Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Short Cut Movie Review: The Intouchables

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.


I think there is great shame in the fact that The Intouchables didn’t even make the short-list of nine films vying for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. This was easily my favorite film of the year. Although it is a story so cliché-ridden it looks like it took several chapters out of the Hollywood Guide to Winning an Oscar and Scoring a Box Office Hit, it rises far above those clichés thanks to the directing team of Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache.

Just look at this: it’s based on a true story which gives it validation with audiences; it’s about a ridiculously wealthy quadriplegic looking for a full time caregiver; the second main character is an ex-convict from the housing projects of Paris who just wants to get his unemployment checks; and it’s about the changes both men experience by spending time with one another and learning to respect things outside their comfort zones. If this had been made in Hollywood, it would be cloying, sentimental, tacky, ham-handed, and trashy. It would fall somewhere on the spectrum between Patch Adams (insufferably awful in every sense) and A Beautiful Mind (well-intentioned and well-crafted pap).

Phillippe is the wealthy man (Francoise Cluzet), tired of receiving pity from his caregivers. When Driss breezes in and stirs the pot a little, he seizes on the opportunity and appeals to Driss’s competitive nature, telling him he won’t last two weeks in his employ. Phillippe is a refined consumer of high culture: he doesn’t blink at dropping 40,000 Euros on a painting; he loves classical music, but knows nothing of pop. Driss loves Earth, Wind and Fire and Kool and the Gang, those paragons of the disco era whose music can just light up a stuffy room full of tuxedoed tightwads enjoying a string orchestra.

Toledano and Nakache never force the emotion down your throat. The musical score remains loosely in the background and I can’t recall a single moment of feeling artificially manipulated. This is also due in large part to two wonderful lead performances in Cluzet and especially Omar Sy as Driss, who went on to win the Cesar Award for Best Actor (the French equivalent of the Oscar). The movie is simply full of soul and joy. Its lessons are worth learning and they exist within the film’s story, but they’re never driven home with a sledgehammer. This is just joyous filmmaking. 

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