If you enjoyed The Bucket List and Welcome to the Sticks, you will love The Intouchables.
The Bucket List was a crowd-pleaser, mostly thanks to its novel concept and the heavyweight match-up of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The film relied heavily on the star power of its co-leads to draw audiences and expand on the adventurous, yet sobering premise of two older men finding camaraderie in the twilight of their lives.
While surprise French buddy movie, Welcome to the Sticks, took fish-out-of-water comedy to the next level as a post office manager got transferred to a dead-end job in Northern France. Kad Merad and Dany Boon’s infectious chemistry and spirited performances created the perfect climate for heartfelt comedy and an unlikely friendship.
The Intouchables picks up on the buddy movie formula and gravity of The Bucket List and improves on it with a similar co-lead chemistry and verve to Welcome to the Sticks, delivering an irresistible must-see comedy drama that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
The story follows the exploits of a middle-aged quadriplegic aristocrat (Cluzet), who employs a young man (Sy) from the projects to be his caretaker. While the match-up seems contrived, like a device to pile up contrasts, it’s not implausible since The Intouchables is based on a true story. The writer-director team, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, have handled the storytelling with such sensitivity that everything just seems to lock into place.
While this true story sets the scene for plenty of great comic moments, it’s François Cluzet and Omar Sy, whose exuberant and instantly likable performances create the perfect conditions for laugh-out-loud comedy. The two have a tangible sense of history and add a real verve to the proceedings, turning what would ordinarily be sad and tragic into a spirited drama and joyful comedy.
François Cluzet starred opposite Marion Cotillard in Little White Lies, however The Intouchables will now be his calling card whether he likes it or not. The actor has a cheekiness reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman, mustering a charming, strong-willed and proud performance as Phillipe, while mastering aspects of the disability.
Omar Sy counterbalances Cluzet and brings his own set of strengths to The Intouchables. Sy’s confidence and good looks make him magnetic, stealing scenes with a winning performance that oozes natural charm and likability. Driss is brave, talented yet flawed and Sy carries these traits into the role like the part was based on his life.
It’s an unashamed crowd-pleaser and feel good movie of the highest calibre, delivering the tone and performances we were expecting from The Bucket List. Instead of leaning on the names of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, the film-makers have leveraged the relative anonymity of François Cluzet and Omar Sy to create a moving film that bursts with big-hearted vitality.
The script is snappy, propelled by witty banter, entertaining set pieces and good pacing. Nakache and Toledano allow the co-lead’s worlds to merge, blending the pretentious lifestyle of an avid art collector and the street smarts of a hustler, into an engaging middle ground. The perfect strangers are somewhat hollow on their own, yet able to grow in character by forming a bond underwritten by mutual respect, trust and camaraderie.
The Intouchables makes a grand and re-watchable buddy movie. The language is sometimes coarse to unnecessary, all the more noticeable for the subtitles. Yet the levity of the film, softens what must have probably been an effort to cut through the stuffy “Versailles” atmosphere. The film’s third act seems a little open-ended, but avoids the temptation to over-produce, opting for a more pensive conclusion in favour of a big Hollywood “happily ever after”.
[P.S. If you’re in Cape Town, be sure to see it at Cavendish Nouveau before the cinema closes down on the 17th.]
The bottom line: Exuberant
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