The Women On The 6th Floor
- Director: Philippe Le Guay
- Details: France/TBC (TBC)
Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey fans should like this French farce but its own tone, the silly nature of it all,proves its undoing as when asked to give a crap, a crap we cannot give.
Stockbroker Jean-Louis Joubert (Luchini) and his wife Suzanne (Kiberlain) live the pampered life in 1960s Paris, free of financial worries or concern for the private lives of the Spanish maids, who live on the titular floor of their building. That all changes when new maid Maria (Verbeke) moves in; suddenly the standoffish Jean-Louis takes a vested interest in the lives of her and her colleagues. He has their toilet fixed, allows one to ring Spain on his house phone and sets up another in her own apartment when he learns her husband beats her. They call him a saint, but this saint has a devilish eye on Maria's undergarments.
On paper Jean-Louis sounds like a letch, someone who starts out unlikeable and just gets worse, but Luchini's performance is so delicate it's impossible not to like him. With his permanently flummoxed frown, like he's still a boy who has just encountered his first adult situation, Luchini's portrayal is that of frothy fun. However, because he's so light and breezy, it's hard to take him seriously and with him his feelings for Maria, which is the driving force of the movie. The stakes aren't high enough and neither is our interest. This is Luchini through and through. His roles in Moliere, The Girl From Monaco and Potiche are pretty much the same and when casting the talented stage actor you're injecting your movie with a touch of absurdity.
The far more interesting story, the one that gives the movie its title, comes second. Maria is the focus for the women upstairs, all Spanish ex-pats who live in grotty rooms and share one blocked bathroom, and she has a far more interesting arc with having giving birth to a son that she was forced to give up. The rest of the women have stories too and all sound more interesting that Jean-Louis': Lola Duenes' parents were killed by Franco's troops and their bodies dragged through the streets!
Some moments just don't work: the maids all banding together to clean Jean-Louis' apartment as the radio plays Itsy-Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini is naff; Suzanne's sudden realisation of her bourgeois life; and the melodramatic final twenty minutes seems ushered in from a different film.
Fun with top performances, if The Women On The 6th Floor took itself more seriously we'd have a far better movie.
Review by Gavin Burke | 15:12 | Thursday 5th July 2012 | Movie Review
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