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Film / Intouchables

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"Be careful. You know guys from the suburbs have no compassion."
"That’s what I want. No compassion."

Intouchables is a 2011 French dramedy film, directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano. It depicts one very unorthodox patient/caregiver relationship, and is Based on a True Story.

Meet Driss (Omar Sy) —young, obnoxious, shamelessly living on welfare and freshly back on the street after six months spent... elsewhere. With little ambition and even fewer employment prospects, he crashes a job interview for the position of stay-at-home nurse for a wealthy tetraplegic aristocrat, simply wanting them to acknowledge his attendance and rejection so he can remain on benefits.

But when Philippe (François Cluzet), the tetraplegic in question, takes a shine to Driss' blunt and pitiless demeanour in front of him and his bedside manners that would make Gregory House proud, he decides to hire Driss on trial, betting that "he won't last two weeks". Hilarity Ensues.

The film ended up the second most successful film ever at the French box office. The Weinstein Company distributed it in the US, with less than memorable resultsnote , but that didn't prevent the film from getting an americanized remake. Titled The Upside, the remake came out in 2019, starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart in the lead roles, which had reverse popularity - commercial success in the US and a bomb everywhere else.

Not to be confused with The Untouchables.

Intouchables contains examples of:

  • Based on a True Story: On Count Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou's.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: In the opening scene when Driss gets caught by the police he warns the officers that they will have blood on their hands if their don't let them pass. It works.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Philippe grows one after sending Driss away.
  • Brick Joke: After a lot of talk about ears being erogenous we see the interviewer of the delivery company reaching for hers when Driss' comments amuse her.
  • Can Only Move the Eyes: Philippe's paralysis starts below the neck, which means he can speak and change facial expressions (and drive his wheelchair with his chin), but nothing else.
  • 5** Philippe too. Both before and after the accident.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Both Driss and Philippe. Philippe developped a lot of self loathing after his accident and the lost of his wife while Driss is an ex convict from the suburb with a really difficult relationship with his cousins and aunt.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Played straight with Driss, due to Incompatible Orientation. Subverted with Philippe, as he first refuses, then finally accepts to meet Eleonore at the end.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Driss points the fork at Philippe's cheek instead of his mouth when being distracted by Magalie walking by.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: What makes Philippe want to hire Driss.
  • Driven to Suicide:
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Philippe's daughter does it when she passes next to a shirtless Driss.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • You know what kind of person Driss is just by his rather rude behaviour in the recruitment scene.
    • Even earlier, in the first scene of the movie; Upon being pulled over for speeding, Driss deftly outwits the policemen by claiming that Philippe needs to get to the hospital, and Philippe even starts to convulse and foam at the mouth to prove it. Driss had earlier bet to Philippe that he could get a police escort to the hospital and he does, and they drive victoriously along, all set to Earth, Wind & Fire's "September."
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Driss, when leaving the interview, mentions that Philippe doesn't have to get up. He notices his faux par immediately.
  • Feet-First Introduction: When the camera pans over the men waiting for the job interview, it goes for their shoes. All highly polished, combined with ironed trousers... and then it reaches a pair of worn trainers, after which Driss is shown in establishing shot. With this simple trick audience knows how much he doesn't fit there.
  • Get Out!: Driss' mother tells him to leave the apartment immediately.
  • Gilligan Cut: More than once, Driss says there's no way he's doing something, only to end up doing it a few moments later.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Driss' affection toward Magalie, somewhat. He doesn't want her, though.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with a scene towards the end of the movie after Driss and Philippe reunited. Then we skip back to how it all started.
  • I Have Many Names: Driss is short for Idriss, but his birth name is Bacari. In addition, the man that inspired the character is actually called Abdel.
  • Jerkass: The nurse that replaces Driss qualifies, as well as Philippe's neighbors, who use Philippe's entry as their particular parking place despite parking being forbidden there.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Played with. Driss can put Gregory House to shame with his rude behaviour. On the other hand, he is a genuinely caring and charming person, whose sense of humour carries the whole film, and who takes a great deal of time and effort making people around him feel better. By any means necessary.
  • Male Gaze: The camera lingers on Magalie's behind when she walks by Driss feeding Philippe.
  • "Nighthawks" Shot: There is a shot of Philippe and Driss sitting in a restaurant at night that is framed like the painting.
  • Pair the Spares: Yvonne and Albert, the gardener. It's even lampshaded by Driss.
  • Pet the Dog: When Driss has to take Philippe for a ride he refuses to put him in the handicapped friendly car and instead make the extra effort to put him in the Jaguar. It's one of the first nice thing Driss do for Philippe who mostly wanted a merciless caretaker.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Two third in, Philippe tells Driss to leave. He soon regrets his decision.
  • The Power of Friendship: While Philippe (obviously) remains a tetraplegic, his friendship with Driss gives him the will to have a less reclusive and more uplifting life.
  • Product Placement: One scene makes prominent use of M&M's.
  • Purple Prose: Philippe shows hints of this when dictating a poem to the woman he corresponds with. He is obviously a cultured man, but a great poet he is not - the poem is made of a lot of boring comparisons and little else.
  • Race Lift: Driss, and by extension his family. The character is Senegalese in the film but the man that inspired him is an Algerian, Abdel Sellou.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: Before the end credits, a short clip of the real tetraplegic Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his assistant Abdel Sellou is shown as both are Watching the Sunset.
  • Scary Black Man: Taking into consideration his posture, strength and being a former criminal, who still likes to carry a telescopic baton in his bag, Driss does fit this trope nicely.
  • Snobby Hobbies: Philippe is a connoiseur of modern art and even drags Driss along to show him some. As a paraplegic, he can't engage much in sports he used to enjoy, but even so, their relationship lets him get back in the figurative saddle. Driss is all fine with luxury cars, but paragliding's not his thing.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Subverted. Philippe tells Driss that he can see that him and Adama are brothers. They are actually cousins.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: From the viewpoint of Philippe. All the applicants we see in the beginning are not edgy enough, until Driss shows up.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Invoked, discussed, and subverted. Driss doesn't really understand modern art, to the point where he heavily mocks it; then he tries his hand at abstract painting. He starts with the intent of making a mockery out of it, but the painting itself turns out quite profitable when Philippe sells it as the work of an "up-and-coming artist" - to mess with the snobby, snooty people he buys art from.
  • Where da White Women At?: Driss is attracted to Magalie, Philippe's redheaded secretary.
  • Worst Aid: When Driss learns that Phillipe's daughter has attempted to commit suicide via Immodium, he jokes that next, she'll overdose on Tylenol. In actuality, Tylenol is very easy to overdose on. Twice the prescribed dosage can easily create irreversible liver damage in many people. Downing a larger amount can doom you to a slow and painful death, even if you seek medical aid immediately.