Madame – movie review

Madame is a romantic comedy set in Paris. But this one misses the mark and then some.

Anne (Toni Collette) and Bob (Harvey Keitel) are a wealthy American couple in a waning marriage. They move into a manor house in the City of Light, where affairs are commonplace. While preparing a luxurious dinner for friends, Anne is horrified to discover that the numbers are uneven, courtesy of the arrival of Bob’s son. To make matters right, she recruits her reluctant maid, Maria (Rossy de Palma), to fill the gap … in the guise of a mysterious Spanish noblewoman.

Although under instructions to say little, Maria accidentally endears herself to a British art broker (Michael Smiley). Love beckons, but much to the chagrin of Anne. She becomes determined to rain on their parade.

Speaking about the origins of the story, writer/director Amanda Sthers says when she was a child her father was a very philanthropic doctor who remarried a woman who was richer than him. “Suddenly, I went from spending my vacations in the countryside with my grandparents to Saint Tropez, in the midst of some rather different social codes.” Sthers says she found herself in a world of vacuity, dominated by money and during dinner parties she felt like she was the maid.

The concept of mistaken identity, though hardly original, could have been turned into a movie worth seeing. Unfortunately that isn’t the case here. The characters are largely pompous and unlikeable; and the way they’re played by the cast is strained. In the first instance insufficient context is given to them. Then, little if any character development follows.

Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), as Madame, is so deliberately exaggerated as to be laughable. Pity, because I generally like her as an actress.

The script is all over the place. The action is virtually non-existent and the pacing languid. I’m afraid I put much of the blame squarely at the feet of writer/director Sthers.

Only the sets and setting get a tick of approval. The rest is like watching a train wreck unfold. To add insult to injury, the ending is far from satisfying. The filmmaker tried to channel French sensibilities and failed miserably. Rated M, Madame scores a 1 out of 10.

Director: Amanda Sthers
Cast: Rossy de Palma, Harvey Keitel, Toni Collette
Release Date: 17 August 2017
Rating: M

Alex First

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