Starring Toni Collette, Rossy de Palma, Harvey Keitel, Michael Smiley, Tom Hughes
Here is a film that is constructed entirely around a dinner scene that speaks volumes about the class system. In the previews, this dinner party scene is set up like a Notting Hill or Love Actually moment. Madame, with a short running time of 90 swift minutes and peculiar alternating point of views, fail to become anything outside of a gag with good intentions. Oscar nominee Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) and Spanish actress Rossy de Palma (Julieta) offer two sides of the same household, exploring women’s bias, culture and insecurities. In her sophomore effort, director Amanda Sthers can’t seem to infuse this movie with sustainable lessons, satisfying outcomes or enough originality to evolve beyond the predictable.
Anne (Collette) and Bob (Keitel) Fredericks recently relocated to Paris with their entire household staff. Bob, struggling to maintain their lavish lifestyle, has made the difficult decision sell one of his precious family heirlooms. Anne has orchestrated a lavish dinner for the sale, but Bob’s elder son from a previous marriage arrives, off setting Anne’s even number of guests and nerves. In a state of panic, she instructs lead maid Maria (Palma) to dress up in one of her gowns, pretend to be a socialite and keep quiet. What they didn’t expect was art consultant David Morgan (Smiley) falling in love with Maria’s awkward charm.
Nothing more than something to watch on an airplane to pass the time.
Madame is a small slice of Beatriz at Dinner’s set up, but without the nuance and political leanings. The script is torn between embracing the type of “Hugh Grant cinema” Maria references, or striving for something more brave and articulate. It ends up being neither, nothing more than something to watch on an airplane to pass the time, instead of a film that warrants devoted attention on a big screen, or even at home. It’s a routine comedy of secrets and deception that only offers an intuitive and inspiring ending the earlier part of the film doesn’t deserve.
Collette has a career of obtuse and unflattering roles whether is be a thoughtful counselor in Please Stand By, forgettable character in xXx: Return of Xander Cage or a spy in Unlocked. One thing all her recent films have in common, no one is watching. That will change this summer when the highly anticipated Sundance horror film Hereditary hits theaters. Collette is already receiving high praise for her performance. Madame is wrong to focus on Collette, despite her being the larger marquee name on the title. It’s Palma’s Maria that provides the little insignificant dramedy with the few highlights is contains.
A rather flat and forgettable French comedy.