Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published August 13th 2017
A romantic comedy that is neither
The concept of mistaken identity has been a standard thigh-slapping comedic device since Shakespeare - think of Twelfth Night or Comedy of Errors. It even made it's way into the world of opera - think Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.
In all of these servants ape masters, master don shabby clothes and are not recognised by their wives/husbands/siblings and so on.
As a vehicle for comedy it has one uniform failing. It's not funny. It is an elaborate practical joke, which invariably has an element of cruelty as someone is always humiliated, always embarrassed for the spiteful amusement of others.
However it is the basis for a new film written and directed by Amanda Sthers and starring Toni Collette, Harvey Keitel and Rossy de Palma entitled Madame.
It is billed as a 'romantic comedy', alas it is neither romantic not a comedy. In fact I couldn't say exactly what it is - possibly a satire on the shallow lives of the rich, a point which had been made well (and often) before.
It's hardly an examination of character, as almost none of the main protagonists have one, they have reactions - of greed, of selfishness and envy, but nothing faintly amusing or romantic.
The plot is simple, as these things go. A high-society matron (Toni Collette), a former golf instructor who has married money (Harvey Keitel) hold a dinner which, owing to sudden arrival of the husband's son by his first marriage makes thirteen at dinner - with me so far?
Because this modern sophisticated woman is also hag-ridden by superstition she forces one of the Spanish maids, Maria, (wonderfully played by Rossy de Palma) into pretending to be a guest. The son, in an impish moment, tells an Irish art expert guest that she is the Princess of the Asturias.
The ill-fated dinner party in Madame - Rossy de Palm in white
Despite the fact that the real Princess of the Asturias is aged eleven and daughter of the King of Spain, the art expert, David, who is there to 'authentisise' - I'm not joking - an old master that has to be sold because the family is down to their last two or three million ...
David predictably falls for Maria, who is lovely, although in no way conventionally pretty,. They start an affair which the audience is invited to laugh at because she's so plain (snicker) and he's so smoothly Irish and charming but deluded (guffaw).
There is much to admire in this movie - the direction is stylish, the filming (by Regis Blondeau) is superb and presents a vision of Paris seldom seen but deeply affectionate. Wardrobe and make-up are magnificent, but the plot and script is facile, hackneyed and riddled with cliche, the characters little more than caricatures.
If your idea of sophisticated humour is a plastic turd on the carpet, you will find this movie hilarious, otherwise stay away.