Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Intouchables (2012)

Film: The Intouchables (2012)
Stars: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Anne Le Ny
Director: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Oscar History: The film was shortlisted for the Foreign Language Film award but it didn't get the nomination. (I was stunned at the time that it didn't score considering its AMPAS-friendly plot and psychotically large Box Office).
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

Sometimes, thanks to our U.S.-centric box office coverage in the States, you don't get to read as frequently about gargantuan hits abroad, and so you'll be forgiven if you hadn't heard of this film, one of the highest-grossing movies of 2012.  This tiny French-film, arguably one of the most successful of all-time (it cost some $15 million to make but grossed over $400 million-talk about a ROI!) is also the highest-grossing foreign language film of all-time worldwide (meaning that from a purely "have you seen it?" aspect, I had to eventually get to the film).  So much box office makes you wonder if it's actually any good, though, considering you don't want people to be throwing their money at rubbish, which unfortunately this film is.

(Spoilers Ahead) The movie is the story about a man named Philippe (Cluzet), a quadriplegic who needs a live-in caregiver.  He eventually hires a man named Driss (Sy) a young black man who is at first just looking to get his benefits check but eventually grows to understand Philippe, much like Philippe grows to understand Driss.  The film is essentially a buddy comedy, with both parties not particularly liking each other right away but eventually finding that they had an unusually strong bond all along, and that they aren't so different, and blah blah blah, you get the drift of the tired filmic cliches (this may seem condescending, but honestly-if you don't see the direction this film is coming from within ten minutes, congratulations on seeing your first movie, it only gets better from here).

It's set in...well, that's actually part of the problem, and we'll get that out of the way first.  The film is based on a true story, but historical inaccuracies plague the film and its characters to the point where its actual time period is a giant question mark.  Is it the 1970's, considering that's this is the only style of music Driss is listening to?  Or is it modern day, considering the clothes that are being worn by the cast and that the cell phones and cars clearly were made in the last five years?  Or is it the 1950's, considering that's the sort of shock that comes across on the faces of the cast members when they encounter people that aren't suckling opera and buying pretentious modern art cliches?

Seriously, I don't normally congratulate the United States for rejecting foreign language cinema (correction: I have never done this, in fact have done the opposite on countless occasions), but this may be a first (then again, this was the highest-grossing foreign language film domestically in 2012, so perhaps even there we should get a slap on the hands): why did people flip their lid over a film filled with trifling cliches and stereotypes?  Frequently this has been compared to Driving Miss Daisy by critics, but that film was set in the 1940's, where the sort of cultural collision of racial cultures hadn't happened on a regular basis.  This film is clearly meant to be a modern tale-how is it that Philippe would know so little about the 1970's, a decade of his youth, to not be utterly familiar with Earth, Wind, and Fire?  The film simplifies the argument so ferociously that pop music > opera and that modern art is stupid and it uses racial divides as the way to get there?  It's highly insulting and anti-intellectual in that regard, and crosses the borderline over into racist on several occasions by making Sy's Driss a collection of stereotypes.

So, despite at the time assuming that AMPAS was simply going against their traditional tastes by ignoring the big French hit, they clearly made the right decision by ignoring this "populist" pile of garbage.  The world is too complicated and too rich with human experience to waste time on such simplistic, dated trash.

Those were my (pretty harsh) thoughts on this particular film-what were yours?  I'm certain that there were a number of people that enjoyed the movie ($400 million movies usually don't hit that mark with some celebrating it, unless they star transformers)-anyone want to help me out here?  And anyone else surprised that AMPAS dodged this bullet?  Share in the comments!

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