Saturday, August 11, 2012

Intouchables (2011): A Very Enjoyable French Film

The Intouchables
You may read Intouchables is not original, that it is a spin-off of Driving Miss Daisy or it is not plausible. And while there is some truth in the first and the latter, Intouchables is still a very enjoyable movie and it's hard to dislike it despite its minor issues. The movie is funny, touching and hardly boring. It has been a huge box-office success in France and other countries around the world (in fact, it is one of the greatest box-office hits not produced in Hollywood and the highest-grossing non-English language movie of all time). And it deserves to be successful if only because of the good cast it sports. In spite of the numerous not so favorable critical reviews Intouchables got, the average moviegoer would most likely love it.

Intouchables is about a rich man who was almost entirely paralyzed after a paragliding accident. Because of his difficult condition Philippe (François Cluzet) needs permanent cares so he is looking for a caretaker. Driss (Omar Sy) is a young black man who applies for the job only because he needs a signature on his application for social benefits. Surprisingly (for him), Driss is hired and challenged to succeed under circumstances he has never lived and worked before. And naturally, a strong relationship develops between the two men.

What makes this movie so enjoyable to watch is not its premise or exceptional verisimilitude but its cast and acting. Francois Cluzet is very impressive in the role of Philippe. He uses just his head and voice, yet they are enough for making a great impact. It is easy to like his character because he is quite brave in his misfortune. Cluzet is very similar in his look and mannerism to Dustin Hoffman, in some scenes even strikingly similar. This is actually not bad since it somehow helps to relate to his character even better. Driss is intended to be in many ways a contrast to Philippe and Omar Sy fits well in this skin. He is colorful, easy-going and irresponsible at times. Omar Sy actually received the Best Actor César Award for his performance of Driss in 2012 defeating Jean Dujardin who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Artist. The supporting actors in Intouchables are also good, especially the ladies surrounding Philippe.

Something that differs Intouchables from other similar movies, or Driving Miss Daisy in particular, is that Philippe likes Driss since the very beginning. Their relationship improves over time but it is apparent the young man appeals to Philippe immediately upon their acquaintance. It seems the both men do not need a lot of preparation in order to begin enjoying their time together. Philippe is almost constantly having fun and he does not need to absorb Driss' rhythm and soul to become "happier" as other reviewers suggest. It could be argued who is the "happier", the "wiser" or the more influential man and this makes the movie more entertaining regardless of its lack of an original story. The details in a movie often makes a mediocre story good as well as the opposite, a great story is easily spoilt by a weak realization.

In addition to not being very original, Intouchables is also not the most plausible film. It is inspired by a true story but I am not aware of the exact degree of this inspiration. There is a certain sense of incredibility surrounding the movie yet it would be a bit strained to call it a fantasy.

Intouchables sports decent gags, it is not overly sentimental and fills you with affection for the leading characters. If you are not prejudiced against French cinema, you should not need further convincing to see this movie.


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