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Career > > 2017 > Madame


August 17, 2017 | Studiocanal | 90 minutes
Directed by: Amanda Sthers | Written by: Amanda Sthers | Cinematography: Régis Blondeau | Editing: Nicolas Chaudeurge | Costume Design: Sophie Baudens | Production Design: Herald Najar | Music: Matthieu Gonet
Adding a little spice to a waning marriage, wealthy Americans Anne (Toni Collette) and Bob (Harvey Keitel) move into a manor house in Paris. While preparing a luxurious dinner for friends, Anne discovers there are 13 guests. Panic-stricken, she insists her loyal maid Maria (Rossy DePalma) disguise herself as a mysterious Spanish noble woman to even out the numbers. But a little too much wine and some playful chat lead Maria to accidentally endear herself to a dandy British art broker (Michael Smiley).
Cast: Toni Collette (Anne), Harvey Keitel (Bob), Rossy de Palma (Maria), Michael Smiley, Sue Cann (Mandy), Joséphine de La Baume, Tim Fellingham (Michael), Violaine Gillibert, Stanislas Merhar, Brendan Patricks, Sonia Rolland, Fabien Roux, Ginnie Watson (Jane Millerton), Christian Abart (Chauffeur)

Production Notes

Novelist turned filmmaker Amanda Sthers has made a modern Cinderella tale with bite. “I start with story rather than character. The story leads me to the character,” she explains. “I wanted to explore two versions of femininity today. First, we have this woman who seems perfect (Anne, played by Toni Collette). She is beautiful, well married, looks happy, but the reality is that she has accepted the role that people have given her and you realise she is going to be replaced by someone younger and who fits more. As a woman, when you accept the role of being an object, you accept you will be replaced! On the other side is the character of Anne’s maid, Maria (played by Rossy de Palma). She is fighting for herself and her daughter and she is going to stand up for herself at the end and love herself which is not obvious at the beginning. It’s a happy ending but not in the stereotype way but in the modern way because she accepts who she is and says ‘No’ to what we expect her to become.”

In the film, an American couple is holding a dinner party to show off their wealth and culture and to broker the sale of a Caravaggio painting. The guests are a wonderful array of rather horrible types including a gold digging young woman hired as a French teacher to Bob, a smug gay English couple, Bob’s parasitic and alcoholic son, a wealthy but desperate single mother and a warm and funny Irishman who may or may not be sincere in his passions. The guests number an unlucky 13 so Anne orders her maid, a Spanish immigrant, to impersonate a mysterious aristocrat. The device is clever enough but when you cast Rossy de Palma as the guileless maid in a pool of sharks then you have a hilarious wild card indeed. It is Maria’s innocence and naturalness set against the racist, bitter and elitist group around her that throws up wonderful contrasts and debates at explicit and implicit levels about morality and worth. And it’s her precipitous affair with one of the guests that confronts everyone about their own cynicism and beliefs about life and love. “I had total power in casting, the constant fact in all cases is they are very good actors. I wrote the part for Rossy with her on my mind. Seven years ago, she saw one of my plays and she asked me to write a part for her. Toni and Harvey were my dream cast, it was like when you play lottery, I tried and I won! “For Toni to play Anne, this woman is such a horrible person I still needed us to have empathy for her. Toni has this quality of being so warm, no matter how bad Anne is, you still feel for her that underneath she’s a good human being. I saw Toni as beautiful and that’s how I filmed her but Toni needed a bit of convincing, for example on the first day of filming she has to dress in a maid’s outfit, but she didn’t get how pretty she is. But as an actress I believe her capable of doing anything. Harvey is the sweetest person. I thought he had a real potential in comedy and I wanted to explore it. I think it’s fun to bring people with this level of fame to places they’ve never been to before.

“Madame” premiered at the Sydney Film Festival and was theatrically released in Australia and the majority of European countries. The critical reviews for the film were mixed. While some liked the premise of the story, mostly Australian critics panned Toni Collette’s performance of the wealthy American – the Herald Sun calling it “one of the few complete performance misfires of her career with a very loud bang”.

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