audience member the adaptation differences. Unlike something as racially questionable as The Blind Side, Driss is not rescued by saintly white people; he is an active member in his own self-actualization and not a passive receptor of the benefits of rich white people. With that said, there are still a few moments of ethnic depictions that might make you cringe, like Driss' reaction to a night out at the hoity-toity opera.
During my viewing, I was reminded most of Scent of a Woman, another down-the-middle buddy comedy about a disabled man and his caregiver learning from one another and pushing beyond their comfort levels. It's emotional without being too squishy and funny without going overboard, but make no mistake: The Intouchables is just as formulaic as a Hollywood production. The story and conflicts are familiar, the afflictions and backgrounds only differ. It's feel-good, mass appeal comfort food, and when done this skillfully it's hard to resist its call (I had a similar reaction to last year's The Help). Its story of friendship, personal triumph, and all those happy things, but it's also emotionally manipulative, littered with undeveloped subplots and a few uncomfortable moments of ethnic depictions. Fortunately the shining, vibrant performances from Sy and Cluzet, and their chemistry together, elevate the film's softer and quasi-pandering sensibilities. It's the story of two men, and by the end we greatly care for these two men, and their deep friendship and appreciation of one another. The Intouchables is a sly crowd-pleaser that dares you to defy its mass charms. And with actors this good, resistance is futile.
Nate's Grade: B
Really think about it. People come in and out of our lives so much it is sometimes hard to focus on the few that help guide us onto a better path. We all have a tendency to dwell on the negatives: lost love, disappointments, failures, etc...and these details cloud our judgment or force us to distance ourselves from letting anyone get close again. But once in a great while someone appears in your life and pushes you out of your stubbornness. Well, I watched a wonderful French film, which was just released here in the US, about this very subject: The Intouchables.
This film revealed more than just two people who find a friendship. The core is about a relationship where both characters purposely distance others from knowing the real them because they don't think they were worthy until their symbiotic relationship helped opened their eyes and hearts. And what occurred next was magic. It was a truly remarkable film that both inspired and made me grateful for certain friendships I have in my life.
The Intouchables is not a love story, well, not the typical kind anyway. It is a story about two men who find a friendship based on loyalty and honesty. François Cluzet plays a very wealthy man, Philippe, who became a quadriplegic due to a paragliding accident and needs a caretaker. All the applicants either only last a week or are never hired until a man from the other side of the tracks cuts in line to get the interview over and done with. Driss, played by Omar Sy, has no desire to really work. Recently released from prison, Driss is required to prove he has applied for work but turned down in order to receive welfare benefits.
An unlikely candidate to be his caretaker, Driss is hired by Philippe because he possesses one quality that Philippe desperately wants. Driss takes the job to prove a point first to Philippe but then to himself. What is it that they both need or want? Well, I am not going to tell you. This film is simply wonderful and I want everyone to find out for themselves. The Intouchables is a film that warms the heart, makes you laugh and might even make you a bit misty-eyed.
I have not enjoyed a movie about friendship this much in a long time. The Intouchables displayed the miraculous happenings that occur when two people are meant to be in each other's lives. Friendships are many things to different pairs: companionship, loyalty, affection, or commonality. For the most part, however, it should be about lifting the other up and making sure they get what they need and deserve out of life - Happiness. It's that pure and simple.
Philippe's and Driss' friendship, based on a true story, was beautifully portrayed in this film. The acting by both men was flawless and the story was truly inspirational. And despite having to read subtitles, I kept up with the story very easily. The message of the film translates to any language: Real, true friendship is rare, and you should keep it when you find it.
Based on the memoir "You Changed My Life" by Abdel Sellou.
My favorite thing: I really enjoyed the music scene. I smiled and giggled.
My least favorite thing: The relationship with the daughter was a little under developed.
Directed (and written ) by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, Quad Productions, The Weinstein Company, 2011
Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot,and Clotilde Mollet.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Review: 9 out of 10
Here, rich and educated Philippe has to hire a new aide and decides for low-life crook Driss, who only shows up to the interview for a signature to soothe the employment bureau. Of course it's kind of predictable that the two men who couldn't have a more different background slowly become comfortable with each other and develop a friendship. But that story is told in such a refreshing, charming and hilariously funny way that you can't help but grin for two hours.
The film, much like its protagonist, refuses to wallow in self-pity and just wants to be treated like anyone else, which is exactly what Driss does, who doesn't even consider offering a special treatment or quit the disrespectful jokes. That makes it so much easier for the audience to care for the situation and the characters than in all the whiny and supposedly emphatic movies dealing with similar themes. That is wonderfully politically incorrect but never aims below the belt. The film easily walks that thin line for its entire length and celebrates the power of friendship with its light-hearted charm.
Apart from the smart and funny script that mostly works thanks to the great chemistry between Omar Sy (who should have a huge career waiting for him now) and Francois Cluzet (who looks so much like Dustin Hoffman it's puzzling), both of which deliver outstanding performances. And the best part: it's based on a true story. Easily the best comedy of the last couple of years. Makes you happy.
Let's be honest. We've seen hundreds of movies like "The Intouchables" before and we will see hundreds more before it is all over. Except maybe not as patronizing or cliched as this one, with Margalie suffering worst in this category. For example, tough love is not the solution for every problem as I think everybody wants to work but can't due to a lack of jobs, especially ex-convicts. Yes, Philippe does bring up his ill-gotten wealth a couple of times and the classic music medley is a definite highlight. But that's kind of too little, too late to save this disappointing movie. And not to compare bagels to croissants, but I think the television series "Suits" did it much better in the giving somebody a chance department.
