Friendship. Hope. Change. A happy and carefree caretaker. A sad but surviving millionaire. And when these two meet, an everlasting story of inspiration and bliss simply unfolds. These are some of the things which this award-winning French comedy-drama film is all about. Directed by Nakache and Toledano,and starred by amazing actors Sy and Cluzet, The Intouchables is a timeless movie to behold and remember....
The Intouchables is a French comedy-drama film released in 2011. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, it stars Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy. The movie is inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caretaker Abdel Sellou.
Plot. The movie opens with a car chase on a night in Paris. Driss (portrayed by Sy) is driving Philippe’s (Cluzet) Maserati Quattropote. Due to over speeding, they are soon discovered by the police and consequently chased and caught. Unafraid, Driss doubles his bet with Philippe, waging that they can get an escort out of their unlucky situation. Driss convinces the police that the quadriplegic Philippe must be rushed to the emergency room, and the latter feigns to have a stroke. The police are persuaded and they accompany them to the hospital. When the police leave them at the hospital, Philippe asks what they will do then and Driss answers “Now let me take care of it” as they drive off.
The film then shows a flashback of the story of the two men.
Philippe is a quadriplegic millionaire who owns a luxurious Parisian mansion. He and his assistant, Magalie, are interviewing applicants to be his live-in caretaker when a young black guy named Driss comes in. He has no intention of getting hired, he simply needs his signature to show he was interviewed and rejected to that he can continue to receive his welfare benefits. However, he is told to come back the next day to claim his letter. He goes back to his poor extended family but he is ordered the leave the flat by his angry aunt.
The next morning, Driss comes back to the mansion and is surprised to discover he has been accepted for the job on a trial period. He soon learns the extent of Philippe’s disability, and after knowing each other better, they become friends even after another of Philippe’s friends reveals that Driss has a criminal record for robbery.
Later, Philippe reveals to Driss that the cause of his disability is a paragliding accident and that his wife died without bearing children. Gradually, Driss puts an order to Philippe’s life, including the latter’s being stricter with his spoiled adopted daughter. During Philippe’s birthday, a private concert of classical music is performed in the mansion. However, Driss changes the air to more celebratory sound by playing his favorite music (Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind and Fire) and everyone turns to dancing.
Driss also finds out that Philippe shares a purely epistolary relationship with a woman named Eleonore who lives in Dunkirk. After Driss’s urging, Philippe agrees to talk to her on the phone and even send her a picture of him. A date between the two is then agreed. Yet, at the last minute, Philippe gets nervous and leaves with his personal assistant Yvonne before Eleonore arrives. Saddened, Philippe invites Driss to travel with him in his private jet for a paragliding weekend. Philippe also gives him an envelope containing 11,000 euros, the amount he has previously got for Driss’s painting.
Adama, a younger cousin of Driss, takes refuge in Philippe’s mansion after getting into some kind of trouble. Driss then opens up his life to Philippe – his past as an orphan in Senegal and his adoption by his aunt who brought him to France. Philippe recognizes Driss’ need to support his family and that he may not want to spend all his life pushing his wheelchair.
Driss returns to his life at the suburb and lands a job in a transport company. Meanwhile, Philippe hires carers to replace Driss but frequently replaces them as he is not happy with them. Soon, his morale diminishes and he stops caring for himself.
Yvonne becomes worried and contacts Driss who immediately comes. Driss drives Philippe in the Maserati and the story goes back to the first scene of the movie. Driss then takes Philippe to the seaside and after shaving and elegantly dressing the latter, both men arrives at a restaurant with a great ocean view. Driss tells Philippe good luck for his lunch date and leaves him. Eleonore then arrives and surprises Philippe. Touched, Philippe look through the window and sees Driss outside, smiling at him. Driss bids Philippe goodbye and walks away.
Commentary. The movie is very simple but a touching one. It is predictable, but this predictability is what can make audience anticipate for the next scene. It is light-humored, but at times, touching and melodramatic. The story is somewhat common, but the morale and lesson behind the commonality may be something extraordinary for many.
Some critics find the movie racist, contending that Driss embodies the usual stereotype of class and race. On the other end of the line is Philippe, the aristocrat-like, wealthy, proud and classy white guy. There might be some kind of bias and somewhat truthful resemblance of characters to real life, but what really stood out more for me at the end is the movie’s central theme of unity, friendship and openness.
In the film, we see two entirely different people but strike up an amazing closeness and friendship at the end, offering each other overwhelm care, looking out for each other’s backs, and taking one another to wonderful experiences. From Philippe, Driss learns about abstract painting, classical music, opera and extravagant cars. From Driss, Philippe tastes the highs of cigarettes, marijuana, hookers, and street music. Through Philippe, experiences paragliding, flying in a private jet, and driving around with expensive. Through Driss, Philippe learns to stand for what he believes and loves and to go dating once again.
So in the end, it is not class and race that has defined both men. It is their character, their every strength and weakness, their every joy and sadness, and their every failure and hope, that shapes lives. And instead of demarcating their differences, the film has given them equal footing, that each has always something to take and has each always something to give.
Reception. The Intouchables is presently the second most successful French film at the box office. It has also received mostly positive reviews. It has been nominated for several categories in many awards like Golden Globe, Cesar, Goya and many others.