2011. 112 min. Rated R.
“Don’t be so lazy. You gotta throw some back.”
This French comedy is based on the true story of a friendship between a patient and his unlikely nurse. Phillipe (Francois Cluzet), a rich quadriplegic, is looking to hire a live in nurse. Driss, an ex con (Omar Sy) is from the projects of Paris (am I the only one who didn’t know Paris had projects?). He applies for the job just to get his government papers signed for. He is the least sympathetic and qualified for the job, but surprisingly Phillipe gives him a chance. He moves into his mansion and they develop a friendship.
Phillipe likes Driss because he pokes fun at him, challenges him, and he never treats him like a cripple. He makes Phillipe come alive. Driss hands him a cell phone forgetting that he can’t pick it up. Phillipe almost falls as Driss forgets to strap him into his chair. These are just a few of the examples of dark comedy that make this movie stand out. Omar is the only live-in nurse who has survived for longer than a month. He pulls off the charming bad boy perfectly, thanks to his smile and his effective delivery of excellent, witty dialogue.
Although Francois couldn’t move anything but his face for this movie, his acting was a force. When Francois met the real Phillipe, he said all his emotions were in his eyes. He did a great job replicating that onscreen. Phillipe is a poetic soul. He is the kind of guy who sits and writes romantic letters to a woman he has never met. While Omar, bored with Phillipe’s letters, begins to call women for him (a prostitute in some cases). Both actors have amazing chemistry on screen. It is one of the most heartfelt bromances I’ve seen in a while. The dialogue is full of belly laughs and serious thought-provocation. The director manages to even poke a little fun at the rich and modern art. I’d love to hang out with these guys in real life.
What I didn’t like about the movie is Driss’ project home life, which was an added fictional piece. His mother works long hours, leaving her kids to raise themselves, in a small run down apartment. His younger brother is in with the wrong people, and getting in trouble with the law. It felt like a contrived plot device. The director did it for back story, and to highlight an area that is rarely seen in French cinema.
Am I the only person who cringes when I hear “based on a true story?” When my heart strings are pulled, I can’t help but wonder, how much is made up, and how much is real. It’s like watching reality TV. I’m still mad about being duped by Greg Mortensen and his book, Three Cups of Tea. For some reason, I can either be touched by a documentary, or a fictional story, but the in-between loses it. Regardless, I loved The Intouchables as long as I treated it as a work of fiction.
I’d like to thank Coolidge Corner Theater for their preview screening and director Q & A. It is thanks to great independent cinemas like them that my faith in the magic of going to the movies has been restored.