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‘The Intouchables’ is a great foreign film

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POSTED: May 31, 2013 10:31 a.m.

One French film has the distinction of being called the most-watched foreign language film ever.
I know what you’re thinking: “Watching movies is an escape, so why would I want to work to read subtitles?”
Well, my film-going friends, sometimes a little reading has big rewards, so let’s take a closer look at “The Intouchables.” The film has a rather unfortunate title, but ignore that for a second.
The film’s plot introduces us to Phillippe (Francois Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy). If you need a bit of a reference, you could liken this team-up to a pairing of American actors Kevin Kline and Will Smith in a serious drama (forget that they starred in 1999’s “Wild Wild West”). How serious? Philippe is a rich, white, French quadriplegic and Driss is a poor, black, Senegalese transplant living in France.
An incident leads Philippe to hiring Driss as his live-in care provider. What develops is an unlikely but deep friendship that forever changes Philippe’s life.  
I’d like to think that both men were indelibly transformed, but the film spotlights Philippe’s new lease on life, thanks to Driss’ influence.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. On the surface, we have a clichéd scenario; just ask Smith or Eddie Murphy how many times they’ve had to be funny on cue to contrast a white co-star.
But “The Intouchables” features a handful of heartfelt, less-predictable choices. I was moved by the film, and I also laughed heartily.
Is there a sinister undercurrent to the film? If there is any controversy here, it would be in the filmmakers’ choice to cast an actor of color in Driss’ role. In the true story upon which this film is based, the person Driss is based on is a white-skinned Algerian man.
As with the unfortunate film title, it also is unfortunate that this decision may negatively affect viewer reactions to what I thought was a nice story. I’ll let you decide.
But … I’m a fan! And I’d also really like to see Sy in something else — he’s a cutie!

McBrayer’s column appears weekly in the Courier. Watch reviews at www.coastalcourier.com.

 

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