The idea behind this French farce sounds promising: an uptight man in 1960s Paris discovers there is life beyond an unfulfilling bourgeoisie lifestyle. But guess what? It is the poor Spanish maids upstairs who are truly living! They might not have much other than their mops and irons but they have each other, and a zest for life. We know this because they perform their housework to Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, and make a lot of noise when enjoying what little downtime they have. More
What is an occasionally charming upstairs/downstairs comedy that calls to mind last year’s big hit, The Help, is overshadowed by one unintentionally creepy relationship. Star Fabrice Luchini, 60, is a veteran of French cinema whose fortune might explain his distracting set of veneers. Thankfully, the leery smile doesn’t appear while he is watching the much younger maid Maria (Natalia Verbeke) bathe nude. His character Jean-Louis’ desire to improve the lives of his headstrong servant and her hardy Spanish friends could be seen as no more disturbing in terms of power imbalance than My Fair Lady but the romance comes off feeling exploitative, uncomfortable and unconvincing.
That’s not to say The Women on the 6th Floor is completely un-enjoyable. Despite its heavy-handed way of suggesting that the wealthy can throw off the shackles of their status and enjoy life by downsizing, it has a knowing humour and the cast put in good performances.
It fares better when exploring Jean-Louis’ relationship with his wife, Suzanne. Actress Sandrine Kiberlain deftly shows a superficial, flawed woman undergoing an identity crisis. Pity her husband wants to shag the maid. Hide