The Intouchables

WRITTEN BY: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
DIRECTED BY: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
STARRING: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot
RATING: 4 stars

I was not expecting to laugh so much during what I thought was a drama about a man in a wheelchair. How do you possibly make that concept funny? Well, French film makers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano have nailed it with The Intouchables, which is a buddy film with a difference. There is no action or road trip as you would usually see in a buddy film; it's just two heterosexual men who form an unexpectedly beautiful friendship. It is an uplifting and heartwarming film that has some fantastic performances from its leads.
Inspired by a true story, but not very closely based on real events, The Intouchables tells the story of Philippe (Francois Cluzet), a very rich man who is injured in a paragliding accident and is left a quadriplegic. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to feel anything below his neck, Philippe cannot move without assistance but still manages to have a positive attitude and wants to be treated like everyone else. Unfortunately, his wife is dead, his teenage daughter is a brat, and his staff cannot care for him full-time. When he looks for a new full-time caretaker, he interviews Driss (Omar Sy), a thief from the Paris ghettos who has only applied for the job to collect the French equivalent of unemployment assistance. Philippe offers Driss the job and after a few hiccups, they form a bond over fast cars, art and marijuana among other things.
The film deals with a dramatic issue but handles it with natural, everyday humour such as Driss' reaction to his first opera, his dancing to Earth Wind and Fire at a birthday party and when Driss acts as Philippe's barber. In fact, the performances are what really make this film. Both leads are fantastic. Cluzet is especially good because his entire performance is based on facial expressions. Sy is also very good in a goofy, yet also tough way. It's a well-balanced performance. Both Anne Le Ny and Audrey Fleurot are also very funny as staff members Yvonne and Magalie. My main criticism of the film is that it relies on stereotypes and tends to over simplify some aspects. There are a few moments where I thought, "Really? Another 'black man' joke?"
The film was released in France last year and quickly became a huge hit, winning several awards. Yes, it's a foreign film, but don't let that deter you mainstream film fans. If you drag yourself to just one subtitled film this year, I'd definitely recommend The Intouchables to be that film.