CAPSULE: From France comes a story of the relationship of two men. But like a soufflé THE INTOUCHABLES fills space but has little weight. This film was a huge success in France, but it really traces over territory made familiar by many films that came before it. A nihilistic, quadriplegic patrician gets as a caregiver a Senegalese immigrant who until that point had been drifting into a life on the streets. What at first seems like a terrible mismatch turns into a fast friendship. In the end each turns out to be just what the other needed. The team of Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano write and direct this film based on a true story. This is a film that has everything it should need for a warm, moving experience--everything but enough of the unexpected. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
What is the plot of this film? Philippe is a rich, spoiled, and demanding quadriplegic who needs a personal caregiver. He gets Driss, a young Senegalese black man whose life seems headed for trouble. Then to their surprise the two men hit it off and become close friends. Each learns from the other. Sorry, I realize that is not much plot, but that is all there was in the film so I will say it again. Philippe is a rich, spoiled, and demanding quadriplegic who needs a personal attendant. He gets Driss, a young Senegalese black man whose life seems headed for trouble. Then to their surprise the two men hit it off and become close friends. Each learns from the other. That is all there is. It is just two people of different social rank being thrown together and enriching and learning from each other, especially the upper class person learning from the one from the lower class. They develop a strong affection for each other. You can find it in CAPTAINS'S COURAGEOUS, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, TITANIC, THE BUCKET LIST, and hundreds of others. Philippe and Driss each learn to like the other's favorite music. While they have very different taste in the fine arts, with Driss bringing common sense opinions to Philippe's interest in modern art and Driss even is able to master creating paintings following the rules of modern art.
The only excuse for this film being so much by the book is that it is based on a true story. But it may be that life imitates cliché or at least that is how we remember life. In any case it does not hurt to know that some of what we are seeing may have happened this way. At least the cast is affable enough. Francois Cluzet, who somehow resembles Dustin Hoffman, plays Philippe, a man of great artistic intellect now imprisoned in a wheelchair, beaten by his loneliness and giving in to bitterness. Driss, played by Omar Sy, is an out-of-work Senegalese immigrant. He is a failure even at crime and his inability to live even with his own family is destroying his life. Driss interviews for the job to take care of Philippe expecting to fail only to prove he has nominally been looking for work. But Philippe knows he needs someone who is not going to cater to him.
The two actors together have some undeniable screen chemistry. Driss develops a real tenderness and interest for his employer and frequently goes beyond even what is wanted to improve Philippe's social life. Driss knows that Philippe now denies himself the hang-gliding that he enjoyed before the accident that put him in the wheelchair. He knows he needs to re-ignite Philippe's hunger for living life. In one sequence Driss is taking Philippe for a joy ride by car that brings out several police cars to stop him.
This film was a huge success in France, and it seems to be doing very well in the United States. There is talk of it being remade in English. That will take a good writer not to make it obvious how little there really is to the plot. Perhaps THE INTOUCHABLES is more enjoyable than American audiences are expecting from a foreign-language film. But there still is not a lot that has not been done before. I rate THE INTOUCHABLES a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1675434/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_intouchables/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper