The Intouchables, in French with English subtitles, is already a huge success in Europe. It has made more than $300 million worldwide and earned star Omar Sy a Cesar Award (beating out Oscar-winning best actor Jean Dujardin of The Artist).
Harvey Weinstein brought the film to American audiences. He was our guest on 9NEWS At Noon. He calls the film an exploration of finding commonality in humor and honesty.
Set in Paris, the story centers on a moneyed, middle-aged white quadriplegic man and his twentysomething, black caretaker from the projects. The movie has been criticized for racial stereotyping. But filmmakers Eric Toedano and Olivier Nakache say they have attempted to tell a story that transcends color and class by bringing it into the open and forgoing politeness.
Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is a widowed millionaire injured in a paragliding accident. For reasons that at first appear inexplicable, he hires Senegalese ex-con Driss (Sy) to be his caretaker. Audiences soon learn that Philippe has a wry sense of humor, doesn't want to be pitied and enjoys trading barbs with Driss. He admires the younger man's honest gutsiness and is tired of caretakers who treat him like either a child or a project or handle him with kid gloves. They soon develop a respect and fondness for each other.
USA Today's movie critic says what makes "The Intouchables" so entertaining is the powerfully appealing chemistry of odd couple Cluzet (who looks like a French Dustin Hoffman) and Sy, a strappingly handsome and charismatic actor. As Philippe, a millionaire aristocrat who lives in a bubble of privilege, Cluzet potently communicates stillness, regret and repression.
Driss is his polar opposite - always in motion, easygoing, uncultured and outspoken. USA Today says both actors do terrific jobs in their roles, which, in other hands, might have fallen into caricature.
Weinstein says this not weighty French cinema, but a lightweight comedy that just might spark an open debate about race, heart, and humor.
Erica Cobb contributed to this article.
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