Everybody’s life takes on an unexpected course at some point. Sometimes it is courtesy of our own responsibility, but often it is through inexplicable coincidence or a bizarre change of fate. Ultimately, it is our family and friends who mean the most to us and give our lives meaning and purpose. In The Intouchables, the international box office sensation, we witness an unlikely but extraordinary friendship develop between two very different men that results in the lives of both taking on an exciting new course. Based on a true story, The Intouchables is full of good clean humour, crowd-pleasing gags and a well-directed dramatic edge. It is an irresistible French buddy comedy written and directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache. It features incredible performances from Francois Cluzet as Philippe, a wealthy quadriplegic who is disabled following a paragliding accident, and Omar Sy (winner of the Cesar Award for Best Actor – beating out Jean Dujardin, The Artist) as Driss, a poor, purposeless and emotionally battered young man from the ghettos who is hired as his live-in carer.
This touching and heartfelt human story is poignant and life affirming. Never melodramatic or overly sentimental, The Intouchables is grounded in true events and we are wholeheartedly invested in the lives of these individuals. The pair has wonderful chemistry and you feel like you are watching two inseparable lifelong friends. The charismatic Omar Sy is a natural screen presence and he warms every frame with his energy and his huge smile.
Driss, a man of the streets and a former criminal, originally applied for the job with no intention of being hired. All he was seeking was a signature proving that he applied, so that he could continue his welfare benefits. Philippe immediately warms to Driss’ outspokenness and energy and his sense of good intention. He recognizes – and so do we – that he is desperate and hiding his sadness, but he feels that his bluntness and lack of compassion are the traits necessary. Philippe doesn’t want to be nursed, made to feel sorry for himself or have attention drawn to his disability. He requires a strong-willed man capable of performing the duties required – and Driss’ straight-up rejection of some of Philippe’s regular routine is the source of humour – but also someone unpredictable who might give him the burst of life he is looking for. By accepting the responsibilities assigned by Philippe, Driss begins to understand how important he is to his own family and how he can help them.
The Intouchables effectively utilizes montage and it’s amongst the smartest use of the technique I have seen in some time. They avoid being cheesy and work to concisely develop the characters and progresses the story to both hilarious and touching extent. There are also some great soundtrack choices, especially the use of ‘September’ (accompanying the opening credits) and ‘Boogie Wonderland’ (which plays at Philippe’s birthday party at the request of Driss) by Earth Wind and Fire. There are a few minor missteps in the final act but these are easily forgivable.
The Intouchables has been selected to represent France in contention for a nomination in the Best Foreign Language category and ‘should’ follow A Separation, A Royal Affair and Monsieur Lazhar as one of few foreign language films to surpass $1 million at the Australian box office this year.
The Intouchables is an entertaining, sensitively directed and well-acted crowd-pleaser that is funny, enriching and uplifting.
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Directed by: Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
Written by: Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
Starring: Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet
The Intouchables, is released in Australia on the 25th of October 2012.
Andy Buckle is a passionate Sydney-based film enthusiast and reviewer who has built a respected online voice at his personal blog, The Film Emporium. Andy will contribute reviews, features and be our resident film festival, and awards expert.