×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Untouchable’

Though never known for their subtlety, French co-helmers/scripters Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache have never delivered a film as offensive as "Untouchable," which flings about the kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens.

With:

With: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clothilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Marie-Laure Descoureaux, Gregoire Oestermann, Jean-Francois Cayrey.

Though never known for their subtlety, French co-helmers/scripters Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache have never delivered a film as offensive as “Untouchable,” which flings about the kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens. The Weinstein Co., which has bought remake rights, will need to commission a massive rewrite to make palatable this cringe-worthy comedy about a rich, white quadriplegic hiring a black man from the projects to be his caretaker, exposing him to “culture” while learning to loosen up. Sadly, this claptrap will do boffo Euro biz.

Untouchable” proudly states it’s based on a true story, though tellingly, the caretaker in real life is Arab, not black. Fabulously wealthy Philippe (Francois Cluzet) was in a paragliding accident some years earlier and can’t move from the neck down. His wife has died; his adopted daughter, Elisa (Alba Gaia Bellugi), is a snot-nosed teen; and his staff keeps him coddled in an upper-class cocoon.

But Philippe goes through caretakers like water. Applying for the new opening is Driss (Omar Sy), a guy just out of the slammer after a six-month stint for robbery; he only turns up because he needs a signature on the rejection slip to make him eligible for unemployment benefits. To the surprise of personal secretary Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), Philippe hires the lanky, unflappable Driss, knowing he’ll be entertained if nothing else.

Driss’ infectious bonhomie makes him indispensable to Philippe, encouraging him in romance and generally blowing fresh air into the stolid household with his crude but warmhearted manners. The helmers, as usual (“Those Happy Days,” “So Happy Together … “) stock up on plenty of gags, taking hoary potshots at modern art, opera and “high” culture (think “Trading Places,” but less subtle) via the very tired idea that a black man from the wrong side of town could only ridicule such things.

In fact, Driss is treated as nothing but a performing monkey (with all the racist associations of such a term), teaching the stuck-up white folk how to get “down” by replacing Vivaldi with “Boogie Wonderland” and showing off his moves on the dance floor. It’s painful to see Sy, a joyfully charismatic performer, in a role barely removed from the jolly house slave of yore, entertaining the master while embodying all the usual stereotypes about class and race.

The nadir comes when Driss dons a suit and Magalie tells him he looks like President Obama, as if the only black man in a suit could be the president; what’s so distressing is that the writers mean for the line to be tender and funny. (For the record, Sy and Obama look nothing alike.)

It’s all supposed to induce laughs, and since Sy is such a winning actor and the jokes rarely let up, “Untouchable” may seduce unthinking auds with an infectious breeziness. Incidental music shamelessly plays on emotions, while sampled songs provide atmosphere; the famously prickly Nina Simone, whose “Feeling Good” is included, would not be pleased.

Film Review: 'Untouchable'

France

Production:

A Gaumont release and presentation of a Quad, Gaumont, TF1 Films, Ten Films, Chaocorp production, with the participation of Canal Plus, Cinecinema. (International sales: Gaumont, Paris.) Produced by Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun. Directed, written by Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache.

Crew:

Camera (color), Mathieu Vadepied; editor, Dorian Rigal-Ansous; music, Ludovico Einaudi; production designer, Francois Emmanuelli; costume designer, Isabelle Pannetier; sound (Dolby Digital), Pascal Armant, Jean Goudier; line producer, Laurent Sivot; assistant director, Herve Ruet; casting, Gigi Akoka. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (noncompeting, closer), Sept. 23, 2011. Running time: 110 MIN.

Cast:

With: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clothilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Marie-Laure Descoureaux, Gregoire Oestermann, Jean-Francois Cayrey.

More Scene

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment,

    Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment, Imprisonment for Trump, Says Maybe Al Pacino Should Lead Instead

    Robert De Niro honored Al Pacino, his longtime friend and four-time collaborator (with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” marking their latest pairing), at the American Icon Awards, and then called for a different type of tribute for President Donald Trump — “impeachment and imprisonment.” “You didn’t think you were going to completely get away without [...]

  • Millie Bobby Brown on Her Feature

    Millie Bobby Brown Calls Her Film Debut in 'Godzilla' 'Kind of Unreal'

    Millie Bobby Brown is no stranger to stardom thanks to “Stranger Things,” but she still can’t believe she’s making her feature film debut in the monster reboot “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” “It’s kind of unreal,” Brown told Variety at the premiere. “I’m like, ‘What is happening right now?’ It’s so bizarre and unreal, and [...]

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content