Combustible Celluloid
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With: François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clothilde Mollet, Alba Gaïa Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Marie-Laure Descoureaux, Gregoire Oestermann
Written by: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Directed by: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
MPAA Rating: R for language and some drug use
Language: French
Running Time: 112
Date: 24/05/2012

The Intouchables (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Wheels Keep Turning

I'm not exactly sure what the title The Intouchables means, especially sounding so close to The Untouchables. But it's a warm, wonderful movie, and it was shortlisted today for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. (It's one of nine finalists that will be winnowed down to the final five nominees.)

Certainly it's not a great movie, nor is it groundbreaking or artistic or personal in any way, but it will make you happy, and that's nothing to sneeze at. (It's a perfect three-star movie.) It's from a pair of French-born directors, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, who have made other features and television, but have yet to register a blip here in the U.S. Their movie is based on a true story and has some "disease-of-the-week" elements, both of which are probably contributing to its award buzz (as well as a push from the Weinsteins). But the ease of the storytelling makes all of this stuff evaporate immediately.

The terrific actor François Cluzet stars as Phillippe, a wealthy quadriplegic who requires a staff of people to help take care of him and his complex affairs. His personal assistant is a difficult role to fill, and the few that make the cut don't last long. Enter Driss (Omar Sy, also in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs), who just wants some paperwork signed so he can collect unemployment; he has no interest in the job. So, of course, he's hired, and the life-loving Driss teaches the withdrawn Phillippe a few things about living, and vice-versa.

There's not one surprise anywhere in The Intouchables, but directors Nakache and Toledano nonetheless offer up a supreme example of crisp, well-paced, pop filmmaking, dependent on vibrant solutions to stodgy situations. It's the kind of stuff everyone secretly wishes for in their own lives, and it's immensely satisfying to see it played out onscreen. I'm not sure how long The Intouchables will remain in my memory, but it made me happy for a little while.

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