In its native France, Intouchables has set box office records and become a cultural phenomenon. Let this serve as a reminder that the French make blockbusters just as bad as the USA. This formulaic buddy comedy has also caused a stir of a different sort, with Variety, most prominently, accusing it of ‘Uncle Tom racism’. While the film is clearly insensitive in its use of racial stereotypes, others have argued that the way the narrative bridges class and racial divides is part of what made it such a touchstone in Gaul. (This is a country that delivered 17.9 percent of the vote to the xenophobic National Front.)
The movie centres on Driss (Omar Sy), a black man from the projects who applies to be a caretaker for wealthy quadriplegic Philippe (François Cluzet). In a plot point that will please opponents of the welfare state, Driss interviews for the job only because he needs to maintain the appearance of seeking employment to stay on the dole. The rich man likes him because he’s the lone applicant who doesn’t feign pity. He’s hired – and soon Driss is teaching Philippe how to laugh at modern art and love pop music.
The real-life figure on whom Driss is based was an Arab, which makes the movie’s racial politics questionable in a different sense. (In one of the most egregious instances of stereotyping, he’s repeatedly shown making advances on one of his co-workers.) Either way, the film forgets for long stretches that Driss has a life – and a family – outside of Philippe’s world.
From Time Out Chicago
Dir Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano, category IIB, 112 mins, opens on Thu Sep 6