Ever since France opposed the United States’s decision to invade Iraq about a decade ago, we just haven’t been cutting them hardly any slack. Even with The Artist’s Best Picture win at the Oscars this year I know of a few people that had no interest in seeing “that French movie.” Times, they are a changing though; and as anyone whose read the blog knows, my stance on watching foreign films has changed over the past couple of years. If it’s good cinema, you at least have to give it a shot. And what better place to start than by welcoming the French back to America by taking in the French import The Intouchables.
The Intouchables looks at the unlikely friendship that develops between Philippe, a wealthy tetrapelegic (no feeling and unable to move his body from the neck down), and Driss, a young man from the projects with a colored background. While looking to get his work papers stamped at a job interview, Driss makes an impression on Philippe, who is so taken by Driss’s curt and straightforward manners that he hires him the next day to be his personal caretaker.
At its core the movie is both heartwarming and humorous–emphasis on the humor. It’s definitely an “odd couple” setup of sorts as these two men from different backgrounds learn to live with each other and from each other and this is where a lot of the humor arises. Hilarious situations for Philippe ensue as Driss imposes his practical and street smart mentality, while the reverse happens as Philippe tries to introduce more culture and responsibility into Driss’s life. In one scene, Driss takes Philippe to an art gallery where he mulls over purchasing an abstract painting for €9000 or some ridiculously high price. Shocked, Driss takes to painting and gives Philippe his masterpiece and asks how much they can get for it. Later in the film Driss’s artwork goes for €11,000.
Though comedy in the film is infectious, it’s the drama that really makes the film what it is. If not for the changes that both Philippe and Driss go through over the course of the film, I don’t think the film would be as great as it is. What really helps is the great chemistry the two lead actors have between one another. Their great sense of comedic timing and emotion is what makes the relationship believable. While they’re great together, you do get a sense that each man is better for knowing the other–especially when the time comes that each of them has to make important decisions on their own.
One aspect of the film that I did sort of question was the authenticity of the relationship between Philippe and Driss. While great, fun, and heartwarming as it was, I did wonder at times if it seemed to all be a little too perfect–you know, the fortuitous way things seem to come together in Hollywood movies. Would these characters act this way in the real world. Granted the film is based on actual events, but how much of what happened is really translated in the movie and what was fabricated for the benefit of the audience?
Despite this lone (and potentially) cynical concern, on the whole The Intouchables is a pretty darn entertaining film and if you don’t laugh more than a few times in it . . . well what can I say, you may need to check your pulse. In fact, the film was so entertaining it became the second most watched French movie of all time in its 16 weeks of release (something pretty much unheard of here). There’s definitely something to this film if the French turned out in droves to see it. Like I said, if it’s good cinema, you have to at least give it a shot.
Rating-3.5/5 stars // Rated R // Runtime 1hr 52min