Monday, June 25, 2012
STARS: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy
DIRECTOR: Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
GENRE: Comedy/Drama (French with subtitles)
I think about the great onscreen couples: Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire in Rocky. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy. And now I must add Froncois Cluzet and Omar Sy in The Intouchables.
The odd couple who find common ground and make it work in spite of themselves has long been an appealing film premise. In The Intouchables, we have rich guy Philippe, (Francois Cluzet) paralyzed and wheelchair bound. Driss (Omar Sy) is a rude, crude, and lewd African dude (an ex-con) who shows up one day at Phillipe's palatial digs to apply for the job of caregiver/companion. After seeing a battery of milquetoast applicants for the job, Philippe sees something in the brash Driss--a diamond in the rough--and gives him the job.
Driss propositions the female help in the household, and manhandles people who park their cars where they may be blocking his access to the street. But what Philippe sees in the man is freedom. With Driss, his spirit can be unleashed, even as he languishes in that chair--the result of a paragliding accident.
Philippe's intuition is accurate.
Driss is the ultimate instinctive man--totally comfortable in his own skin. The kind of person who makes those who live by convention nervous. He takes Philippe on a wild high-speed ride through the streets of Paris with the cops in hot pursuit. They evade the gendarmes for a while, (some great stunt driving) but are eventually boxed in and surrounded. Apparently, they are now going to pay the price. The way they finagle themselves out of their predicament is sheer bravado and comic genius.
Philippe's paralysis has not erased his desire for affection, and a subplot has him writing flowery letters to a female "pen pal." Driss, in his adorable cut-the-crap way, tells him to simply pick up the phone and call her. They may or may not meet someday--though initially she doesn't know that Phillipe is a quadriplegic.
The Intouchables is an international hit because it's breezy, uplifting, touching, heartwarming, and funny--with sparkling chemistry between these two fine actors. And it's got a great everybody dance scene (except Phillipe, of course) to one of my favorite Earth Wind and Fire songs.