If you’re a wealthy, wheelchair-bound Caucasian quadriplegic, you’re probably a little less motivated to play by the rules than most people. So when it comes time to hire a new caretaker and you have an endless line of highly qualified people with as much personality as your sensationless lower extremities, the able-bodied black guy with a bad attitude is likely to seem the most appealing.
Based on a true story, The Intouchables is a French dramatic comedy about two very different men who have come to similar places in their lives where they feel they have little to live for. Their unlikely meeting and even less likely subsequent friendship turn out to be just what each man needs, and their interactions make for some touchingly comical moments. Driss (Omar Sy) is a troubled young man with a criminal record who would likely never be found in a Parisian mansion unless he was robbing the place. When he arrives at the expansive (and expensive) home of Philippe (the Dustin Hoffman-esque François Cluzet) after being kicked out of his aunt’s small ghetto apartment, the last thing he wants or expects is to actually get the job. After storming ahead of the other applicants and requesting that Philippe sign his forms showing that Driss tried, but failed, to get the job so he can continue collecting unemployment benefits, he makes a surprising impression on the aristocrat.
While most of Philippe’s family and friends question his decision to hire Driss as his live-in caretaker, it turns out to be just what Philippe needs to once again experience life following the accident and other tragedies that led to his current physical and emotional state. The seemingly less cultured Driss learns to appreciate the finer things in life such as art, classical music and Philippe’s Maserati while Philippe is introduced to Earth, Wind & Fire, alternative ways of relieving his psychosomatic pains and a take-charge attitude that comes from an upbringing that is completely foreign (literally and metaphorically) to someone who has never known the type of helplessness Driss has become accustomed to.
As their friendship continues to develop, each man learns more about the other, and their drastically different perspectives actually complement each other in interesting ways. And just as both men feel very different senses of helplessness in their lives, we also learn that it was drastic and risky behavior not unlike Driss’ that got Phillipe into his current state of literal helplessness (are we also to assume he took similar risks in order to attain the luxuries his wealth affords him?).
Having helped Philippe take charge of his own life and surroundings, Driss younger brother shows up and needs similar help in getting out of some trouble on the streets. Philippe encourages Driss to straighten out this situation as he has done for Philippe, but both men soon find they simply aren’t as happy without the companionship of the other. And once Driss re-enters Philippe’s life, he forces Philippe to take yet another big risk that, as the real-life story has proven, turns out to be the best thing that could happen to either one of them.