Susan Granger's review of 'The Intouchables'
Foreign film aficionados should enjoy this charming odd-couple comedy, reportedly the second highest-grossing film in French history.
As it begins, a black motorist is careening through Paris in an expensive sports car with a Caucasian passenger as Kool and the Gang booms on the car stereo. When he's stopped by the police, the driver claims he's rushing a quadriplegic who's suffering a seizure to the hospital. After they're sent on their way, the two men convulse into laugher and share a cigarette. Obviously, things are not as they seem.
Several months earlier, after being paralyzed in a paragliding accident, it became apparent that wealthy, worldly, widower Philippe (Francoise Cluzet) needed a caregiver. Just out of prison, troubled, pot-smoking Driss (Omar Sy) applies for the job, not because he wants it but so he can qualify for welfare benefits. Despite the misgivings of his staff, open-minded Philippe hires him. He's attracted to Driss's crass cockiness and unwavering candor and appreciates Driss's lack of pity. While Driss's caregiving skills may be lacking and there's an obvious culture clash, Philippe senses that his friendship is real. In addition, they both share an addiction to the adrenaline rush of risk-taking and an appreciation for women. Regarding the latter, Diss not only intercedes in Philippe's love life but also in that of his spoiled, teenage daughter, Elisa (Alba Gaia Bellugi).
Inspired by true events chronicled in a documentary and memoir, writers/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano changed Driss' name from Abdel and switched his nationality from Algerian to Senegalese, as becomes obvious when the real Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou are glimpsed at the conclusion. While the characters are simplistic and stereotypical, the casting choices are brilliant, making it understandable why charismatic Omar Sy won France's prestigious Cesar as Best Actor over Jean Dujardin ("The Artist"), becoming the first black actor ever to achieve that award.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Intouchables" is a sweet, irresistibly subversive 7 -- and The Weinstein Company has already acquired the English remake rights.