The Intouchables

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on June 08, 2012

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StarStarStarStarHalf Star

Dear Olivia Bloche-Laine
Set Decorator

Dear Olivia,

It's hard not to be impressed by the riches on display in The Intouchables. I'm not just talking about your sets, which do a great job of contrasting social clashes that are key to Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's feature film, but also the depth of talent on display. Even more impressive is how this unlikely tale has translated into one of the biggest box-office hits in European history.

In one sense, I could argue your task was easy. It doesn't take much imagination to contrast the lives of a poor African immigrant, played brilliantly by Omar Sy, with an out-of-touch French bourgeois portrayed by François Cluzet, whom he's tasked with caring for. As an audience, we've been here, seen that before. Yet the results are rarely ever this satisfying.

The basic set pieces on screen feel like they came from a pawn shop of Hollywood cliches: a poor, uneducated free-spirit, a rich, up-tight enfant gate, and a journey through melancholy to rediscover purpose and love. Disney has been using this formula for ages. They've just never made it a platonic love story between a street thug and a wealthy quadriplegic.

Together, you've built a world we at once recognize, sympathize with, and envy. You make it easy to share Sy's joy as we see him soaking up his new gold-plated bathroom only days after he seemed doomed to the indignity of bathing in a housing project full of needy children. Moments of spontaneity also help lock us into place, like the brilliant flash-forward opening sequence. We see the unorthodox relationship bloom as the two race through Parisien streets. We get hooked, and care about where this story is going, even if we've been there before.

The result is funny, touching, and a breath of fresh air. In other words, you and your team really classed up the joint - even when it was filled with prostitutes and actual joints.

À bientôt!


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