Making the Grades
The Intouchables, a French film that released in most of Europe during late 2011, has captured the hearts of that continent—and their wallets. Raking in big bucks while playing on screens for months (an unusual feat in this era of movie marketing) the production has earned well beyond the $300 million mark. Now the subtitled story is about to visit North America.
The concept draws on the real life experiences of a wealthy aristocrat (played by Francois Cluzet) who, after a tragic accident, becomes a quadriplegic. Needing to hire a personal caregiver Philippe interviews numerous applicants. While all are qualified to various degrees, he doesn’t feel an affinity for any of them. Then he meets Driss (Omar Sy), a muscular black man from the projects who has only come seeking a signature on his employment benefits form. Recognizing this man will never be tempted to give him pity, Philippe offers him the job—on a 30-day probation.
Much of the plot plays on the fish-out-of-water premise as Driss attempts to adjust to the dripping opulence of his master’s mansion. But the meat of the message lies in his relationship with Philippe that initially is anything but compassionate. Not understanding the ramifications, this careless attendant pours boiling water on Philippe’s unfeeling legs and he is verbally determined to avoid helping with his patient’s difficult bowel movements. Yet Philippe’s personality is, in many ways, equally harsh. As the two are forced to engage with each other they ultimately develop a mutual appreciation.
While the core of this tale is warmhearted and both characters exhibit positive personality development, there is still a great deal of content that parents will want to be aware of. Marijuana and tobacco use are depicted in a few scenes, along with a couple of visits to a massage parlor (no sexual activity is seen or implied). Driss has some discussions with Philippe about his ability to be with a woman, resulting in an ongoing joke about sexual stimulation. The young man also overtly offers his sexual services to a female coworker on numerous occasions and is quick to use his physically aggressive street savvy when a neighbor parks in his boss’s private driveway. As well, profanities are frequent with at least a dozen sexual expletives and a variety of other terms (of course these are all heard in French but seen in English in subtitles).
Although the story is maybe true, perhaps the greatest truth in this film is how much we can learn from those who appear different from ourselves. In this regard The Intouchables scores admirably. However, considering the portrayal of drug use, the numerous profanities and plentiful sexual banter, family viewers may not want to touch The Intouchables.
Release Date: 25 May 2012 (Limited)
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Intouchables.
How are rich and poor portrayed in this film? Do you think the bridging of divergent social classes is part of the appeal of this movie? Why are people attracted to films where the wealthy and wanting build relationships? What might we learn from these situations?
Why was Philippe willing to give Driss a chance to care for him? Do you think most people in similar situations are looking for pity? What “disabilities” does Driss have? How does he learn to overcome these by working with Philippe?
This movie is based on a true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, that has been published as the book A Second Wind.