Judge David Johnson ran with the Intouchables in the late '90s before the fuzz came down hard.
Sometimes you have to reach into someone else's world to find out what's missing in your own.
That's the official tagline for this movie, but don't let its generic, saccharine vernacular fool you into thinking this a paint-by-numbers feel-good movie.
Facts of the Case
Driss (Omar Sy) shows up at an interview for a caregiver to a quadriplegic man for one purpose: to get a signature to get his government benefit. Turns out that Philippe (Francois Cluzet), the man seeking the caregiver has taken a liking to Driss and shocks him with a job offer. And so begins an unlikely friendship, between a wealthy man confined to a wheelchair and an uncouth, charismatic dude from the street, and trust me it's way, way better than I just made it sound.
As I sat and watched and thoroughly enjoyed The Intouchables from start to finish, it frequently occurred to me that if this had been pumped out by a Hollywood feel-good factory, there was an excellent chance it would have been derivative and formulaic. The ingredients were there for some hack director to get a hold of the material and turn it into a dime-a-dozen, syrupy experience, probably starring The Rock and Robin Williams.
Nope. As it unfolded, The Intouchables consistently surprised me, with its potent humor, unique characterizations and stubborn resistance to indulge in a cliché. Taken with the R- rating (for language), one might think there is another well-worn avenue the film might tread; if not the family-friendly schlocker, how about the dark, depressing Oscar-bait approach, complete with a dismal denouement and maybe a sexual assault or two? I was prepared for both options.
Again, however, surprise! What we have here is a hilarious, honest, and supremely feel-good story about interesting people, made for interesting people. Or dull people, I don't care what kind of person you are, actually, because there is no conceivable human being outside of some select decision-makers in the North Korean government that will be immune to the charms of The Intouchables.
On the face of it, the film may not appear to be that heavy-hitting. There are no huge twists, no incredible circumstances, no big popcorn moments that turn the narrative on its head. This is a feature that rests squarely on the bond formed between these two people. Plotlines ebb and flow on the side, but no story ever dominates the central push, which is Driss and Philippe's ridiculous and endearing relationship.
From the get-go these two forge a dynamic that runs counter to what I would expect. They hit it off almost instantly, sparing the audience from a tortured "origin story" of their friendship. Driss doesn't have a contrived epiphany of disability; he just sort of gets along. Likewise, Philippe. There are moments of self-pity, but they are fleeting; this is a man who has come to terms with his limitations, leaving simply his personality as the driving force of who he is.
Personality vs. personality. That is the set-up. Not "hard-on-his-luck street urchin" vs. "crotchety, depressed invalid." The characters are more than that. And that's where the film's power lies. Thanks to the dynamite performances by Sy and Cluzet, those facades, those labels cease to exist.
For your high-def pleasure, a beautiful 1.85:1, 1080p transfer (MPEG-4 AVC), rich in color and clarity, buttressed by a nice and active French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. A handful of deleted scenes is the only extra, and since the film was based on a true story, this meager offering is a major disappointment.
I intentionally kept the plot review light. Discover this wonderful film for yourself.
Not Guilty. Benefits for everyone!
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Scales of Justice
• Deleted Scenes
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