Favorite

'The Intouchables': Paralyzed with laughter 

French film offers winning look at a paraplegic and his caregiver.

click to enlarge The Intouchables image
  • 'THE INTOUCHABLES': Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet star.

So there's an old joke, known better in France than here, in which a child asks his mother to get him a piece of chocolate from a high shelf. She tells him to get it himself. He reminds her that he can't, for he hasn't any arms. The mother's Reaganesque reply is the punchline: "Well ... no arms, no chocolate."

"The Intouchables," the very funny drama now running sparsely in the U.S. after becoming one of the top-earning movies in French cinematic history, conveys the joke a bit differently. Driss, a charismatic petty criminal unexpectedly turned caregiver, is visiting a gallery with his employer, Philippe, a wealthy older man whom an accident has left paralyzed below his neck. After a short debate over the merits of a canvas smattered with an image of bright scarlet blood, Philippe, irritated, changes the subject by asking for one of the M&Ms Driss is munching. The young man tells him to his face, "no arms, no chocolate." The English subtitles read "no handy, no candy." Still, you get that Driss is having a laugh at Philippe's expense — one of many, in fact. Against your better impulses, you too will be giggling in a paraplegic's face.

Philippe and Driss are based on two real people: Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, an aristocratic former Champagne executive who was paralyzed in 1993, and his caretaker Abdel Sellou, whose memoir of their friendship, "You Changed My Life," inspired the film. Both the directing and screenwriting credits are shared between Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache; they favor dredging the dark humor out of Philippe's paralysis and burnishing it to a high sheen. Philippe deadpans his grim acceptance, and welcomes Driss' complete lack of babying — on down to the chagrined caretaker's revulsion at the prospect of manually aiding Philippe's bowel movements, or "ass-emptying," as he puts it. When the phone rings, Driss hands it toward Philippe and goes back to his business. Rather than bristle, Philippe rather appreciates that Driss forgets Philippe's incapacities. In such oversights friends are made.

Though it does fall waist-deep into cliches of race and class, the story arc and tone of "The Intouchables" work more as a nontraditional romantic comedy than the lachrymose tear-jerker that Hollywood might've burped out given the same source material. Foremost, the lead actors astonish throughout. Francois Cluzet plays Philippe with a deadpan reserve that complements Omar Sy's hyperexpressive Driss. Sy is blessed with features that fill the screen: an ample nose, a long face, a broad smile — his every expression and emotion are amplified, and yet the hilarious performance he spins also feels stealthily natural, from his irrational cockiness to a curious infatuation with Earth, Wind & Fire (exemplified in a high-speed driving sing-along to "September" in phonetic English).

Early on in "The Intouchables" you won't be certain whether you're laughing with a quadriplegic or at him, and it's only Philippe's pleasure at being treated indelicately that allows the audience to relax. In an interview the real Pozzo di Borgo gave recently to the German newspaper Der Speigel, he advocated humor for anyone who, like him, owes every basic need to the good will of others. "People are afraid of us," he said. "The only thing we can do is to seduce them, with our smiles and with our humor. Once we've made the connection, we're home free. Touch us!" Perhaps if it weren't for the famous Prohibition movie of the same name, the film's English title would be translated as "The Untouchables," though in every facet of the word, the film insists that no one cannot be touched. The overall effect, in its compassion and joy, is downright disarming.

Favorite

Film Details

The Intouchables
Rated R · 112 min. · 2012
Official Site: weinsteinco.com/sites/the-intouchables
Director: Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
Writer: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Producer: Yann Zenou and Laurent Zeitoun
Cast: Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba-Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Améri, Marie-Laure Descoureaux and Grégoire Oestermann

Trailer


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The Intouchables

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Sam Eifling

  • Fear and wonder

    'Arrival' makes room for 'linguistic relativity.'
    • Nov 16, 2016
  • Sip it, grip it, rip it

    Dardanelle golf legend John Daly's story next up in ESPN's '30 for 30' series.
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • 'Seven' keeps it simple

    Antoine Fuqua's remake formulaic, but still a crowd-pleaser.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Gay diamonds

    Scenes from Rodeo in the Rock.
    • May 7, 2015
  • Not much to 'Love'

    In Judd Apatow's new Netflix original series.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Movie Reviews

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Belk bowling, b-ball

    • Good analysis, something completely lacking from the daily newspaper's sports reporters/columnists.

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Resurrection, reflection

    • http://hairtransplantncr.com/ hair transplant in delhi hair transplant ncr hair transplant cost hair transplant cost in…

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation