By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act March 27, 2012 at 9:43AM
On the heels of his historic César Award win for Best Actor a week ago, the film Omar Sy won the award for - the box office record-setting dramedy Intouchables - now has an official USA theatrical release date, courtesy of The Weinstein Company, who also own remake rights to the film).
And accompanying this news of its stateside release is a subtitled trailer (finally).
Really curious to see how this is received here in the USA, given all the polarizing talk I've read/heard about the film, from Omar Sy being hailed by some in France as a blossoming black cinema icon, to the negative reviews the film has received from some American critics who've seen the film.
The film, which is said to be based on a funny and moving true story, centers on the relationship between a wealthy white aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident, and the young, poor "street-tough" black man he hires to take care of him.
Omar Sy stars as our "street-tough" dude, Driss, while François Cluzet (one of France's movie stars), plays Philippe the rich quadriplegic.
I'd previously expressed my reservations with regards to the film, even though I STILL haven't seen it yet; but based on the info available, there's nothing particular fresh about the basic buddy/comedy concept, and one can't help but instantly see some familiar character archetypes here, specifically where the black man is concerned. And I'm wondering what the Weinstein Company sees in it (other than the fact that it broke bos office records in France), enough to want to release it in the USA, and how they might translate it in an American remake if Harvey will stick to the original story and characters - the right white quadriplegic and the poor, street smart, black tough guy - or revamp the entire idea.
And, unfortunately, the reviews I've read thus far, one from Variety, one from The Hollywood Reporter, and a third from an S&A reader, don't do much to change my expectations of the film.
First, the bad, from Variety:
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.
From The Hollywood Reporter, which wasn't as harsh:
The King's Speech meets Driving Miss Daisy in Untouchables, a loosely based-on-fact French tale of a quadriplegic white millionaire given a new lease of life by his uncouth black caretaker. Corny, calculating and commercial... Driss's characterization veers perilously close to caricature at certain junctures, most notably when he displays his energetic dance-moves to liven up Philippe's stuffy birthday party. (The real Driss, we eventually discover, is Arab rather than black.) The racial angle is often clumsily dramatized, as when Elisa makes an implausibly stupid remark about how things are done "in your country." The chap may have been born in Senegal, but is unmistakeably a home-grown son of the banlieues.
The Hollywood Reporter review does praise the performances of both leads.
And finally, from an S&A reader, which is the most positive of the 3:
Well, you'll hate it. It's a Magical Negro Driving Monsieur Daisy film. I know that you would role your eyes at the dance scene set to Earth Wind and Fire's Boogie Wonderland. That said, I did enjoy it even though seeing it made me realize how much my French sucks. My husband, whom I dragged from his sick bed and who did not know that he was going to see a movie in French, enjoyed it too. He thought it was the best of French humor: chock full of every stereotype, but done in an unforced way. (His words, not mine.)... Omar Sy was quite engaging. His smile lit up the screen. I'm wondering if he'll be able to cross the pond like Djimoun Hounsou. I was trying to imagine who would play his role in the American version. Will Smith springs to mind, but he's too old and he already played Bagger Vance... In fact, all of the performances were good. I would have liked to have seen more about Driss' homelife. This is where our French failed us. We couldn't figure out what exactly was going on with his brother at the end. That was the fault of our lousy French, not the film maker's. Still, it was enjoyable, but I can't wait to read how your readers rip it apart!... Yeah, it was a feel-good movie. Was it on your site or Deadline that I read that Intouchables was the Titanic of France, i.e., people were seeing it repeatedly? The theater yesterday was about 60% full, but my friends who saw it last week said that it was packed and the line for the next showing was around the corner. around the corner.
So there ya have it....
I'm looking at that Variety review and sighing at the part where the writer says the Weinsteins would have to commission a "massive rewrite" to make the "cringe-worthy" comedy palatable to stateside audiences... will stateside audiences cringe as the Variety writer did?
We'll see on May 25th, when the film will be officially released in the USA.
Here's the first English-subtitled trailer: