The Intouchables (Untouchable)

A true life story of a wheelchair-bound millionaire and his unlikely helper

The Intouchables (Untouchable)

Directors: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Audrey Fleurot

Senegalese immigrant Driss (Omar Sy) only turns up to his job interview as a helper for quadriplegic millionaire Philippe (François Cluzet) in order to get his benefit slip signed, pocketing a Fabergé egg while he’s waiting. However, his prospective employer has other ideas. Confined to a wheelchair after a paragliding accident and still mourning the death of his wife, this moneyed aristocrat is in an existential funk, and hiring a brash kid from the projects seems like just the ticket. ‘These street guys have no pity,’ one of his friends cautions. ‘That’s exactly what I want,’ he retorts.

The Weinstein Company has already snapped up the US remake rights for this based-on-true-life tale, and it isn't hard to see why: Untouchable (Intouchables) is a pure jolt of feelgood cinema. It benefits no end from the strength of its two leads. Cluzet does well as the wheelchair-bound Philippe, but this is really Sy’s film, and he rises to the task with a performance that’s brashly charismatic while retaining just enough sensitivity to remain convincing.

Yet if their rapport is believable, it also seems to come far too easily. For such a mismatched pair, you might expect there to be a little more friction between these two, but in no time they're bonding over spliffs and wisecracks, while Driss flirts with Philippe's dishy PA (Audrey Fleurot) and develops a taste for fine art. Untouchable might have benefited from giving a better sense of its characters’ lives before throwing them together – only much later on do we discover what a prickly charge Philippe can be for his other helpers, for instance – and it makes the emotional pay-off later on feel a little less satisfying than it could have. The culture clash, such as it is, is mostly Pretty Woman-level stuff, be it Driss giggling at the opera or making the stuffy posh crowd at a party dance to Earth, Wind & Fire. There were surely some opportunities here for observations on privilege, race and class, but they aren’t taken.

So while it's consistently entertaining, and occasionally quite moving, perhaps those weren't the only qualities that lured the Weinsteins to Untouchable. Unlike some remake projects, there's actually room for improvement here.

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By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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