The Intouchables (2011) (R)

"The Intouchables" is a sweet movie, not relying on many plot devices to get its simple story across. A man named Philippe (Fran├žois Cluzet) has suffered an accident and is now confined to a wheelchair. He has to be cared for by an assistant who will be with him essentially all of the time. 
Driss (Omar Sy) is a man whose determination is off-putting at first. He goes to an interview for the job of taking care of Philippe, not really knowing what the job is, but just needing a signature. He needs three signatures (assuming that Philippe's makes the third, he will have all of them) to prove that he applied for jobs and that he wasn't hired in order to receive a benefit of some kind.
After waiting for hours in a room with other applicants, he storms into the interviewing room and demands a signature. Philippe seems something in him right away that strikes the right chord. He tells Driss to come back the next day and he will have his paper signed.
Driss and Philippe couldn't be more different, at least coming from an economical standpoint. Driss and his family live in a cramped apartment and struggle to make ends meet. Some of Driss's younger siblings get into trouble, not the friendly neighborhood kind. Philippe on the other hand is very rich and has been for a while. He enjoys the luxuries that his money can afford him, like a painting that costs over 40,000 euros and is simply a white canvas with a red splotch on it. This kind of behavior baffles Driss but it is just second nature to Philippe, he is a man who enjoys the arts.
When Driss comes to get his signed paper, an offer is made: work here for one month, if you can, and see how you feel after that.
The two men bond right away, it's hard not to when you're spending all of your time together. They realize that though they may come from different backgrounds, they are very similar people.
This movie is very smart because it doesn't try to make you over-empathize with Philippe. Take a scene with dancing for instance: it's Philippe's birthday party and he is trying to win over Driss to classical music, a feat that is not working at all. After exhausting a mini-orchestra that the rich man has at his disposal, Driss whips out his music and demands to be heard...after all, that's fair. For Driss, music is something to be enjoyed and danced to, not emotionally and philosophically studied. He turns on the stereo and starts dancing to his music, soon everyone is joining in. Philippe just has to sit there and watch people do something that he used to be able to do. Cluzet does a fantastic acting job as Philippe because just for a second you could swear that he was envious, resentful, and sad. But then that moment passes and you realize that this man has long since dealt with his constraints and moved on...that doesn't mean that old emotions dont' flare up, it's only natural that they would.
Unlike "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" which has the character struggling with the immediate loss of his motor skills, Philippe has been this way for a while...he's used to it.
The movie is upbeat has a warming sensation that you can't help but smile at.
Not much happens in this movie as far as plot is concerned, but a whole deal occurs in characters and character development. You feel for both Driss and Philippe.
Ludovico Einaudi's score is similar in places to Thomas Newman's score from "American Beauty" and Dario Marianelli's from "Pride & Prejudice"...beautiful and sensitive.
I'd say that "The Intouchables" is a great success, perhaps not the greatest movie, nor one of my favorites but filled with subtle emotion, great performances, and tender moments.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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