Clocking in at just under two hours, the film isn't terribly long, yet I couldn't help but feel as though the runtime was a bit too much for a film of this type before I went in, and once I got in, I knew that the runtime is a bit too much for a film of this type, as the film collapses into too many moments of filler, and even goes so far as to descend into total nothingness, particularly during the few and far between yet still sometimes almost achingly overlong montage sequences. Still, if something can be said about all of this excess fat around the edges, it and other pieces of padding at least tend to have a certain degree of livliness, if not all-out entertainment value, something that I really wish I could say can be found throughout the film. Now, it's not like I was expecting to walk into ceaseless fun, but I was hoping for more consistent livliness and engagement value, and while there's still plenty of that here, the film all too often slows down more than you'd expect it to, dragging along dryly with little bite in the atmosphere, thus creating disengagingly considerable blandness that will occasionally, if not on more than a few occasions, descend to dullness. Whether it's taking its sweet time with more material, if anything, than it needs or just plain dragging its feet around, the film's steam takes one blow after another and creates a kind of disengagement value that does a deal of damage to investment, which goes further harmed by the film's cheesier moments, for although the final product certainly isn't as cheesy as its broad concept makes it out to be, you can only dance around a plot dealing with, as I said, an unlikely friendship between a wealthy quadraplegic and a poor black man from the ghetto before you plummet into some sentimentality, and while this film isn't consistently sentimental, or even all that terribly manipulative when we do finally hit sentimentality, the fact of the matter is the film does hit sentimentality, and just hard enough to often further shake your genuine investment a bit. These storytelling faults slow down the momentum of the film and go into exposing the film's central flaw: not enough bite, for although this story is reasonably strong, it's told in a rather cliched fashion, though with less livliness than usual. The story just doesn't quite hit as hard as it should, and that leaves the final product to run the very real risk of collapsing into underwhelmingness, and with the aforementioned other storytelling faults, slowness and bloating landing a blow to the film's back, the final product takes that plunge and falls short of what it could have been. What it ultimately is, however, is a film that still hits just as much, if not a smidge more than it misses, and while the film doesn't hit hard enough either way to transcend simply decent, there remain strengths untainted, or rather, "untouched" by faultiness, and just enough for the film to stand as more enjoyable than not.
Mathieu Vadepied's cinematography isn't consistently striking, yet there is a consistent certain level of attractiveness to it, with occasions in which lighting and color become ripe for beautiful photography, and thus make for shots that are genuinely striking and particularly intensify a certain livliness within the film that goes supported by the colorful cinematography, whether when it's at its best or not. What further breathes some life into this film is the far too underused, yet cool, classic and almost entirely American soundtrack (About the closest they got to French was Nina Simone, and she was a black soul and R&B singer who moved to France after traveling through several other countries, following her leave of the American South), which defines the tones and themes of the film in a groovy fashion, while going backed up by Ludovico Einaudi's rather conventional and sometimes sentimental, yet generally spirited score. Well, from the sounds of it, Einaudi's score seems more definitive to the film than the soundtrack, or at least more reflective of the film, as the film is also rather conventional and sometimes sentimental, as well as even perhaps too slow for its own good, yet there is still spirit and inspiration put into crafting this product, and while I wish more effort had been put into making a genuinely compelling, or at least more entertaining story, the effort that does go into this film produces immensely charming results. As I said, the story is reasonably strong, yet it's not terribly well-handled here, nor is it even all that uniquely-handled, which leaves the effectiveness of the story to go diluted, yet not to where the story doesn't come out still with just enough juice in it to hold your attention much more than lose it, partially with the help of the screenplay by our directors, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, who deliver on snappy dialogue and clever, fairly down-to-earth and altogether sharp humor. On paper, Nakache and Toledano establish color, and in directorial execution, they fall flat in a lot of places, yet never lose charm, and put enough consistent inspiration into the atmosphere for you to go, if nothing else, charmed through and through, if not occasionally genuinely entertained, and it's made all the sharper by a certain other charming duo, the ones in front of the camera, rather than behind it. Almost surprisingly, very little acting material is provided, yet compensation lays within the charisma of the performers, especially leading men François Cluzet and Omar Sy, both of whom stand as sharply charismatic by their own rights, and deliver on firecracker chemistry that defines the defining sense of unlikely comradery bewteen the central Philippe and Driss characters. The leads carry this film, whether when they're on their own or, preferably, together as a worthwhile team that may not be able to save this film from ultimately plummeting into underwhelmingness, yet nevertheless help in making this final product an enjoyable one, regardless of its shortcomings.
En conclusion, the film finds itself padded out at times, but mostly slowed down by excessive, well, slowness, which sometimes dips as low as dullness, yet is either way far too prevalent and brings more to attention such flaws as the occasional piece of sentimentality and quite a few conventions within the story, which fails to go executed with enough bite to compensate for all of the steam loss, thus leaving the final product to stand as rather underwhelming, yet enjoyable nevertheless, going backed up by attractive style and fine soundtrack choices, as well as brought to life by the generally colorful screenplay and inspired direction, both of which are by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, and go greatly complimented by the firecracker charisma and chemistry between leads François Cluzet and Omar Sy, who help in making "The Intouchables" an occasionally entertaining, often charming and generally enjoyable film, even if it doesn't "touch" the level of quality that it should have.
2.5/5 - Fair