Driss is handsome, young, black and brash. He’s the sort of bully who stomps into a room and impatiently storms to the front of the line because he doesn’t have the patience to wait his turn, and he has the build and bravado to back that up.
He lives in a housing project with his long-suffering mom, is a little too fond of his marijuana, and is fine with the idea of living off of the state’s handouts.
Which is why he’s gone through the motions of applying for a job. He has no idea what working for Philippe will entail.
Philippe (Francois Cluzet) might be rich, but he’s nobody to Driss (Omar Sy). And he’s a quadriplegic.
“That’s a bummer” is the first French phrase Driss can think of. “Don’t get up” is the second.
“The Intouchables” is an amusing, touching and intensely likable French comedy about these mismatched men – the pitiless punk and the immobile, lonely older man who has no need for sympathy. He knows how bad his condition is.
“These street guys have no pity,” he is warned.
“That’s what I want,” he answers.
Driss is to be his assistant, his guardian angel. He listens in case his high-maintenance employer calls out in the night, helps bathe him and wash his hair. And he turns up his nose and gripes every step of the way.
They bicker about the silliest things. Music – Francois loves Berlioz, Driss insists “That’s the name of my housing project.” Driss is into American funk of the ’70s (Earth, Wind and Fire, etc.). A mystery to Philippe.
As they get to know each other we start to see layers to both men – Philippe’s penchant for dictating florid romantic letters to pen pals he fears meeting in person, Driss’s troubled history and the younger brother who may follow in his footsteps. Each man, in his way, is an outcast – untouchable. And each finds a way, reluctantly, to touch the other’s life.
Filmmakers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano tell this story in a flashback – an expensive sports car, the ways having a quadriplegic in the car can get you out of a speeding ticket. They set a semi-serious tone, and send that up at every turn. Yes, this is a serious connection, a relationship that will eventually benefit both men.
These characters and the actors playing them make “The Intouchables” that rare French import that aims no higher than adorable, and hits its target every time. ‘THE INTOUCH-ABLES’
H H H 1/2 I
Cast: Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny
Directors: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Running time: 1:52
Rated: Unrated; adult situations, language and themes. In French with English subtitles.