Showing at the Glasgow Film Festival is the comedy/drama Madame. It is one of these films that tend to pop up every do often that feature an an array of acting talent but without any real pre-release hype. Sometimes that this is a sign of a turkey but in the case of Madame it is probably just that the film is still on the festival circuit and the hope is that good reviews will lead to a bit of buzz before any major release.
Anne (Toni Collette) and Bob (Harvey Keitel) are wealthy Americans living a life of luxury in Paris. As they arrange a large dinner party they find that there are thirteen gusts due to attend. In a panic Anne coerces her long term maid Maria (Rossy de Palma) into attending as a minor Spanish noble woman. She catches the eye of one of the guests who becomes infatuated with her. This causes a real problem for the household as Maria practically runs the place. With her distracted things don’t run so smoothly and her boss is worried that her last minute fix may cause long term problems within the house and within her social circle.
This is a mixed up film consisting of a comedy of manners and elements of romantic drama. It is roughly a 50/50 split in terms of screen time. The comedic elements are light which makes the situations more realistic. There is no over the top scenes to spoil the enjoyment. The main thrust of the romantic drama is the trials of Maria but there are at least two sub plots that examine the marriage of Anne and Bob. On the surface they appear to the definition of a stable union. Just below the surface we get a look at the reality in all its rather seedy detail. Anne is pursuing an affair with the husband of one of her close friends while Bob is using the excuse of learning French to have romantic trysts with the much younger tutor.
The star of the show is Rossy de Palma. She is a mainstay of the films of Pedro Almodovar. Rossy is an imposing presence given her striking looks and height. She has great comic timing which she uses to the best effect here. It’s not all comedy as Maria finds herself in a tricky situation not of her making. She is beholden to her boss with regard to education of her daughter back in Spain. So, the potential romantic interlude is a source of strain for her. Rossy plays it very subtly, never giving in to the temptation to go over the top.