The Intouchables


The Intouchables

There’s no business like snow business…

(2011) True Life Drama (Weinstein) Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux, Dominique Daguier, Francois Caron, Thomas Soliveres. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

 

This is a movie that did big time box office in France last year, winding up the second most successful film in French history in just nine weeks. It is a heartwarming, uplifting kind of film and I can see why the French have taken to it.

American critics haven’t been quite as smitten, excoriating the film for what the high and mighty consider racist views. Now let me be clear on this; you have to be hyper-sensitive to see any sort of racism here at all. Most of the offense that huffy critics are taking are in the fact that the premise of the film is that a wealthy quadriplegic French industrialist (white) hires an upbeat ex-con (black) to be his attendant and take care of his needs; the relationship between them is as an employer-employee to begin with.

Folks, I know it might be hard to believe in this day and age, but there are white employers out there who have (*gasp*) non-white employees. There are even white rich guys who have personal assistants that are of African descent. Strangely, that doesn’t make it a master-slave relationship.

Notice how we are four paragraphs in and I have yet to actually discuss the movie except in the most general terms. That’s because I’m so furious at the lambasting this film is taking from politically correct, self-righteous morons who claim to be offended by this depiction of a relationship between a white employer and a black employee in which the white man is transformed by the spirit of the black man, who has the temerity to introduce the white man to pop music (in the person of Earth Wind and Fire) while introducing him to classical. The horror of it all.

Now this is based on a true story, although the attendant was in reality from Algeria and not Senegal as in the movie (which some critics thundered was further proof of the racial insensitivity of the filmmakers – can you imagine how these same critics would have howled with the Arab in the “subservient’ position?) so there is that. However, the rest of the movie is a tribute to humanity and its ability to find hope and inspiration in seemingly unlikely places.

Philippe (Cluzet) was injured in a paragliding accident and left a quadriplegic. His wife had since passed on, leaving him with an adopted daughter Elisa (Bellugi) and nobody to take care of his daily needs, which are many. He is looking for an attendant and interviewing a lot of different men of varying degrees of suitability. Driss (Sy) is recently released from prison. He quite frankly doesn’t expect to get the job; he is merely applying to satisfy his parole, which requires Philippe’s personal assistant Magalie (Fleurot) to fill out a form for him.

Instead, Philippe, tired of all the earnest and humorless men who want to be in charge of his very existence (including bathing him, pushing his wheelchair and making sure his breathing remains regular at night), is intrigued by Driss’ sunny attitude and flirtation with Magalie. He decides to hire the man, even though he’s an ex-con (for armed robbery) and perhaps not the most reliable of men.

Forced into a situation where they have to trust one another, a gradual mutual respect grows that turns into a deep friendship. Each man helps the other grow; Philippe introduces Driss to culture and inspires him to make something more of himself than, as Philippe puts it, a wheelchair-pusher. In turn Philippe’s eyes are opened and world broadened. Driss’ sunny disposition becomes contagious; not only Philippe but also Magalie and Yvonne (Le Ny) – his dour housekeeper – are transformed by Driss, whose upbeat joy of life is infectious.

The role of Driss is much more difficult than it sounds. For the kind of liveliness to be authentic, it has to come from within which is why Sy’s performance is so special. The audience is just as swept up by Driss’ enthusiasm as Philippe is. It’s the kind of performance that makes careers happen and considering the overwhelming success of the film in France, Sy has a brilliant future ahead of him; I’m personally hoping he comes to the States and does a few films here as well because I’m positive he will captivate audiences here just as thoroughly.

This is a movie that will leave you feeling good as you leave the theater, even if your mood was bad when you entered. In these rough times, that’s worth its weight in platinum. What angers me about these charges of racial insensitivity is that it might dissuade people from seeing the movie and that would be criminal. Don’t let a critic make up your mind for you; see the movie for yourself and make up your own mind. Personally, I’m willing to bet most of you will wind up agreeing with me – any insensitivity lies within the imagination of some overly-sensitive critics.

REASONS TO GO: Deeply uplifting. Sy turns in a career-making performance and Cluzet is awfully good as well.

REASONS TO STAY: Loses its way about 2/3 of the way through the movie and the ending is a bit too Hollywood.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some bad language as well as some depictions of drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Omar Sy beat out Jean Dujardin of The Artist for the Best Actor award at the Cesar awards last year, the first actor of African descent to win it.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/24/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 76% positive reviews. Metacritic: 51/100. The reviews are largely positive..

