Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Madame (3½ Stars)

Bob and Anne Fredericks are an American couple who live in a luxurious mansion in Paris. It's not clear how they made their money or exactly how rich they are, but they have three maids living with them, so they must be very rich. After all, how many people have servants in their houses today? That sounds like something from the 18th Century.

Anne is throwing a party for her friends. There are 10 guests, among them the mayor of London, a nine-year-old musical prodigy and an art appraisal expert. The aforementioned expert is David Morgan, who has come to check whether a Caravaggio painting that Bob is selling to a museum is really genuine. At the last moment Bob's son Steven, a novelist, arrives from London. That means there will be 13 people at the dinner table. That's unbearable for someone as superstitious as Anne, so she persuades her Spanish maid Maria to pretend to be a rich guest.

The impersonation works too well. David is attracted to Maria and asks her out on a date. The two fall in love, but Maria's true identity has to be concealed.

Despite my aversion to rich socialites I found the film, especially the dinner party itself, highly entertaining. The shallow small talk between the guests is hilarious. I had to chuckle at the racial arrogance, the English and the Americans looking down on one another while considering both their countries superior to everyone else's. Harvey Keitel is one of my favourite actors, but I found that Toni Collette carried the film as Anne Fredericks.

There are repeated allusions to the story of Cinderella. Can the poor maid Maria find her prince? Will the love story have a happy ending?

I would have given the film a higher rating, but I was highly disappointed with the final scenes. I walked out of the cinema feeling empty and disappointed. Please watch the film for yourself and tell me what you think.

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