I can’t tell if this movie is Cinderella or Driving Miss Daisy or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I suppose it’s most accurate to call it some fairy tale hybrid of all three.
It’s about a black dude from “the street” who goes to work for a stuffy white one, who happens to be paralyzed from the neck down. A super tough situation for even a trained personal support worker, which of course he isn’t. But Driss and Philippe form the obligatory bridging-the-race-gap friendship, and white guy comes back to life, as it were, thanks to, you know, watching the black guy dance to Earth, Wind & Fire and stuff.
I actually like this movie. I should have said that first, because reading the above has probably given you the wrong impression. Everyone will like this movie because you’re supposed to. It’s feel-good, dammit. I dare you NOT to have your goods felt after this. I’m all felt up.
Basically, the two actors are pretty great. Omar Sy as Driss and Francois Cluzet as Philippe are an excellent pair. They play off each other well and have great on-screen chemistry that makes their friendship seem real. Their “unlikely” friendship, I should say, because I have a feeling that’s what the blurb on the back of the DVD would say if I had it here in front of me. It’s probably a little insulting that in 2015 we still think of an interracial friendship as unlikely. Even thinking of it as interracial is unnatural. But the film keeps reminding us that it is, because all of Philippe’s uptight (white) friends keep stage-whispering it to him, as if quadriplegia has also affected his eyes.
In fact, Philippe hired the likes of Driss because he’s tired of being pitied. Driss doesn’t have a pitying bone in his body, but apparently he’s got a lot of tender ones because very quickly he’s the best little nursemaid in town. Never has looking after a severely disabled individual for money seemed so fun! Plus, there’s the Pretty Woman aspect – he gets exposed to (white) culture – you know, museums, expensive cars, classical music. And yes, Philippe even buys him a new suit so he can look pretty at a party. But don’t you worry. Driss contributes too. He buys the weed.
Okay, now this review is making ME think I didn’t like the movie. And I did! It’s just a little facile, I suppose, compared to the Diving Bell. It’s sugary and sweet and avoids the sticky spots by a wide margin. It’s really just a buddy movie with pretensions. The acting saves it from slipping into maudlin and the two make an irresistible (interracial) pair.