Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Driving Mr. Daisy

The Intouchables       WWW Score: 94%

Roaring onto the screen via a Maserati racing through the tunnels of Paris, if first impressions are everything, The Intouchables makes a mockery of the test.

Inside the $135K supercharged sedan, driver Dessi (Omar Sy) and passenger Philippe (Francois Cluzet) are making bets as to how the frenetic joyride is going to come to a completion - get caught by the cops or escape scott free.

Fused with interlocking angles of the chase and the exuberant sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire's "September", it's an utterly electrifying opening.

From their late-night excursion across the City of Lights, we go flashback, revealing how the pair became a twosome. Confined to a motorized wheelchair, the tetraplegic Philippe hires Dessi - a slacker from the projects of Paris - to be his caretaker, sponge baths and all. Dessi only happening by the multi-millionaire's Parisian mansion to stay eligible for government assistance and ending up the assistant.

Philippe cultures Dessi in the music of Berlioz and the comical cost of contemporary art while Dessi introduces Philippe to Kool and the Gang and the concept of living rather than being. Each man teaching the other the benefit of risk in one's life.

It's the "one character pushes the boundaries of the other and vice versa as both benefit" narrative we've seen on screen umpteen times before but it manages to feel fresh thanks to the phenomenal performances of the two leads.

Sy is spectacular, allowing his character to organically transform from tough-as-nails to teddy bear - the Frenchman oozes charisma. Cluzet sells Philippe's pain subtly, making us feel his plight without over-emoting.

Both men merit award recognition - Sy is a superstar.

Directed with exquisite dexterity by another duo: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, 'The Intouchables' soars higher than a jet-setting paragliding trip by Philippe and Dessi. The directing doublet shoot the based on a true story tale with French-flair - the film's aforementioned open just a sample of their piercing prowess behind the lens.

The Intouchables is incapable of being unliked; it's a life-affirming cinematic experience that leaves you revitalized, carrying a bit of Philippe's newfound zest for life out of the theater. And as was the case in its native France, count on The Intouchables to become a sleeper hit, a crowd-pleaser that soars stateside through strong word of mouth.

It's clear why Harvey Weinstein snatched The Intouchables up - similar to another of his studio's massive successes The Artist - it's all but guaranteed to be up for a cache of trophies in early 2013.

Ironically, Dessi and Philippe may not need much assistance bringing them home.