Written and directed by Amanda Sthers, Madame is a spin on the romantic comedy genre that falls flat. Chaos ensues after a maid is forced to attend a high-class dinner party and falls in love with one of the guests. (KAC: 2.5/5)
Review by FF2 Intern Katharine Cutler
Madame takes place in Paris, following the life of “Maria” (Rossy de Palma), a maid to a wealthy, but dysfunctional American family. After “Steven” (Tom Hughes) crashes his step-mother’s delicately planned dinner party, “Anne” (Toni Collette) is forced to dress up Maria as a mysterious and wealthy guest to even out the numbers.
When sparks fly between Maria and another guest, “David” (Michael Smiley), drama begins. Steven tells David that Maria comes from a wealthy Italian and Spanish family and is secretive about her real identity. David, later, swears to Maria he won’t reveal who she really is, causing her to believe that he knows she’s a maid. The two fall in love over the course of the summer. All the while, Anne and her husband, “Bob” (Harvey Keitel), are trying to break up the couple, while simultaneously both cheating on each other.
Despite attempting to play with the tropes in romantic comedies, this film only enforces the worst of the tropes. Each character is severely underdeveloped and many are written as direct foils to each other. Anne and Maria are a perfect example. Anne is the bitch, cold and calculating, yet secretly damaged — she’s bulimic and self-conscious of her looks as she ages. Maria is the lovable one, emotional and simple-minded, despite being able to speak three languages and giving up everything so her daughter can pursue her dreams. These descriptions are even a stretch, Anne’s bulimia is played for jokes in one or two scenes and Maria’s daughter is mentioned in two scenes, one line in each, and shown on screen briefly in another scene. Both women are severely underdeveloped, especially as lead characters.
Romantic comedies work because they lay out an intricate story by repeating important details and constructing a complex world around a more simple story. This film does the opposite; it asks you to remember a detail mentioned off-hand and does nothing to expand the world around them. While the closed off world could’ve been an attempt to subvert the expectations associated with the genre, the world outside of this summer in Paris affects the actions and motivations of each character, so the underdevelopment of the outside world only reflects in the underdevelopment of the characters.
Additionally, the film doesn’t take anything seriously. The best romantic comedies take themselves seriously, even if the audience doesn’t. This film blows off bulimia like a joke and constantly puts the two leading women as the punchlines. The romance in the film isn’t even handled seriously, with little effort put into its development. Maria and David having sex is both seen as romantic and as disgusting, used to slutshame Maria.
While attempting to put an interesting spin on the genre of romantic comedy, Madame both mocks it and badly recreates it. Written and directed by Amanda Sthers, every moment in this film feels underdeveloped and disappoints an audience looking for a genuine romantic comedy.
© Katharine Cutler (03/25/18) FF2 Media
Top Photo: Toni Collette as Anne.
Middle Photo: Maria entering the dinner party.
Bottom Photo: Maria and Anne have a conversation.
Photo Credits: LGM CINEMA – STUDIOCANAL – PM
Q: Does Madame pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Maria and Anne have conversations about the household, the children, and Maria’s daughter.