The Intouchables (Dimension Films, R)

film intouchables 75Is it OK to laugh at a handicapped person falling over if the handicapped person thinks it’s funny, too? (Yes.)

The-Intouchables 01

Phillippe is a very rich man trapped in his own body. Due to a paragliding accident, he is restricted to a wheelchair and must be cared for by attendants day and night. Driss is poor a man who, too, is restricted, not by his body, but by the socioeconomic realities of being a underprivileged, young black man in Paris. In this 2011 French film, each man has something to offer the other that will free them from their situations.

Driss heads to Philippe’s house under the guise of applying for a job as the quadriplegic’s full-time nurse, something in which he appears to be absolutely uninterested; he simply wants to get his papers signed so he can continue hanging out on the streets with his friends. But the millionaire has other ideas. As he tells his assistant, the street thug is good for him, because the last thing Driss will feel for him is pity.

The job comes with opportunities previously unattainable for each man. Philippe finds freedom in Driss’s willingness to test barriers, beginning with their first outing: Driss passes on driving his new boss in a cargo van, and instead straps him in to the seat of his long-unused Maserati for a high-speed trip through the streets of Paris. And Driss, in turn, finds his own freedom as Philippe shows him that his abilities extend far beyond just being a street tough. Philippe encourages Driss’s talents and ambitions. And the movie continues, a series of scenes in which each man helps the other ascend a ladder, and then immediately pulls the other up.

What The Intouchables suggests is that we are all in some way imprisoned. The key to our release sometimes seems a bitter pill to swallow, but the richness that comes from accepting that help, giving that help, and knowing when to move on can be a priceless reward.

The true story, based on the book You Changed My Life by Abdel Sellou, is touching, though at times the audience often found itself laughing at things that pressed hard on the anti-PC button. Is it OK to laugh at a handicapped person falling over if the handicapped person thinks it’s funny, too? (Here’s a hint: In this movie, yes.) What about finding humor in Driss’s misogynistic personality that sees women as a target, or society’s suggesting a tall, muscular black man must be a thug? (Again, yes, and yes.)

What causes this film to fall on the side of entertaining, funny, and sweet are the winning performances by Francois Cluzet (Philippe) and Omar Sy (Driss). Sure, it often falls into slapstick and somewhat sticky sentimentality but, honestly, at the end of the movie, I could feel positive tugs on my emotional strings.

The Intouchables, with its sometimes too easy slapstick and almost too-good-to-be-true scenario, offers up a rich, warm broth that will have you believing. | Jim Dunn

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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