Hugely popular worldwide, The Intouchables has grossed a staggering $400 million+ at the box office. It is inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a wealthy aristocrat who became a quadriplegic as the result of a 1993 paragliding accident. In the film, Philippe lives an isolated life on his estate, rapidly tiring of each nursing caretaker he hires. Along comes Driss, a Senegalese ex-con robber who shows up for an interview so that he can get a signature on a piece of paper proving that he is seeking employment. Much to everyone’s surprise, Philippe hires him.
The rest of the plot is pretty standard, as the African teaches the rich white guy to enjoy life and the rich white guy introduces the African to the beauty of Western culture. The Intouchables has been much-criticized for being predictable and for promoting racial stereotypes, a charge that is particularly relevant when one considers that the caretaker in real life was not black African, but Arab. Perhaps it is this uncomfortable portrayal that kept the film from earning a nomination. Nonetheless, it is easy to see why the film is so popular: both Philippe and Driss are likable characters and there is enough humor to make The Intouchables an engaging watch.