Madame

 

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Herewith a French farce in English but without a single door slammed.

 

Madame

Noblesse oblige: Rossy de Palma - centre, in the white dress - radiates charisma

 

Writer-director Amanda Sthers has created here a very elegant comedy of manners, half romcom and half rom-tragedy. Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel play Anne and Bob Fredericks, a couple of rich Americans currently living in Paris but temporarily short of cash. Bob needs to sell one of his famous paintings, a Caravaggio, so in order to impress potential buyers they invite a number of high-flying guests to a dinner party. However, a problem arises when Steven (Tom Hughes), Bob’s son by his first wife, turns up unannounced, thereby making it an unlucky thirteen at table.

 

To avoid any possible ill-fortune, hostess Anne dragoons her maid Maria (Rossy de Palma) into making up the number to fourteen by pretending that she is of Spanish nobility. Against her will, Maria agrees to sit in and, surprisingly, she is a great success, especially with art dealer David Morgan (Michael Smiley) who takes an immediate shine to her. Anne objects to the burgeoning liaison between her maid and Bob’s potential art buyer, so sets out to split them up, feeling that Maria is both out of her depth and out of her class, too.

 

This is a story lightly touching on class and social manners that’s written by Amanda Sthers who here directs her first film in English. If it seems a tad old-fashioned, well, it is none the worse for that. Madame reminded me of Woody Allen on his European adventures in filming, jumping from one story to another as characters engage with each other. Toni Collette is cruelly imperious as Anne, the lady of the house; Harvey Keitel is, as you can imagine, the epitome of the self-made man; but Rossy de Palma is truly charismatic as Maria, who ultimately wins over everybody she encounters, either because of her innate goodness or because she is rumoured to be from Spanish royalty. Michael Smiley is all too credible as David, the art dealer succumbing to Maria’s charms. Tom Hughes as the wayward Steven provides the piece with irritating grit lurking among these wealthy pearls.

 

Beautifully shot by Régis Blondeau, the film is the personification of chic, while the cast are elegantly dressed by costume designer Charlotte Betaillole. Sit back, treat yourself and enjoy!

 

MICHAEL DARVELL

 

Cast: Toni Collette, Harvey Keitel, Rossy de Palma, Michael Smiley, Tom Hughes, Violaine Gillibert, Stanislas Merhar, Sue Cann, James Foley.

                                                                                                                              

Dir Amanda Sthers, Pro Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Screenplay Amanda Sthers, based on her story and adapted by her and Matthew Robbins, Ph Régis Blondeau, Pro Des Herald Najar, Ed Nicolas Chaudeurge, Music Matthieu Gonet, Costumes Charlotte Betaillole.

 

LGM Cinema/Made in PM-StudioCanal

91 mins. France. 2017. Rel: 20 July 2018. Cert 15.