I was originally going to write about a different film tonight. However after much thought I decided to write about a film that I had not seen before (and could be gone from Amazon Prime before I got the chance to check it out). Another reason is because the originally intended film might be more suitable for a different list. One that involves chase scenes and getaways drivers, perhaps. After seeing Two films about extraordinary worlds, let’s do one set in the real world for a change (Which in itself is extraordinary). I had heard about this film for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to it. So here we are…as boring as this introduction was this time. This is The Intouchables (or Untouchable the UK).
Set in Paris, France, in the modern day (2011) our story revolves around two characters from completely different backgrounds: First you have Philippe (played by François Cluzet), a millionaire who is quadriplegic and paralysed from the neck down. As a millionaire, he has money. Lots of money. A nice Courtyard House in the middle of the city that opens out onto the street with beautiful sports cars, expensive paintings, and top-notch staff capable of meeting (nearly) all of his needs. He has seemingly everything…except he can’t move around freely and enjoy it. Then on the other side you have Driss (played by Omar Sy. You might remember him as Remington from Micmacs, Barry from Jurassic World or Lupin on Netflix), a man who had just gotten out of prison, is living on benefits, and as a black sheep on the family, is no longer welcome in his own home. He goes for the Job Interview of being Phillipe’s caretaker – but he wasn’t looking for the job. He only wanted a signature from Philippe to say that he applied for the job and was then rejected. To say the least, due to his brutal honesty and suggestible physical strength, Philippe noticed how different he was to everybody else applying for the role, and told him to come back for his signature the next day. When Driss returns, he is given a tour of the house, and then introduced to what would become his new home. Complete with his own bath to wash in peace (For good reason). And so, officially, begins the odd friendship of Philippe and Driss, as well as the transformation of Driss the ex-con to Driss the Carer.
Now to look at what brings this film together.
The acting is absolutely exquisite, especially from Omar Sy, who provides us with, quite literally, the performance that made him a star. Within his unorthodox style and rough demeanour is a highly charming and charismatic character who adapts well and grows up as the film progresses. Then with François Cluzet, considering he barely moves throughout the film and occasionally gets carried around, he is excellent as the dry-humoured and slightly stoic millionaire who knows what really matters to him. The acting from everyone else was very good, even though we aren’t that focused on them.
The characters, in particular Philippe and Driss, are brilliant. While Driss’ sense of humour goes over Philippe’s head at first, they grow to know what to expect from each other. I also found the supporting characters to be quite underrated, in particular Philippe’s staff. They might not get as much screen time, but their scenes carry some weight.
The Story and its themes are, to say the least, up for debate, and perhaps this shaves half a star off being perfect, because it’s a very grey area. Everyone is going to focus on something and see things based on their own perception of both the world and the film in general. Some folk would have gone into this film expecting a sincere biography, while others go in acknowledging the evident creative license. I personally saw a film that sought out the overall soul and spirit rather than the absolute truth of this journey. That it was inspired by two real people and their friendship, and it was more interested in telling a story about that and the struggles of these characters on a comparatively dramatic level, with some very good humour along the way (In other words, make us feel sad in the moment, but don’t make us uncomfortable. This isn’t Magnolia after all). To very loosely quote Bill Gates, Work is about opportunity no matter where it all begins. Driss received an opportunity, and we see the story of him growing into someone more than he was. Some could argue that it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what it’s like to be someone’s carer, and that the actual carer figures in the film are brushed aside in favour of this fish-out-of-water story. But all I can say is that it is a well written story regardless of this. It’s meant to be a comedy. Don’t take it too seriously.
The Art, special effects and Musical aspect are a bit more in the background than the story and characters. Much of what we see is set in the real world, and any set designs were created immaculately, so I can’t say too much about art or special effects, other than they bring us into a real world setting very well. The cinematography was very good. Not overly noticeable for a visually artistic quality – It simply tells the story – and sometimes that’s the sign that you got a really good cinematographer…and this was really good. The music gets five stars from me because it’s not only beautiful, but I like how it is used as part of the story. To create connection between Philippe and Driss. You have Philippe introducing opera and classical music to Driss, to which Driss knows some of it through television advertisements and old cartoons (leading to some great connections between the various medias), then you have Driss introducing him to some of the music he likes, and gets (nearly) everybody dancing. In fact, some of the most beautiful moments in the film heavily involved the music – in particular Nina Simone’s Feeling Good in a pivotal scene on the film where both men return to a common fear in order to overcome it.
Would I recommend Untouchable? Yes I would. Take into consideration that this film has been remade four times in the last ten years in different countries and languages, including an American version starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, called The Upside. From a (slightly) biographical standpoint, I do think this contains a lot of artistic licence (Because it ticks all of the boxes that make a good, basic story), but from an entertainment and feel-good standpoint, this is a very good film. The interactions between Driss and Philippe were both fun and beautiful, with a sense of humour that causes both sides to enjoy their company. And we can laugh with them. People have compared this movie to Driving Miss Daisy, and have complained that to set such a story in the modern day isn’t appropriate. But I say “Look…these were real people. Those were their ethnicities in real life and in story, and these were decisions that human beings made in order to get by.” Because regardless of backgrounds and who pays who for services – people are alive to enrich each other.
CGI/Special Effects: ****