François Cluzet as Philippe
Omar Sy as Driss
Anne Le Ny as Yvonne
Audrey Fleurot as Magalie
Clotilde Mollet as Marcelle
Alba Gaïa Bellugi as Elisa
Cyril Mendy as Adama
Christian Ameri as Albert
Grégoire Oestermann as Antoine
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
When quadriplegic millionaire Philippe (François Cluzet) needs a new caregiver to help him with his day-to-day life, he’s immediately charmed by the inexperienced Driss (Omar Sy), a carefree pot-smoking former con whose attitude seems to go against what most of Philippe’s staff think he needs. Over the next month, the two of them bond as Driss teaches Philippe how to have fun and enjoy life again.
Just the premise of Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s based-on-a-true-story “odd couple” comedy may not seem like the most enticing one–quadriplegic millionaire hires an ex-con to be his caretaker–but it’s what they do with that idea and where the story takes them that makes “The Intouchables” a true original. Which also may be why it became one of France’s highest grossing movies of all time.
We meet François Cluzet’s Philippe and Omar Sy’s Driss as they’re being chased through the streets of Paris by the police with Kool and the Gang blasting on the car stereo. It’s an intriguing way to introduce these two men from very different backgrounds and the relationship which makes up the core of the film before we cut back to their far more awkward first meeting.
A millionaire paralyzed in a paragliding accident, Philippe sees something in Driss, a man living in the slums of France who has spent the last six months in prison, who applies for the job of Philippe’s caregiver merely to get his unemployment benefits. Driss is given a one-month trial and he quickly learns what a difficult job it is, but the two men start to bond since Driss doesn’t allow Philippe to take his situation too seriously. Driss allows Philippe to have fun again, whether it’s driving him around in one of his fast cars or hiring masseurs, and as much as he’s a bad influence, everyone else around Philippe notices his astounding change as Driss helps him connect with a woman with whom he’s been corresponding.
As much as this is about the relationship between the duo and how Driss helps Philippe start living his life again, there are a few smaller subplots involving Philippe’s spoiled teen daughter and the problems faced by Driss’ brother. Driss also spends a lot of time chasing after Philippe’s sexy red-headed assistant Magalie only to be snubbed at every turn despite his best smooth-talking.
As good as the screenplay may be, it’s the casting of François Cluzot and Omar Sy that makes this movie what it is with the former bringing the necessary weight to the role of a man who has suffered greatly. Sy just has an amazing amount of charm and personality, as well as an incredibly expressive face, which makes his sense of humor and the way he jokingly mocks Philippe work so much better than it may have with a more experienced actor. Seeing the way he creates such a terrific character, Sy is an actor who we want to see more of since he clearly has the ability to get audiences on his side regardless of even his worst behavior.
There aren’t many movies being made in Hollywood that feel as natural in their warmth and sense of fun that Nakache and Toledano bring to every scene, as they give the film a distinctive tone with an eclectic combination of somber piano score with classic R ‘n’ B like Kool and the Gang and Earth, Wind and Fire. The movie may go on for a bit long after we return to the opening scene, but it ends with one last funny bit before delivering the most heartwarming tearjerker of an ending you’re likely to see all year.
The Bottom Line:
“The Intouchables” is a terrific little film, a true crowdpleaser that rises above its simple premise to deliver one of the most joyous and memorable film experiences of the year.