Jul. 25, 2012 - Issue #875: Shout Out Out Out Out
The IntouchablesOpens Friday
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano
The Intouchables is based on a true story of the bond that formed in Paris between Philippe, a paralyzed, rich, white guy, and Driss, a younger, ethnic street-fellow who becomes his caretaker. It's so inspired by this real-world happening that the film's final pre-credits frames shows the actual pair the story was based on. Which is when you realize that the film has inexplibably changed Driss's ethnicity; there's no reason given, nor are any questions of race and cultural power even considered in The Intouchables' heedless pursuit of being an easy breezy feel-good comedy.
It's fairly telling of the script's big faults that the swapping of ethnicities doesn't particularly inform the character. Writer-directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano seem content to gently paddle us through an idealized fantasy of overcoming upper/lower class divisions without asking any big questions or truly challenging any of its characters' statuses or relations to each other. It happily basks in a rose-coloured revisionist headspace of its own.
It seems so well-intentioned but reductive. The film's main successes—assuredly the reason why The Intouchables is the most successful French movie since Amelie—comes in its acting: Omar Sy's Driss is so deftly watchable, and François Cluzet's neck-up performance offer a richness of emotion. So at least it plays out like a lovely little daydream, while doing little to ground itself in reality. It's not that there's anything wrong with escapism. But why align yourself so much to a real-world story if you're just going to ignore most of its implications?
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