On the strengths of The Artist and The King's Speech, the Weinstein Company has asserted its good taste by winning the Best Picture Oscar the last two years.
Its latest release, The Intouchables, may not have the pedigree of its predecessors but it's a winning movie all the same.
Francois Cluzet (who headlined the visceral thriller Tell No One) plays Phillipe, a rich Frenchman whose paragliding accident has left him a quadraplegic with an understandably vinegary disposition. The film opens with him and his staff interviewing candidates for the position of male attendant, whose job duties will entail everything from toilet hygiene to uncorking bottles of fine wine. The roster is qualified enough but a little stiff for Phillipe's tastes and not making any impact.
In walks (barges, really) the least likely candidate, an ex-con from Senegal named Driss, warmly played by Omar Sy (who won Best Actor at the Cesar Awards, France's Oscar equivalent). Phillipe is impressed by Driss's uncompromising confidence and, despite their racial and class differences, sees something in Driss of his earlier life before the accident. The picture becomes a buddy comedy with sharp, dark edges that pick away at any of the plot's more predictable threads.
Some reviewers have found the movie a tad insufferable, even offensive, for its positioning of Driss as the noble black man who brings life to a privileged white man trapped in his lifeless body. But the writing and directing team of Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache are a step ahead of the curmudgeonly critics. The script is smart and witty, finding between the characters a solid bond of shared humor and irony. And if you thought the use of a peppy Earth, Wind and Fire song was played out, prepare to crack a big smile when Driss breaks into a spirited dance that Phillipe can only join in his head.