Movie review: The Intouchables

From the July 26, 2012 edition

When I first saw a preview of the French film “The Intouchables,” the story of poor Senegalese immigrant Driss and his unlikely friendship with the rich quadriplegic Philippe whom he cares for, I was prepared to write it off as emotionally manipulative or, even worse, as offensive and racist.

But while “The Intouchables” can be accused of occasionally being those things, it also is often riotously funny. It’s a pleasant study of two characters that were made for each other.

Despite being amazingly wealthy and offering incredible perks like a beautiful bedroom in his house, Philippe (Francois Cluzet) can’t seem to keep a caretaker around for more than a month. Enter Driss (an impressive Omar Sy), who only applied for the job to maintain his unemployment benefits.

This being a movie (and not a highly original one), Driss is hired and the pair bond over shared hits of marijuana, their mutual love of zipping around France in Philippe’s collection of fast cars and Driss’ insistence that he can paint something equally as good as the expensive modern art Philippe is looking to buy.

The treatment of Driss can occasionally induce a few uncomfortable cringes, but I’d stop well short of actually accusing the depiction of being racist. (Perhaps the cause is acultural difference between France and the U.S.) It should be noted, however, that while the plot is based on a true story, the caretaker was really Abdel, an Arab of Algerian decent.

“The Intouchables” is the kind of movie that invites complaints and criticisms, and many of them will be valid. But it’s also a fun little movie that’s full of rapid-fire jokes and enough heart to keep the film enjoyable.