Back in January, I told you about the popular French film, “Intouchables.” The film, which broke box office records across the country and was hailed by the French press, follows a black man from the projects in Paris who gets a job taking care of a rich, white quadriplegic.
The film was widely praised across the county, and France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy loved it so much he invited the cast to the dinner at Elysee Palace.
While French audiences and critics ate it up, American critics found the film quite problematic.
Devorah Lauter of the LA Times wrote:
Yet even as the Cinderella story has audiences applauding, a few critics scolded its unrealistic take on the struggles of France’s poor, as well as its “easy stereotypes” of minorities, shown through the fun-loving hero, Driss. Driss is of Senegalese origin, and with his charming wit — but also unabashed ignorance of fine French foods, art and music — he livens up the stuffy world of his wealthy counterpart, Philippe.
“This film dates to the 1930s, when it was thought the black man has no culture and spends his time laughing at everything,” philosopher Jean-Jacques Delfour said after reviewing the film for the French daily Liberation.
And Jay Weissberg of Variety had a hasher critique, taking the film to task for pandering to stereotypes:
Driss [the main character] 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.)
But because Hollywood loves a good hit and an opportunity to make money, they are remaking ‘Intouchables’ for an American audience.
According to Variety, ‘Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig is in early talks to write and direct an American remake of ‘Intouchables.” Apparently, Colin Firth is already in the running to star in the film, but I wonder who will be cast in the other leading role of Driss, the Senegalese man tasked with taking care of his wealthy boss.
While there is no script just yet, I hope this remake–which is based on a true-story–isn’t filled with easy, cliched stereotypes of a black man from the ‘hood experiencing culture shock in the rich, white world. What I hope is conveyed, however, is the genuine feeling of the friendship of the two men. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Check out a English-subtitled version of the ‘Intouchables’ trailer via Shadow & Act. Who do you think should play the role of Driss?