REVIEW: Rossy De Palma does English in Madame

Every actor in the strange ensemble comedy Madame is someone who deserves to hit the screen more often: The consistently reliable Toni Collette, the (as of late) little seen Harvey Keitel, Almodóvar mainstay Rossy De Palma, and Brit character actor Michael Smiley (Kill List). They all are a treat to watch, but are poorly served by a movie with considerable identity issues: Is it a comedy of manners? Slapstick? Drama?

Madame is set in Paris for no discernible reason beyond the sights. Bob and Anne (Keitel and Collette) are an American couple enduring unspoken crises: Bob is short in cash and forced to sell his beloved Caravaggio. Anne, his aging trophy wife, is sexually frustrated and considering an affair. They are preparing a lavish dinner that may solve their problems when they realize there are 13 sits at the table, a harbinger of bad luck.

To solve the impasse, Anne dresses the maid, María (De Palma), in haute couture to pass her for a Spanish socialite. As the classic romantic comedy trope goes, María’s earthy charms captivate the guests, particularly a British art broker (Smiley) unaware of the ruse.

Even though the setting is ancient, De Palma makes it work. She is a delight as the reluctant accomplice, whose religion-based misgivings fall by the wayside one by one. Unfortunately, Madame is not her movie: Keitel and Collette have storylines that never take off. The Anne character could have been a delightful villain. Instead we have to put up with her run-of-the-mill midlife crisis. Also, one shouldn’t cast the star of Bad Lieutenant to play the straight man in anything. Kind of a waste.

The film is intermittently amusing and sticks the landing with a beauty of a gut punch. The moral of the story: When in doubt, go with Rossy. Two earthy prairie dogs.

Madame opens today Friday the 13th in Regina, at the Rainbow Cinema Golden Mile – Studio 7.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.