Movie Review: “The Intouchables”
MOVIE REVIEW: THE INTOUCHABLES
A French movie with English subtitles enters the finicky American movie market with two strikes against it.
It’s French — strike one.
It has subtitles — strike two.
Which is a crying shame, because one of the year’s most enjoyable and uplifting films has pretty much come and vanished from theaters, unable to garner much attention during another summer filled with mindless action adventure “thrillers” and sleep-inducing “comedies.”
The Intouchables is a marvelous film. Carried by two outstanding lead performances by Francois Cluzet (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman) and Omar Cy (who deserves an Oscar nomination for a movie-stealing performance), this film has wit, candor, humor, sadness, and ultimately great inspiration. The film’s credibility is boosted by it being based on a true story.
Cluzet plays a quadriplegic, which means he is confined to a wheelchair unable to feel any sensation below his neck. If there’s any upside, it’s that he’s also very wealthy, giving him considerable options that would not otherwise be available to a person of lesser means.
Cluzet is utterly bored with his life, not the least of which has anything to do with his physical impairment. One senses that even if he were not parked in a wheelchair, he would still need something more. A great deal more, in fact. What Cluzet needs is stimulation, excitement, and most of all – someone he can call a friend.
He finds all of this in the unlikeliest of places.
Omar Cy plays the part of unemployed street thug to absolute perfection. He’s a Senegalese immigrant languishing in the slums of Paris burdened with typical urban family difficulties — poverty, drug abuse, lack of hope and opportunity. One can imagine that there are many Omar Cy’s living as second-class citizens throughout the modern world. In fact, the city here may be Paris. But it could just as easily be Sao Paulo or Chicago. He meets Cluzet in what can only be described as an unexpected encounter, and the two men begin to engage in an uneasy, but captivating friendship.
Everyone can see what’s coming next. And that’s perfectly okay. Initially indifferent to Cluzet’s condition, Cy will ultimately come to care deeply for the man who is not just an employer, but a pathway out of pointlessness. The man in the chair becomes a muse and means of escape, an emotional and spiritual home for a foreigner who instantly resumes the role of “immigrant” once he steps back beyond the threshold of Cluzet’s luxurious apartment and back onto the streets of Paris.
The two men desperately need each other, in completely different ways. Eventually, they engage on a bucket list of activities, bonding in the process, allowing the rest of us to go along for the ride. And what a joyous ride it is.
Critics have correctly pointed out this film gives a somewhat sanitized depiction of what being without the use of one’s arms and legs must be like. While most of the film focuses on the role of caregiver, we are constantly reminded (or perhaps, I simply could not get it out of my mind) that not every quadriplegic receives such meticulous physical care nor emotional support. It helps to have money, no matter who you are.
But I was willing to overlook this and enjoy a film full of energy, comedy, and ultimately of happiness.
Admittedly, the conclusion of the film seems all too neat and tidy. But again, I am going to give the filmmakers a pass here for reasons you may understand only if you see the film, which enables audiences to come and appreciate how important people are to other people. After all, we are allowed to enjoy an uplifting film every once in a while. Never mind that it’s all somewhat contrived.
One of my barometers in judging a film comes with a fundamental question. Namely, do I think about the film the next day, and perhaps the next.
I did. I must admit I was moved emotionally by this film. So was everyone else in the audience, from the reactions I saw. I laughed. I teared up. And, I rejoiced in the end.
Call me naive, but I wish all life ended just like it does in the movies. I know — it doesn’t.
But that won’t stop me from dreaming and enjoying the fantasy.
RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)