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

  • Matchmaking dystopia

    In 'The Lobster,' being single is criminal.
    • Jun 16, 2016
  • 'Popstar': Idiocy done brilliantly

    "Popstar: Never Stop Not Stopping" flopped last weekend, earning about a tenth of what a quartet of Ninja Turtles hauled in, and that fact is enough to have you weeping for America.
    • Jun 9, 2016
  • 'X-Men,' again

    Heroes are done well, but the villain is a slog.
    • Jun 2, 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

  • Lawsuit filed over settlement in forum-shopping class action case

    The lawyers facing disciplinary action by federal Judge P.K. Holmes in Fort Smith over their settlement of a class action lawsuit against the USAA insurance company have a new legal headache.
  • Cherokee tribe backs the casino amendment

    NOW, I get it. The group circulating petitions for a constitutional amendment to establish casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties reveals that the deal anticipates operation of the casino in Washington County by the Cherokee tribe that now has casino operations in Oklahoma.
  • A modest proposal for charter schools

    It was just a little over a year ago when Baker Kurrus was hired as the superintendent of the Little Rock School District. With new Education Commissioner Johnny Key there was a strong concern that the Little Rock school system would be converted to all charter schools and the entire public education system would disappear.
  • Highway Department: Key parts of new Clarendon bridge installed upside down.

    The future of the old Highway 79 bridge at Clarendon is uncertain, but it's a good thing the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department didn't jump the gun on demolishing it.That's because the new bridge at Clarendon — or at least the western approach, which is elevated over U.S. Fish and Wildlife wetlands — is snakebit.
  • Mansion wars

    It has never been as consequential as Versailles, which helped trigger the French Revolution, but the royal palace of Arkansas's First Family has always been an object of political intrigue.

Latest in Movie Reviews

  • Well-rested development

    'Lady Dynamite' smashes the fourth wall.
    • Jun 23, 2016
  • Matchmaking dystopia

    In 'The Lobster,' being single is criminal.
    • Jun 16, 2016
  • 'Popstar': Idiocy done brilliantly

    "Popstar: Never Stop Not Stopping" flopped last weekend, earning about a tenth of what a quartet of Ninja Turtles hauled in, and that fact is enough to have you weeping for America.
    • Jun 9, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

June

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  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Ringling Bros. comes to Verizon

    • I will like to ask this question before i go straight to my public announcement…

    • on June 22, 2016
 

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