The Intouchables: A “True” Story

(L-R) Omar Sy as Driss and Francois Cluzet as Philippe in THE INTOUCHABLES Photographer: Thierry Valletoux Copyright: © 2011 Gaumont - Quad

By Andrew Turner
Web Editor

Writing a review of the French film The Intouchables is a bit premature, I bet someone in Hollywood is already trying to get a green light for an American remake right now. It has every ingredient needed for a light-hearted dramady, and could be a B+ movie in English, Spanish or any other language.

A quick summary of The Intouchables seems to come straight out of a California ad agency’s test-screened sales pitch: An unlikely friendship between the wild con man Driss (Omar Sy) and the paraplegic millionaire Philippe (Francois Cluzet) blossoms, which started as just a bet and became a true friendship to last the ages.

Essentially, it’s a formula that has been used over and over again by the storytellers throughout human history. A tense, rich white man befriends a smart and impressive, but troubled, minority youth, and through their relationship, the two grow together. Philippe teaches Driss responsibility by having to take care of someone who has so many needs, and Driss teaches Philippe how to live and love life with an open heart. It does tell this story pretty well.

A few tearjerker moments, a lot of easygoing laughs, a really upbeat attitude and in the end, of course, they become best friends even though they are so drastically different.

But while seemingly pulled straight from the “story-archetypes 101” handbook, the film is based (let me reiterate, BASED) on a true story. If it had just been a fictional story, I would have enjoyed the movie more. But knowing it’s supposedly trying to be at least inspired by true events turns the lightheartedness and regular chuckles into cheap shots in what could be an emotionally ripping and thought-provoking story. Both characters seem to take their situations a little too optimistically, and never seem to really address the hardest part of their pasts and what they are now.

A little exploration into the real story also shows basic facts were changed in order to make the movie a better sell, adding more of a hollow feeling to the story as a whole. Some changes, including the original race of Driss and, thus, racial tensions shown by the two characters, really seemed as if they were done just to make the script an easier write.

In the end, the movie was decent. The Intoucables shows an enormous amount of respect to the disabled, using a strong and determined character as a lead in the film. It also got a few respectable laughs, and was quite uplifting. But the nearly constant upbeat attitude with no emotional juxtaposition in such life-altering and challenging situations came off somewhat fake, and that really hurt the film

The Intouchables gets 3 stars out of five.