CAPSULE: A wealthy American couple living in Paris, Anne and Bob, are giving a very fancy and sophisticated dinner party. But superstitiously, to avoid having thirteen guests, they draft Maria the maid to be a silent guest just to be the fourteenth. The attractive and apparently glamorous mystery guest, Maria, excites the crowd, and soon the maid is romantically involved with one of the other guests. This is not at all what control freak Anne had in mind. She decides to fix the problem herself. This is a French film directed and co-written by Amanda Sthers. The film has a French feel, but most of the comedy dries up by the midpoint. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
What starts as a romantic comedy with a fairy tale touch gets more serious as time wears on. Anne and Bob (played by Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel) have a stressed marriage. They live in a beautiful mansion in Paris and are planning a very extravagant dinner party with the two of them and ten guests (one being the Lord Mayor of London). That makes 12 of them. Then their son shows up unexpectedly. Now there are 13. The apparently superstitious Anne believes that a gathering of 13 people is extremely unlucky. She drafts her faithful maid Maria (Rossy de Palma), pushes her into some of her best fashions and tells Maria to go to the dinner but to just not talk. Maria will be glamorous if she just sits and does not speak or so says Anne who does not believe it herself. This brings Maria into contact with London art broker David Morgan who is immediately attracted to Maria.
This is a turn of events very different from what Anne planned and she does not want the maid to enter her exalted circle of friends. As time goes by Anne is more frustrated that Maria is not willing to obey Anne's wishes. Anne's presence wears thin. We never see why Anne does what she does unless it is just that she has a god complex and wants to control others like puppets. Perhaps director Sthers is just not fond of Americans. Toni Collette's petulant pouty face is her strongest asset in this role. Later in the film we find ourselves just disliking Anne. But as much as Collette irritates the viewer the viewer is attracted by de Palma, not physically but she has a nice warm manner. Someone comments that all the children seem to like her. So do cameras.
Given that one of the Americans manipulates people and the other may be pulling a scam of art fraud, this film may mirror the attitudes of the French toward Americans in the Era of Trump. These are Americans who should stay home.
The sweet wine of the first act turns to vinegar by the time this short 91-minute film completes. I rate MADAME a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
MADAME will be in theaters and on VOD March 23, 2018.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6045466/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/madame_2018
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper