Opening 30 Nov 2017
Some films are worth seeing for the simple pleasures of relaxing, and enjoyment. Oftentimes, those are also films that the layers of implications only become clear later. Just as some people have no idea how good they have it until there is “a bitter pill” to swallow.
Anne, Bob, and their children are spread out in grand-père’s Parisian house while Bob completes a business transaction. Doing what she does best, entertaining, the socialite is consternated to realize odd number guests are attending her evening dinner party. Short on time, Anne recruits her devoted maid, overriding Maria’s objections: “All women can lie… it’s in the smile.” Meanwhile, Bob confides in Steven, warning not to tell his step-mom whose patience with Steven is thin at best. Later, keeping an eye on Maria gets harder for Annem as the night wears on which distracts Anne from self-interests. Seated next to a Brit, Maria inadvertently forgets her strict orders; David is completely charmed. In the ensuing days, Anne’s tactics take unprecedented directions, just as Bob and Steven undertake their own directions.
Amanda Sthers’ screenplay subtext is deliciously subtil, just as her direction is formidable; she understands and respects each actor’s particular modus operandi. The delightful cast are fantastique: Keitel, the husband with a worrisome problem, and Collette as the control-freak, cagey wife are the yearning and learning couple trying to patch up a marriage; Hughes as the wiser than his years son; de Palma as the passionate maid with old-fashioned values; Smiley as the academic dandy; Merhar as the purveyor of additions to his collection, and trophy wife, Gillibert; Cann, as the comely teacher being taught, and supporting actors that support with verve. Cinematographer Régis Blondeau makes the most of showing off unfamiliar areas of Paris, as Nicolas Chaudeurge snips with aplomb.
Madame is enchanté, with a wicked twist at the end. To paraphrase an old maxim: Just who cut off her nose to spite her face? Amanda Sthers’ cleverly discrete ending sequence makes that obvious, and liberating. (Marinell Haegelin)