Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Film Sends Powerful Message about Hope

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Film Sends Powerful Message about Hope

Article excerpt

Frenchman Jean Dujardin of "The Artist" cleaned up earlier this year on the awards circuit -- except when it came to France's version of the Oscar.

Omar Sy of "The Intouchables" won the Cesar for his role as an ex- convict from a housing project outside Paris who becomes the improbable but perfect caretaker for a wealthy, paralyzed aristocrat played by Francois Cluzet.

"The Intouchables" is now a global phenomenon and recent lightning rod for criticism about the portrait of the black man played by the award winner.

It is first and foremost a movie, of course, about Philippe (Mr. Cluzet, reminiscent as always of Dustin Hoffman) who suffered a paragliding accident that left him with no feeling from his neck to his toes.

He needs a caretaker with physical strength who can lift him from his bed or into a car, who can massage his legs and tug on support stockings and who can respond to his panicked breathing in the middle of the night when phantom pain strikes.

What he doesn't need or certainly want is pity, which is why the wealthy Parisian picks the most unlikely applicant to be his aide. Driss (Mr. Sy) is a streetwise native of Senegal who only expected a rushed rejection at the job interview, to help him qualify for public benefits.

Instead, he gets a job, a look at how the 1 percent live, a luxurious bedroom and private bath, and an education in opera, classical music, overpriced artwork and friendship. Philippe is given a second chance at life, the ability to indulge his love of speed again, to see Paris at night and groove to Earth, Wind & Fire.

Directed and written by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano and based on a true story, it's a dramatic comedy that is not sappy or sloppily sentimental. It demonstrates the perils and rewards of risk and is anchored by two excellent performances, one big, one contained.

Mr. Sy's Driss is larger than life, whether smiling, flirting, dancing, treating Paris streets like a raceway, issuing threats or boldly rolling the dice with police officers or strangers. …

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