This new true-life Gallic dramedy may not ideally maneuver through its use of levity and stereotyping when it concerns race, social standing, art and severe physical disability. The awkwardly titled, if a breezily accomplished production, The Intouchables has a way of letting its manipulative souffle simmer with its hardships and delight into a veritable crowd pleaser.
Starring Francois Cluzet (Tell No One) and Cesar Best Actor winner (over Jean Dujardin of The Artist) Omar Sy (Micmacs), writing and directing partners Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano have adjusted Sy's character, Driss, to be Sengalese rather than of Arab descent. This may be viewed as a shameless platitude as Driss, an audacious, uncouth ex-con shakes up the life of an opulent art lover and quadriplegic, Philippe, evinced with a growing persuasive visage by Cluzet.
Philippe maintains dignity in the face of paralysis from the neck down after a paragliding accident shattered his spinal cord, and has a constant turnover in benevolent caretakers. Driss turns out to be someone quite liberated and flippant as he more than partakes in ganja, and capriciously is retained by Philippe even if the unqualified applicant is just looking to extend unemployment benefits.
The nature of their relationship becomes something that takes hold (Driss has snatched a priceless Faberge egg and has a switchblade in his kip) with unsubtle, seductive aplomb in and around Philippe's luxurious Parisian abode. Watching the two when hot coffee is poured on Philippe or when the aforementioned gets a little stimulation from those brought in by Driss begins to lift the proceedings from just being amusing; each is pitch-perfect in his own distinct manner with Sy surprising with an effortless physical grace and charm.
Cluzet finds a grounded understated verve that is balanced by Sy's animated, amoral broad strokes even when Driss raises the stakes of something epistolary and intimate to someone in such a still condition. Things can get a little wild that gets Philippe a bit hyper especially while riding really fast on Parisian roadways.
Nevertheless for all of its shortcomings, there's enough good will and exuberance that derives vicarious joy for an audience who can find Phillippe fine tuning his refined, cunning life viable. The Intouchables exacts a bemusing poignancy in traipsing through slapstick and transcending austerity with mercurial, freeform spontaneity, most notably when Driss gets down to "Boogie Wonderland" at a dreary birthday party instead of trying to appreciate the classical rhythms of the likes of Vivaldi complements of a rented chamber orchestra.