Movie Review: “The Intouchables”- a great film that lacks confrontation

Written by David Greenberg July 15, 2012

The story that Olivier Nakache brings to the screen in his film “The Intouchables,” based on the book, “You changed My Life” by Abdel Sellou is quite simply, uplifting.  The story is moving, the characters are lovable and, believe me, Nakache is the master puppeteer dangling the audience’s heartstrings like a master storyteller.  As a fan of uplifting stories that have the ability to turn ones day from terrible to not-so-terrible, the cinephile in me must ignore emotion and explain why, cinematically, “The Intouchables” left me wanting more.  It is not what “The Intouchables” said that I wish to criticize, it is what it failed, or at least, forgot to do.

An uplifting story

Philippe, played by Francois Cluzet is a wealthy tetraplegic in need of a caretaker.  Driss, a young black man played by Omar Sy is a Senegalese immigrant in need of a payout due to his expulsion from his mother’s home.  Driss applies to be Philippe’s caretaker without the intention of actually receiving a job, but by feigning an attempt to get a real job in order to collect a welfare check from the French government.  However, Philippe enjoys Driss’ inappropriate sense of humor and takes to the fact that Driss does not pity him.  He offers Driss a job and the two men become friends.  Driss learns about art and high culture while Philippe learns about a loose and laid back side of life.  Both men learn from one another and help out one another.  Philippe offers Driss a life he can only dream of and Driss shows Philippe a new friendship that he had never experienced.

Lacking in Dramatic potential

The story is one that tells of a great friendship, but there is a problem; it stays in the land of no conflict.  The film itself does not offer much in the way of confrontation or conflict. It does not give the audience that churning sensation in their stomachs when they know something bad is going to happen. I’ll admit, I cried at the end of the film. I cried, however, not because the two characters overcame insurmountable odds to either save the other one or continue their friendship, but because I was so glad to see that a director could envision a world with very little quarrel.  The racial difference between Philippe and Driss is glazed over,  which would have provided the film with loads of potential drama.  Furthermore, the director sped over the story of Philippe’s relationship with his daughter that it was hard to tell whether there was closure to their difficult relationship or if there was even a relationship at all.

Wonderful actors

Cluzet and Sy’s acting is what really stole the film.  Their interaction with one another was a joy to watch and both their performances were really moving.  The sensitivity and warmth that Driss gains by the end of the film was moving.  It was hard not to love Cluzet’s character, Philippe.  He radiated warmth, wisdom, and passion.  Most importantly, he looked like a French Dustin Hoffman!

Turn your bad day into a good one

Go see “The Intouchables.” Don’t see it for its dramatic potential.  See it if you have had a terrible day and wish to be brought to a happier place.  Sy and Cluzet’s performance will charm you like nothing else.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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