Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Intouchables

(France, 2011)

You’ve seen this movie before. A disabled man (quadriplegic from a parasailing accident) finds a friend and rediscovers some zest in life. Only the details change. This one’s in France, “based on a true story,” the man is very, very rich, the new attendant is a black layabout named Driss from a huge Senegalese family, only interested in collecting his welfare check, and then he’s hired, much to his surprise. Doesn’t want the job, doesn’t like humping the guy from bed to wheelchair, will not change his shitty diapers or colostomy bag or whatever distasteful thing he uses. Rich guy hired him only because he looked sort of dangerous, out of the ordinary run of auditioning nurses who are all boring as hell. So he has no expectations, Driss doesn’t want any part of it … but they soon bond, Driss takes him out and they have fun.

So it’s all very standard, no surprises here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s quite good, in fact, we enjoyed it a lot. There are not a lot of entirely new stories around, so my enjoyment can depend on just how well you tell an old one. This is told well, and acted well. The centerpiece is one Omar Sy, who won the French Genie award for Best Actor. He is a bundle of energy, with a plastic face and more huge white teeth than any human should be entitled to. (Part of that is probably the contrast with his coal black face.) The rich man is François Cluzet, who we have seen once before in the excellent Tell No One. And you just can’t mention Cluzet without remarking on his totally remarkable resemblance to Dustin Hoffman. There’s a whole discussion thread on IMDb about it; the man is a dead ringer. If they ever do The Dustin Hoffman Story, he would be perfect … if he speaks English and can lose the French accent. Both these actors and all the supporting roles are wonderful. This was a gigantic hit in France, second-highest grossing film of all time, and in Germany.