Omar Sy, left, and Francois Cluzet in ”The Intouchables.” Netflix photo

Omar Sy popped up on our home screens last month as a super cool thief in an update of Maurice Leblanc’s “Lupin,” a French mystery comedy web television series created by George Kay and François Uzan.

“Lupin” premiered on Netflix on Jan. 8, became an instant success, and is gaining speed in the ratings.

The star, Omar Sy, had been floating around in Europe for a couple of years, while working as a TV comedian.

Writer and director Éric Toledano spotted Omar in something forgettable called “Micmacs,” and cast him in his developing film “The Intouchables,” a very different kind of buddy movie, about a wealthy quadriplegic Philippe, (the legendary Francois Cluzet) who lives in a mansion in the ritziest neighborhood, and a charismatic ex-jailbird, a survivor of a prison stay, who lives with his mother in the projects.

Completely paralyzed from a paragliding accident, and unable to feel life from the neck down, Philippe requires constant care. He already has a staff of servants and constant medical attention, but he requires a “body” man to be at hand, 24/7.

We’re entertained in the opening shots as Philippe interviews one well-dressed professional after another. None make the grade.


We learn early on that Philippe, despite his privileged life, disdains pity and wants to be treated like any other.

Then in comes “Driss,” (Omar) dirty cool jeans, leather jacket (he probably stole) gray hoody, smelling of the Paris streets, with a mouth still reeking of a joint he just shared.

He’s here to get his unemployment form signed, so he can get his weekly check.

Philippe watches him as Driss bounces from one foot to the other, sniffing and flirting with Magalie (Audrey Fleurot) the toothsome, splendid and hot secretary.

Something about Driss convinces Philippe to hire him.

For the next 20 minutes of the film. we’re entertained, charmed, shocked and horrified by Driss’s fumbling attempts to survive in this gilded palace. He spills hot coffee on Philippe’s leg and then amazed, does it again.


Six times he refuses to help his patient with his bowel movements before he has no choice, lest he be sent back to days of petty thievery on the hard streets.

On their first outing in the fresh air, Driss refuses to drive the ambulance-like car, and takes Philippe to the streets, in his super expensive sport car that has been unused since the accident.

There are wonderful scenes of discovery, of conversations in which the unlikely friends learn of one another’s secrets.

Just when things occasionally grow dark, Toledano opens up Driss’ street charms, giving him a breakout dance number at one of Philippe’s parties, and introducing his boss to the delights of marijuana, while rocking to “Earth, Wind & Fire.”

My personal delight? Driss rips Philippe out of his fears, by taking him on a hang glider flight, soaring over the hills, while we listen to Nina Simone’s great “Feeling Good.”

You’ll go right to your computer and download Simone and relive how great that song was.


Driss, surviving one mishap after another, eventually smooths out and earns the respect, if not the love, of the staff.

“Driss” won Omar the 2012 César Award for Best Actor for his work.

Cluzet is best known to American cinephiles, and to Railroad Square fans, for his work with American directors Robert Altman (“Pret-a-Porter”) and Lawrence Kasdan’s (“French Kiss.”)

“The Intouchables” streams on Netflix.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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