“The Intouchables” is a French movie. At this point, it is the only non-US made film in the top 20 worldwide box office totals for 2012, currently holding #12 with over 95% of its box office coming from outside the U.S. – essentially a movie unseen in the U.S.
The movie is based on a true story about a paralyzed French millionaire, Philippe (Francois Cluzet) and his immigrant caretaker, Driss (Omar Sy).
Besides a quick flash forward into a future event, the movie starts with Driss waiting to get interviewed for a job as Philippe’s caretaker. As Philippe is paralyzed from the neck down, such care giving is intensive and the job has a high turnover rate. Driss actually doesn’t even believe he will get the job. He’s not properly trained for this job and is instead there to get a third signature on his government card so that he can qualify for benefits.
Philippe sees something unusual in Driss, a person who won’t show pity like so many of the other applicants and prior caregivers. Philippe hires Driss and we see their friendship develop as well as their own personal growth. Driss starts to learn necessary work skills and Philippe starts to learn how to escape his emotional prison that he set up for himself after the twin losses of his wife and the control of his physical body. We also witness how both are introduced to and eventually learn to enjoy their cultural differences.
Though this movie deals with a very depressing subject matter, it provides a light touch that will have you laughing. The opening flash-forward scene gives you plenty to laugh at as Driss and Philippe speed through the streets of Paris. The cops corner them and then you get to witness the two of them dancing in their car seats, knowing that they’ve just pulled a fast one on the Paris cops.
One could argue that the movie’s light touch ignores some of the more negative issues that underlie this movie. Philippe’s daughter is a very troubled individual, no doubt driven by the fact that her father is emotionally unavailable to her. There is a scene in the movie where one could easily interpret as a suicide attempt, but it is played as a joke by Driss. And one could also point to some of the duties that are required of Driss (the unappetizing requirement to help Philippe with his bowel movements, for example) as being played for laughs when in reality it could highlight the depressing nature of Philippe’s injury. Admittedly, not everything is played for laughs, as the movie does turn serious in those brief moments where it delves into the world of Paris poverty.
Of course, this movie is meant as a comedy versus a drama and is made with such a loving touch that you can’t help but laugh throughout – even at scenes that if this was made as a drama would leave you emotionally drained or perhaps physically sick.
The movie is in subtitles, which is one reason why the box office take is so low in the U.S. At the time of this write-up, I could only find this movie in one Los Angeles theatre. If you find that this review perks your interest, I’d definitely recommend renting it when it becomes available.
Note: It should be mentioned that in the movie Philippe is white and Driss is black (from Senegal). In the US, many movies that portray such relationships can be viewed through the lens of race and if you do a quick Internet search, you’ll find critics who argue that “The Intouchables” is a racist movie. Also, an important fact or not should you decide to consider this criticism is that the real life Driss is from Algeria and not Senegal.
The movie opens up with Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) having a dream. A woman, the sun casting a halo effect around her, approaches him about a missing shoe. He wakes up to his miserable life. He’s a writer who wrote an acclaimed book after dropping out of high school, a decade ago. He’s written since, a book of short stories, but it is implied that he hasn’t reached the heights of critical success that were expected of him. He has no friends other than his brother, Harry (Chris Messina). He has casual sex with women who only sleep with him, because they read his book in high school. He spends his morning suffering from writer’s block and his afternoons acting child-like inhis therapy sessions with his psychologist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliot Gould). Dr. Rosenthal suggests writing a one pager about how a person might react to seeing Scotty, Calvin’s dog.
This assignment along with another dream of the woman results in a frenzy of writing. As he writes, female-centric items start to pop up in his house. For example, Scotty brings a red shoe to Calvin. Is Calvin’s imagination creating his dream girl?
He wakes up one morning and there she is, Ruby Sparks(Zoe Kazan), making breakfast. He freaks, thinking he’s gone mad. He decides to leave the house, wanting some “real” human interaction, calling a literary groupie (Alia Shawkat) he met at a book signing. Ruby asks to go with him,thinking he’s going on an errand. He takes her along, but quickly ditches her. Ruby later finds him sitting with the girl at a restaurant and demands to know if he’s cheating on her. Everyone witnesses this confrontation. The unexplainable is reality.
