Last year’s French award baiting, box office smash hit, The Intouchables known in the UK as Untouchable finally gets a release in the UK, a full year later than in its home country and my was it worth the wait. The film broke box office records in France, becoming the 2nd highest grossing French film of all time after just nine weeks at the box office and has gone on to gross €277 million worldwide from a budget of just €9.5 million. I’d heard very good things from the countries that had been lucky enough to get the film within a year of its release but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the film quite as much as I did. It’s been a very good month for film with the likes of Anna Karenina, Looper and then Holy Motors all edging into my current 2012 Top 10 list but I think at the moment Untouchable is beating them all with it’s surprisingly frank and extremely funny portrayal of a young French-Senegalese man’s (Omar Sy) struggle in taking on the role of full time carer for a paralysed millionaire (François Cluzet).
I honestly didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did during this film and the laughter coming from myself and emulating from the cinema I was in was palpable to that of when I saw the likes of Ted and The Muppets earlier in the year. This is a hilarious film. The film doesn’t take Phillipe’s (Cluzet) disability lightly and makes it clear how debilitating it is for him but it rarely dwells and allows both Philiipe and the audience to see that life is worth living no matter what your situation is. The odd couple quality of the film is remarkable. You probably couldn’t have two more opposing characters in a film. Sy plays an immigrant, living on the outskirts of Paris in a cramped tower block, full of children and not much else. His mother works hard as a cleaner and he has just been released from prison with his younger brother seemingly headed the same way. Cluzet’s character is a millionaire, living in a gated mansion in the centre of Paris. He wants for nothing and doesn’t bat an eyelid at paying €40,000 for a painting. He comes across as very stern and unapproachable which again is completely different to Sy’s easy going, lad about town sort of character.
One of the film’s great strengths is the relationship between both the characters and the actors. Their compatibility and friendship really comes across on screen and you can’t help but believe they are as close off screen as on. Without the right casting and friendship the film would be nowhere near as good. François Cluzet is one of, if not my favourite French actor and has really impressed me in the likes of Tell No One and Little White Lies. Towards the beginning he feels a little type cast but really allows himself to relax as the film progresses. His lack of body movement means that all of his expression and emotion must come from his face and he performs this wonderfully. I’d never seen Omar Sy before but will certainly be looking out for him in the future. He is incredible in the film, playing the arrogant, slightly stereotyped it has to be said, immigrant in the first act before becoming genuinely attached and caring towards the end. In between he is incredibly funny. Much of the humour derives from the odd couple plot and the rest is from Sy’s reactions to his surroundings and attempts to woo the beautiful but stuck up Magalie (Audrey Fleurot). At times the film had an almost Chaplin like quality, melding comedy with pathos in the way that Chaplin was so successful with in the early part of the twentieth century. Omar Sy unsurprisingly won the Cesar Award (French Oscar) for his performance, becoming the first black man ever to do so. It is thoroughly well deserved.
On my way out of the cinema I was trying to think if there was anything that I didn’t like about the film but I honestly couldn’t think of anything. The only slight niggle at the back of my mind was that Omar Sy’s character Driss was slightly stereotyped at the beginning but this only enhanced the dichotomy of the relationship to come plus the growth of the character in the second and third acts. The ending is incredibly touching and my girlfriend ended up in tears, bringing 113 minutes of laughter to a poignant but happy end.