In Theaters Review is where I review movies that are currently playing in theaters.
Film: The Intouchables
Rating: 3 and one half eaten bowls of quinoa salad (time to get healthy you guys)
A cool black person teaches an uptight white person how to loosen up and enjoy life, while the uptight white person teaches the cool black person how to be a more functional member of society. Along the way they butt heads, share some laughs, and overcome some obstacle(s), ultimately developing a deep connection and mutual respect for one another. It is a triumph of humanity over the cultural and economic barriers that have been segregating people from one another for as long as people have bothered to exist. And it has been the plot outline for no fewer than seventy million films. It’s bullshit, and we know this, but since we see this trope played out to one degree or another time and time again I assume it resonates.
“The Intouchables”, a French film, is the latest to apply this concept. We learn from the beginning credits that what we are about to see was inspired by a true story. We learn from the end credits that one thing the filmmakers changed was making the lead character of Senegalese descent instead of Algerian. I’m not sure what motivated the change, and questions nagged at me as I left the theater. Is the black/white mold so strong that a less-dark character would not suffice? Or was Omar Sy, the actor playing the character, so phenomenal that they wanted him in the role and changed it accordingly? Both seemed plausible.
Whatever the reason for the change this film has been a massive success in France. The second most successful French film of all-time, in fact. Recently released to theaters in the United States, more than one Murican critic has found “The Intouchables” to be racist. I wouldn’t go that far, I mean, this movie is racist in the way most movies are racist; it’s regular racist,“Finding Forrester” racist, which many don’t find racist at all. You can learn more about my thoughts on racism in my upcoming self-published ebook, “Racists and the Racist Racists Who Racist: Another White Guys Perspective on What is or is Not Racist, Just What You Wanted To Hear, I’m Sure.”
And now I catch myself falling into that thing I hate where a review starts to focus too much on happenings outside of the actual movie. Any more missteps like this and I will never overtake my rival Roger Ebert. Reset. Deep breath.
To be more specific, “The Intouchables” is the story of a rich white quadriplegic monsieur and the poor black able bodied monsieur that is his caretaker. Sitting on a cliche chassis is not the only issue. Perhaps worse to some, this film never stops pandering to warm your cold Internet heart. And still it succeeds on strong acting from the leads and some solid directing. Omar Sy is excellent as the caretaker and François Cluzet, who plays the quadriplegic, makes a lot of faces. They play well off each other and the buddy comedy type laughs are easily generated from the opening sequence. One particular scene, a trip to the opera, made me laugh so hard I cried my own tears. (I can’t possibly rate a movie less than three quinoa salads if it made me cry with laughter, the quinoa salad scale has too much integrity to permit such injustice.) Add brisk pacing and unrelenting feel goodness and this movie becomes an entertaining experience with undeniable appeal. Unless you found it racist and offensive. Then it probably sucked for you.