Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Intouchables, a review

Phillipe is a wealthy quadriplegic; Driss is a young man from the ghettos of Paris. Their worlds will inevitably collide as Phillipe hires Driss as his caretaker in this French comedy/drama which is a huge hit overseas but, so far, has had little fanfare in the US other than its showing in arthouse cinema. This is unfortunate considering The Intouchables is as fun, crowd-pleasing, and accessible as the best of what Hollywood has to offer. If this wasn't made in France and had subtitles, you would think of it as an above-average Hollywood production. That's pretty much what it is, but you know what? It's thoroughly entertaining and it doesn't pander. It doesn't force you to feel bad about Phillipe or to understand Driss's plight.

That being said, The Intouchables doesn't do anything too extraordinary nor does it tread too deep into these characters' lives. We know just enough to understand them, but not enough to feel them. We get relatable caricatures. The film tries so hard to go the soft, crowd-pleasing route and tries to avoid the tearjerking moments as much as possible. While I can admire the attempt to avoid the sentimental, I feel we lost some opportunities to really get to know these characters.

Driss is a really fun character though who not only brightens and enlivens Phillipe's life but does the same for the movie. This film's charm and energy is relied solely on Omar Sy who has a very spirited performance here.  Francois Cluzet, on the other hand, is like a charming French Dustin Hoffman. The film is peppered by a couple of supporting actors here and there, but it's really their show. Or, really, it's Omar Sy's show. It seems the producers were especially eager to showcase Omar Sy's talent considering this film is based on a true story and the person he's portraying is actually Arabic.

I guarantee you will enjoy The Intouchables unless you're an incredibly cynical person who is hard to please. I consider myself fairly cynical, but not quite as hard to please. I can dig a film like The Intouchables because I feel it never talks down to me. I feel it earnestly attempts to tell its story and I admire that. It reminds me of one of those rare Hollywood dramedies where everything seems to work like Rain Man. The Intouchables is a very accessible, light, warm-hearted French production; a film that's hard not to like, but if it wasn't so light, it may have been a film worth loving.

Grade: B

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