Based on a true story, The Intouchables follows Philippe, a super-rich white guy who is left a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. He lives in a giant house in Paris with an accommodating staff. Instead of the same old stuffy male nurse, he hires a street-savvy African immigrant named Driss to be his caretaker/companion.
They go through some rough patches at first—Driss is reluctant to put the compression stockings on Philippe, denouncing them as unmanly panty hose—but they begin adapting. Concerned friends try to talk Philippe out of keeping Driss on, but Philippe appreciates Driss's straightforwardness. Driss has empathy for Philippe, but he doesn't baby him. Instead, Driss teases and prods, occasionally bucking Philippe's authority and delighting him with the unexpected. (Insisting they are too cool for the wheelchair van, Driss instead wrangles Philippe into a fancy sports car.) Soon they start sharing their interests—classical music and art appreciation; pot smoking and Kool and the Gang—and inspiring each other to branch out.
The movie was hugely popular in France: The actors are terrific, and the film includes plenty of irreverent French humor. But it doesn't shy away from the pain of being quadriplegic or the pain of poverty. This is not a man-crippled-emotionally-and-physically-learns-to-live-again story; it's about a bond between two people who never would have expected such a bond was possible. There is nothing radical about a wealthy white guy paying a person of color to care for him, and all the class issues are obviously there. But The Intouchables does a good job of showing that being rich doesn't insulate you from personal insecurity or hurting or doubt; you still need to decide who you want to be and what kind of life you want to lead.