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Driving Miss Daisy

MASERATI LOVERS: Philippe’s car is a Maserati Quattroporte and Driss gets to put it through it’s paces.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

NEXT: Happythankyoumoreplease

The Bone Collector


The Bone Collector

Angelina Jolie had apparently never seen an African-American before...

(1999) Thriller (Universal) Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Queen Latifah, Michael Rooker, Mike McGlone, Luis Guzman, Leland Orser, John Benjamin Hickey, Bobby Cannavale, Ed O’Neill, Richard Zeman, Olivia Burkelund, Gary Swanson. Directed by Phillip Noyce

I like thrillers. I like mysteries. I really like Denzel Washington. So, as far as The Bone Collector goes, what’s not to like?

It’s a tad on the predictable side, for one. Washington plays Lincoln Rhyme, the New York Police Department’s top forensic investigator. He’s written textbooks that are the standard at the academy, as well as best-sellers for the general public. He’s decorated, respected and on top of the world – and he loses it all in a moment when his spine is crushed by a falling beam at a crime scene. Now, four years later, he is reduced to a man counting the days to his own demise, able to use only his shoulder and one finger, paralyzed from the neck down. To further complicate matters, he is susceptible to seizures, any one of which could render him a vegetable.

Naturally, a psychotic serial killer comes into the picture. Patrolman Amelia Donaghy (Jolie, who seems to be appearing in every third movie made since 2005) discovers the first grisly murder, and her quick thinking saves the crime scene from contamination. This gets the attention of her superiors, as well as Rhyme, who is, in a way, looking for a successor, someone to take his place when he dies. Pretty soon, half the forensics lab has moved into Rhyme brownstone, including the reluctant Donaghy who has some pretty serious issues.

There’s the usual supporting cast for this sort of movie: The ex-partner who’d walk through Hell for his buddy, the incompetent bureaucrat who sees the murder as an opportunity to advance his own career, the nurse with a maternal aspect a mile wide and teeth and claws to match, a Latino technician who’s irreverent as well as being the best there is. Did I miss anyone? Oh yeah, the killer – but you won’t. I had him pegged way early on. If you need help, just pick the one guy who has no reason for being in the movie except for being the killer.

Is there a smarter actor in Hollywood than Denzel Washington? Even in the really bad movies he’s done (and he’s done plenty – just rent Virtuosity if you don’t believe me), he always elevates the material. I’d see him in an ABC Family Channel movie – and you know how those kinds of movies fail to float my boat. He does a terrific job here which considering he’s confined to a bed the entire movie is impressive. His Lincoln Rhymes is intelligent, articulate and passionate – qualities that are virtually trademarked by Denzel. Even now, more than a decade after this was made I will go out of my way to see a movie just because he’s appearing in it.

For both Jolie and Latifah (the maternal nurse for those who are wondering) this marked an early milestone to their careers and it is interesting to catch them when they were both on the rise before they became bankable stars – in Latifah’s case, she was essentially still moonlighting as an actress while maintaining her career as one of the pioneers of rap.

This was based on the first novel in the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffery Deaver, probably with the intention of turning it into a film franchise, a plan which sadly never materialized owing, no doubt, to the fact that the main character is bed-ridden. American audiences like their heroes to be more action-oriented rather than thinkers. Shoot first and ask questions…oh, just shoot first. That’s pretty much the American attitude. However, the fact that it didn’t really set the box office on fire may have had a lot to do with it as well.

There are some very tense moments in The Bone Collector, and some great camera work. New York City is an unsung star here, providing some wonderful locations. There is enough viscera to annoy the squeamish, enough plot twists to keep the movie flowing along. On the downside it’s cliché and predictable enough to be occasionally annoying. I suspect the filmmakers spent a bit too much time watching Se7en, a movie that has proven annoyingly influential in the thriller business lately so keep that in mind when you add this to your Netflix list. A mild thumbs up for this one.

WHY RENT THIS: Denzel Washington is one of the most watchable stars in Hollywood. It’s a hoot to watch Latifah and Jolie before they were huge stars.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The movie is rife with thriller clichés, and the identity of the killer is sadly simple to suss out.

FAMILY MATTERS: There are some grisly images that are definitely not for the squeamish, and some occasionally foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Jolie shot a nude scene for the movie that was later cut from the final print because the director thought it too distracting.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $151.5M on a $73M production budget;  the movie broke even.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Our Idiot Brother