Intouchables (2011)

Rated R. Our ratings: V -0; L -5; S/N -2. Running time: 1 hour 52 min

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility regard others as better than
your selves. 4Let each of you look not to your
own interests, but to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Driss becomes close to hisa employer, the paraplegic Phillipe.

2011 The Weinstein Company

Driss (Omar Sy) is a Senegalese young man living in Paris. Unemployed, he goes to the office of Philippe (Francois Cluzet) in answer to an ad seeking a caregiver for the paraplegic man. With no previous experience in the field, he does not expect to be hired. He just needs a signature that he applied so that he can keep receiving unemployment benefits. Tired of kept waiting, he barges in ahead of the others and demands that his paper be signed.

Philippe has been discouraged by the numerous dull persons whom he has interviewed. He tells Driss to come back the next day for the form. To his surprise, upon his return Driss is hired  on a trial basis. The job includes a lavish live-in apartment, so he relishes his new surroundings, especially given his having been cast out of the family apartment by the woman who had been his foster mother. With his frequent involvement in trouble and bad job history, she tells him that she must devote her limited means and attention to her younger children.

Driss makes mistakes and refuses to tend to Phillipe’s toilet needs at first, but his breezy manner seems like a fresh breath of air to the invalid. They have several adventures, including a stint of hang gliding, which terrifies Driss but which the older man finds exhilarating. Driss now sees his position. He also tries to flirt with Philippe’s chief of staff Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), a beautiful red head. Complicating life at first is the spoiled teenage daughter Alicia (Alba Gaia Bellugi), but with the adroit prodding by Driss, the father at last begins to set her straight.

Sort of a French version of Driving Miss Daisy without any of its racism, director Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s film is a light and enjoyable summer film about a young man who could have been headed for ruin (Driss has a prison record) but turns his life around, and in the process has a good impact on a man who definitely is in need of an intouchable like the buoyant Driss. For many of us the old cliché of introducing the uptight person to the joys of weed could have been left out, but as we see, even more sophisticated French directors share this myth that indulging in drugs leads to freedom

For Reflection/Discussion

1. Had Driss not gone to work for Philippe. What do you think his future might have been?

2. How is helping someone else in need often the best tonic for our own needs?

3. When a worried friend approaches Phillipe about Driss and says that the man has no pity, what do you think of Phillipe’s reply? Why does he not want pity? How is this the least helpful in working with the physically challenged?

4. What do you think of the ways in which each shares his music with the other? Who shows the more openness to the unfamiliar?

5. How often have you see in films a scene in which the uptight character finds freedom through smoking pot? How does this practice among young adults resemble what smoking meant to movie characters back in the Thirties and Forties?

6. Do you agree that the party episode in which Driss dances is a racial stereotype? If it were an American film, how might this have been not debatable?

7. What do you think of Driss’s act of grace at the end? How did this apparently change Phillipe’s life?