Movie Review: ‘Madame’ a Fitfully Fun Mistaken Identity Comedy
Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel headline Madame, a new lighthearted comedy about about a pair of hoity-toity American expats in Paris, but the film belongs to Spanish character actress Rossy de Palma, a longtime favorite of director Pedro Almodóvar.
Directed by French filmmaker Amanda Sthers, Madame features Keitel and Colette as Bob and Anne Fredericks, a wealthy American couple hosting a fancy dinner at their sprawling Parisian home in the film’s opening scenes.
But when Bob’s adult son Steven (Tom Hughes) invites himself along for the festivities, he boosts the number of dinner guests to 13. And, well, that unlucky number just won’t do, Anne decides, so she recruits their maid Maria (De Palma) to fill in as a mysterious guest.
Maria is initially terrified, but begins to open up after a few glasses of wine, leading to some inadvertent flirting with art dealer David (Michael Smiley) and and wildly inappropriate joke that draws some laughs... and gasps.
The lengthy opening dinner party scenes make for some great culture-clash comedy, and in the tradition of French films like The Dinner Game, could have even been mined to fill an entire feature.
But Madame has its eyes set on something bigger, and starts to take on a more serious tone after the party has ended: Maria, who has had something awakened inside of her, decides to pursue a seemingly-impossible relationship with David.
This leads to predictably confrontational scenes between Anne and Maria, along with some surprisingly touching ones between Maria and David.
And Madame has taken what might be a stereotypical comic relief character and imbues it with genuine thought and emotional resonance. And De Palma walks away with the film.
Only gripe: while Madame maintains a good balance of drama and comedy through most of the running time, the film’s final moments crib a key moment from Lost in Translation and start to take things far too seriously. The resulting climax isn’t exactly fulfilling.
Keitel is given surprisingly little to do here, but has fun in a more amicable role than he typically gets to play; his character’s live-and-let-live attitude, in opposition to his wife, embraces the spirit of the film and its Parisian setting.
But while Collette, three decades Keitel’s junior, doesn’t feel too out-of-place as his wife, romantic scenes between Keitel and an even younger actress (Joséphine de La Baume) verge on the creepy.