She’s real, yes, but that is the problem. Calvin wrote her as his dream girl (an important criticism his brother highlights when reading a draft of the book). He expects the relationship to work out perfectly. Real life is different. She wants space. She doesn’t always want to have sex. She has different interests.
He fears that she is drifting away and knowing that he has the power, he starts to write changes to her character to turn her back to his dream girl. All of his attempts result in a distorted Ruby. Perhaps his brother was only partially correct in his criticism of the book. Calvin doesn’t know much about relationships, but he did initially create a rounded character that gets destroyed after every attempted re-write.
This movie mixes fantasy with reality in an interesting way and the message is clear: we need to realize that fantasy is not reality and that for relationships to work we need to understand that our significant others will never meet our dreamed-up expectations.
The movie’s twists and turns captivate. There are moments that are just plain laugh out loud funny especially when Annette Bening (mother)and Antonio Banderas (mother’s boyfriend) are on screen.
I do have one major problem with the movie. At one point, Calvin shows such vicious disregard for Ruby that you can’t help, but1.) despise Calvin and 2.) weep for Ruby. Perhaps this is a commentary about how our dark side occasionally emerges when the dream person turns into reality person, but his despicable behavior demands that you wish he’d exile himself to a monastery where he could repent. This scene makes it difficult to cheer for the relationship when you see that one individual in the relationship may actually be a sadist. Though this scene went too far for me, I believe that in total it is a wonderfully made movie.
“A Separation.” This movie comes to us from Iran and so you’ll need to spend time reading subtitles if you go to see it, but if you do you won’t regret it. The film opens with Simin (Leila Hatami) making copies of travel documents. The next scene has Simin and her husband, Nader (Peyman Moadi), in front of a judge. Simin wants a divorce. Why? She wants to leave Iran. Nader refuses. He is the caregiver for his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) who has Alzheimer’s. Simin insists that the father no longer recognizes them and that they must take this opportunity to leave the country. Since Nader refuses to leave, Simin wants a divorce. The judge grants the divorce and Simin moves out of the house. Their child, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), stays with her father. Interestingly, Simin does not leave the country, but instead moves in with her mother – perhaps hoping that her now ex-husband will change his mind or maybe her airplane ticket isn’t for another few weeks.
With his wife moved out of the house, Nader needs a caregiver for his father. He hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a very religious woman, who is conflicted regarding the job (working for a now single man). She needs the job to help out with family expenses as her husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), has lost his job and has enormous debts. She brings her child, Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini), with her. The job is difficult for her as she is pregnant. (more…)
It could be my imagination, but Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron are starting to look like sisters.
Okay, “Young Adult” is about Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), an author of a young adult book series (a book series that is coming to an end). That is her job, but as a person, she is a self-absorbed narcissist, and partially delusional. We see this within minutes when she goes on a date. The guy talks about how he spent time in Asia, teaching. Not all of us are meant to leave the US and take a job in some foreign country, teaching underprivileged youth; however, Mavis’ response is to show pity that he was exiled away from the big city of Minneapolis. Of course, this doesn’t stop her from sleeping with the guy. Her inability to grow out of her high school queen attitude is perhaps driven by her career choice. Due to her young adult writing, she is constantly watching teenage reality television and eating out at teen hangouts.
She gets a baby party invite from Beth Slade (Elizabeth Reaser). Beth is now married to Mavis’ high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Mavis initially interprets this as a slight by Beth. She hasn’t been back to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota in years and doesn’t consider them to be close friends. To her, this is just Beth sending a reminder that she is married to Buddy. With her teacher-one-night-stand still sleeping in her bedroom, Mavis decides she’s off to Mercury. Somewhere between getting the invitation and her one-night stand, she decides that she is going to win Bubby Slade back and show folks that she is still the prom queen.
As she drives through Mercury, you can almost see her distain for her hometown. To one side, she sees a Staples. On her other side, she sees a KenTacoHut. (Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut). Never mind that she had just shopped at a Staples store in Minneapolis. And never mind the fact that (more…)