Sometimes people (OK, usually it’s just me, but…) go to the effort to select a short that has some sort of thematic connection to the feature presentation that’s being shown. This week, Millie (in her first presentation ever!) made absolutely no effort to do that and instead went with some good ol’ Mystery Science Theater 3000 – this time around: Keeping Clean and Neat!
I guess that there’s a decent amount of grooming in the feature film, so maybe it was connected after all. But I think it was just a random pick.
Millie’s feature, directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, was a 2011 French film that came with an equally French name. The film’s official name in French is Intouchables. It doesn’t really need a translation, but I sure caught my fair share of flak over the naming quirks of the film (especially considering the fact that I didn’t name it!) On IMDB, the film is called “The Intouchables”, which I am told is not a legal English word. In the subtitles of the film, it is called “Untouchables”, which I am told is not a legal title due to the fact that Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, and Andy Garcia already made that movie. The way I figure it, though, why can’t there be an English word spelled “intouchable”? Why must the prefix be “un-“, rather than “in-“, or “non-“, or perhaps even “dis-“? It seems that these prefixes are applied quite arbitrarily, not used with finesse to indicate subtle gradation of meaning. Maybe I’m just too blunt to see the distinction, but then again: You will note that a person who is exhibiting an “INability” is said to be “UNable”. Man, we can’t even keep this stuff straight when we’re dealing with the same root!
…Was this supposed to be a post about a movie? Let’s make it about a movie.
Intouchables starts, like so many films, with a bookend. We see Driss driving far too quickly through the streets of Paris (appropriate short: “C’était un Rendez-vous”) in a fancy car holding Philippe in the passenger seat. He weaves, he dodges…he gets nipped by the police. The cops intend to arrest Driss but he is able to convince them that Philippe is a quadriplegic having some sort of medical fit. The quadriplegic part is actually true, and the police escort Driss and Philippe to the hospital (at which point Driss waits for them to leave then ditches the orderlies coming out to rescue his passenger). We don’t know where they’re going, but they’re having fun so we know it’s not some sort of hostage situation or anything.
Jump to the beginning of the movie. Philippe is a grumpy French aristocrat (apparently richer than Croesus) who at some indeterminate point in the not-so-recent past has gone and severed his spine in a paragliding accident. To call back to our previous discussion, why do they call it “PARAgliding” when it makes you “QUADRIplegic”? Anyway, Philippe is currently interviewing for a new personal assistant. They don’t seem to last very long. Some of this may be due to the fact that Philippe is kind of a sourface, and some of it may be due to the fact that the job, on top of being pretty inglorious, involves wonderful duties like anal expression. Roger Murtaugh’s favorite complaint has never been more apropos.
Driss is a piece of work himself. He has just returned from a six-month prison stint for robbery, his mother (technically his aunt) won’t talk to him and has kicked him out of the house, his brother-cousin is involved in a gang, and Driss, well he’s going to job interviews for positions he’s not qualified for simply to get record that he’s looking for a job so he can keep his unemployment benefits. The best thing about Driss is that he’s full of candor. He does not try in any way to convince Philippe that he’s got any goals other than a “decline” signature.
Philippe hires him.
It turns out that, while the start is naturally rocky, the two are good for each other. Driss needed someone to entrust him with some responsibility so he could prove to himself that he had it in the first place. Philippe needed a no-holds-barred caretaker who won’t pity him and won’t soft talk him. And, to be honest, the rest of the movie is mostly just the two of them having great fun together.
Naturally, there are subplots. There’s the red-headed secretary that the candid Driss tries so very hard to land. It’s not that it’s obvious, it’s that it’s explicit. And nobody seems to bother to tell him that he’s got no chance at all, because they’re all waiting for the coup de grace when they can tell Driss that she’s a lesbian.
There’s the whole art subplot. It starts with Driss being openly disgusted that Philippe drops 5-digit francs on some modern art. To be fair, it does look like anybody could do it.
So Driss tries his own hand at it. And to be fair, I don’t really see the distinction. On a whim, Philippe scams some art collector to buy it for 10,000 francs, and gives the proceeds to Driss. Fun!
Look at the crazy kids having fun shaving! Anyway, the final subplot involves Philippe’s love life. He has been a widower for an unspecified but long amount of time, but Driss learns that he is now embroiled in an epistolary relationship with a woman from Dunkirk – who doesn’t know that he’s got his little spinal problem. A meeting is set in Paris, but Philippe, overly nervous about it, bails out at the last minute. Like as she’s walking in the restaurant door, he’s wheeling out.
Well, eventually the troubles in Driss’ family begin to mount, and Philippe suggests that maybe Driss shouldn’t spend his entire life tending to an invalid. Driss leaves the position, but when he learns that Philippe is back to his old miserable self with his new assistant, he makes plans to steal him away and bring him to Dunkirk (hence the opening bookend scene) to meet the woman he jilted back in Paris, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Or at least so the ending credits, which inform us that this story is based on real-life events, tell us.
It’s funny – apparently this is a genre: The French Invalid Stealth Biopic. I mean, this is the second film we’ve shown with those credentials (along with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) that has not bothered to inform us that it’s a biopic until the closing credits. And amazingly, both times I had no idea it wasn’t fiction. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, won’t be fooled again!
The ultimate verdict on this movie – it’s a feel-good film. One attendee who had to leave early asked how it went, hoping that there would be some sort of murder or theft or twist…but no. He was just watching too many American movies. To be honest, the plot doesn’t offer much, but it’s a good film nonetheless. It’s just the acting and the way the two leads play off each other. Timing, perfect. Chemistry, perfect. And while it won’t change your life, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to sit down and watch for two hours.