Madame Review
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While there are some things that belong just to the rich, love is not one of them. Romance has no salary requirements. But in the French comedy Madame, when a maid falls in love, her jealous employer sets out to bring an end to it.

Madame stars Toni Collette as Anne Fredericks, a wealthy American who lives on a grand estate in Paris with her husband, Bob (Harvey Keitel), and their young children. As Anne is preparing for a dinner party with the couple’s most fabulous friends, she learns that the number of guests is an odd number: thirteen. Determined to make the evening perfect, Anne orders faithful maid Maria (Rossy de Palma) to join the party, quietly posing as an old friend. But rumors, mischief, and wine lead to an unexpected romance that Anne is determined to end.

  
 
The set-up here is amusing: the clueless American places a member of her staff in an uncomfortable position, the mischievous stepson meddles into her plans, and the couple’s art dealer unknowingly falls in love with a maid whom he believes to be a noble woman. It’s a romantic comedy about secrets and misperceptions with deeper messages about love and societal expectations—and it’s all beautifully filmed.

In this unlikely love story, it’s hard not to root for Maria. She’s an entirely charming character: a focused, hard-working woman who will do anything to support her daughter’s dreams. But her new romance makes her dream of something more: of a better life with someone who loves her just the way she is.

Anne, on the other hand, is unlikable in nearly every way. She’s elitist and condescending: a woman who insists on having the best of everything. She seems to believe that her wealth and standing make her more entitled to love and respect and happiness than anyone else—so Maria’s happiness infuriates her. And though her obsession sometimes plays out in humorous ways, Collette holds back just a little too much, not allowing her to be the absurd character that she should be.

Keep in mind, meanwhile, that this is a French film—not the typical Hollywood rom-com. The characters don’t do the things that you’d expect, and the end isn’t what you might predict. Though it has its madcap moments, it’s slower and more melancholy than the typical American comedy. And while that makes it more realistic, it will most likely disappoint most mainstream audiences.

Madame isn’t the fun-filled comedy of errors that audiences might expect. Though it certainly has some playful moments—and one endearing character—its elitist main character and unexpected story make it less than lovable.


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