Starring François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, and Anne Le Ny. Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano.
Many lines of code have been spilled regarding Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's feel-good, privilege-meets-poverty film The Intouchables. The film has sparked discussion regarding both its barnburning success in its native France and the accusations of racism lobbed at it by a number of critics, both French and American, who aren't buying into the hype.
From an American point of view, accustomed to racial tropes as we are, it's easy to see how the film's plot might set it up for allegations of racial insensitivity: Senegalese slacker Driss (Sy) tries to intentionally bomb a job interview in order to stay on welfare, but his prospective employer, the rich and cultured quadriplegic Philippe (Cluzet), refuses to let Driss get away with the scam and instead hires the ruffian to be his caretaker. Philippe doesn't want a companion that will go easy on his condition, and the two men eventually form a bond that neither anticipated. It seems easy, even expected, for the film to degenerate into played-out tropes.
Does the film undermine its core story of understanding between classes by resorting to cliché? Long, socially complex answer: yes, Nakache and Toledano do commit the cardinal sin of including a scene where Driss demonstrates to a bunch of old rich white folks how to dance to Earth, Wind & Fire via extended dance sequence. But focusing on softballs like this would overlook the performances of both Cluzet, who spends the entire film unable to move anything beyond his face, and Sy, who plays Driss with a staggering amount of dogged charm. The relationship between the two men, and how they don't so much overcome their differences as use them to create a bond that transcends skin color and socioeconomic background, is an undeniable pleasure to watch. There's enough humor and emotional resonance in the script and performances to buoy the film up, even when it does resort to occasional plot shortcuts or character development outside the two leads. Does it manage to stay afloat at the cost of racial integrity? You'll have to see and decide for yourself, but you should see it nonetheless.