There’s a lot to love about Madame; it’s almost a modern-day retelling of Cinderella. Loyal maid Maria (Rossy De Palma) is roped in by her madame, Anne (Toni Collette), to attend a luxurious dinner party Anne is hosting. Anne’s marriage to Bob (Harvey Keitel) is on the rocks and she sees this evening as a chance to add a little fun back into proceedings, having their summer home in Paris frequented for the night by some of society’s finest. Except, due to the unexpected arrival of Bob’s son, and Anne’s step son, Steven (Tom Hughes), there’s now 13 guests. Maria is needed to balance things out, so Anne makes her over for the evening, in the process Maria catches the eye of a British art broker called David (Michael Smiley) which starts an unexpected love affair.
It’s not a perfect movie. Tonally it’s a tad uneven; the narrative takes its time through some things yet rushes through others, the story lightweight and the characters one dimensional. And yet, there’s something truly endearing about it. It’s littered with sweet and tender moments, usual featuring Maria in some capacity. She’s loyal, kind and honest. She’s a great friend, a hard worker and a good quasi-surrogate mother to Bob and Anne’s children. They love her just as much as she loves them. It’s easy to see why David is drawn to her, particularly when she’s surrounded by characters as unlikeable as Collette’s Anne, whom in turn gives great face. No-one does pissed off as well as Toni Collette; a state in which she spends the majority of the film as she cannot stand the blooming romance between Maria and David. Such is the extent of her disapproval that it’s driving force and focus point for the film’s narrative. Whilst her reasoning is somewhat understandable, the romance is built on Maria lying and posing as an aristocrat, the desperate measures she turns to are less so.
De Palma’s Maria is the heart of the film, endearing and immensely likeable. And, during one point when she is sat in a pink princess gown after hosting one of the children’s birthday parties scoffing down leftover food and alcohol whilst willing for David to finally text, immensely relatable. That sequence, along with her subsequent celebratory dancing followed by a ride in David’s open-top convertible fell like nods to Bridget Jones, be that intentional or otherwise.
Whilst the film may not be all that memorable, it’s weighted down by solid performances by excellent actors. Whilst it’s no socio-political commentary, it has the occasional and subtle observation of social expectation and cultural differences. Charming, with a handful of gags and a barrel full of heart, it’s the makings of a well-spent Sunday afternoon watching.
Dir: Amanda Sthers
Scr: Amanda Sthers
Cast: Toni Collette, Harvey Keitel, Rossy de Palma, Michael Smiley, Tom Hughes
Prd: Cyril Colbeau-Justin
DOP: Régis Blondeau
Music: Matthieu Gonet
Run time: 87 minutes
Madame is in avalaible on DVD and digital download from September 17th.