Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, USA (@peteramartin)
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Omar Sy walks with a swagger, even when he's sitting down. His broad, infectious smile reflects not only the character he plays in The Intouchables, but also the film itself.

Recently returned home to a small apartment in Paris packed with children after six months "away," Driss (Sy) is a disappointment to his family. He applies for a job as a caretaker for Philippe (Francois Cluzet), a wealthy disabled man, solely so that he can be turned down and then qualify for government benefits. His attitude strikes Philippe as a refreshing change, and so Driss is given a one-month trial.

Driss sizes up Philippe's magnificent residence -- peopled by chief assistants Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), Yvonne (Anne Le Ny), and Marcelle (Clothilde Mollet), as well as a cook, gardener, and so forth -- and decides he'd be a fool to pass up the opportunity to live in luxury, at least temporarily.

Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, The Intouchables is the story of the friendship that develops between Driss and Philippe, related in traditional, "opposites attract," romantic-comedy style: They meet cute, then fight without rancor, come to an understanding, mock each other playfully, and so forth. (It is strictly a platonic, non-romantic relationship betwen the two of them, lest the wrong impression be given.) There's a whiff of Boudu Saved From Drowning, as Driss threatens to upset (and then tame and conquer) the entire household.

It also resembles a buddy-buddy U.S. cop movie from the 80s, a la Lethal Weapon: One is black, the other is white; one is from Africa, one is from Europe; one is rich, one is poor; they team up against the forces of evil and/or misunderstanding. There are many easy laughs, as Driss learns to care for Philippe. Driss, however, is not a stupid man; rather, he's grown to adulthood and beyond without developing any pity for others, which makes it hard for him to empathize with how others may suffer from his actions. For his part, Philippe has grown complacent and melancholy due to circumstances beyond his control, and finds himself amused rather than offended by Driss.

Whatever baggage may be attached to the picture because of current racial conditions in Europe and elsewhere, The Intouchables plays as an intimate, inordinately warm, and quite believable drama with an abundance of comedy, buoyed considerable by the performances of Cluzet * and, especially, Sy, whose laughter is as infectious as Julia Roberts' in Pretty Woman. (The Intouchables is based on a true story, which doesn't always guarantee a screen version that feels honest and real.)

Like all good friends, Driss and Philippe overcome their differences and focus on the things they have in common. For all its broad indulgences in stereotypes and sentimentality, The Intouchables proves to be far more winning than wince-inducing.

[* EDITED to correct spelling of Mr. Cluzet's name. Thanks to commenter Kevo42.]

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Olivier NakacheEric ToledanoFrançois CluzetOmar SyAnne Le NyAudrey FleurotBiographyComedyDrama

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Official site - Dallas IFF - THE INTOUCHABLES

Kevo42April 15, 2012 9:50 PM

It's a little thing, but the name of the actor playing in the movie is Cluzet and not Clouzot (who is the director of the wages of fear, which has nothing to do with a man in a wheelchair).

By the way, one question from France : the french people really adored this movie, and were schocked by the Variety article saying this movie was kind of racist, with Omar Sy playing the good nigger and stuff. What do you think of it ? Is it how the movie is received in the States or just what the man of Variety was thinking ?

Peter MartinApril 16, 2012 3:37 AM

Thank you; I have corrected the misspelling. Off-hand, I'm not familiar with the article in Variety that you reference, but I would be shocked if the article used the "n-word," which is generally considered offensive in the U.S. and rarely used by mainstream media. Time will tell if U.S. audiences (beyond film critics and festival attendees) will consider the movie to be racist, but it avoids the sweeping generalizations found in something like 'The Help,' which I found to be much more bothersome.

Kevo42April 16, 2012 10:49 AM

I'm sorry. Of course, he didn't use the word nigger. He said "Though never known for their subtlety, French co-helmers/scripters Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache have never delivered a film as offensive as "Untouchable," which flings about the kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens. "

The article is here : http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117946269?refcatid=31