The Women on the 6th Floor Movie Review
In 1962 Paris, wealthy broker Jean-Louis (Luchini) and his wife Suzanne (Kiberlain) live in his family flat, oblivious to the Spanish maids who occupy tiny rooms on the top floor and gather in the park to gossip about their bosses. It's not until Jean-Louis and Suzanne hire new arrival Maria (Verbeke) to work for them that they discover this world of labourers. And Jean-Louis embraces it, finding new satisfaction in helping to make their lives better while flirting quietly with Maria. But Suzanne suspects something else entirely.
With the physical slapstick of the inverted upstairs-downstairs plot, the film often resembles a madcap farce. But it's actually more social satire, poking fun at middle-class people who think being late for the hairdresser is a cataclysm and simply can't imagine a life of quiet desperation. OK, this is rather joyful desperation: these Espanolas are hilariously full of life, bursting with attitude and intensely loyal to each other, unlike Jean-Louis and Suzanne's vile, spoiled sons who turn up now and then from boarding school.
Luchini effortlessly carries us on Jean-Louis' voyage of discovery. He's clearly constrained by a life mapped out by his father, so watching him engage his passion is inspiring. Verbeke is terrific as the strong-willed, sexy Maria, even if their chemistry is a bit unlikely. And the film is stolen by masterful Maura and Duenas, as the mother hen and bitter revolutionary, respectively.
Both are simply wonderful, as always, adding quiet layers to their characters' stories.
Essentially this a film you can sit back and enjoy without needing to think.
There are small moments that offer insight into the characters' social structure, but these are never laid on too thickly. And even the film's coda is a gentle, smiley sequence that drops its (unsurprising) plot bombshell so lightly that most viewers will miss it. Yes, it's pretty corny, but it's also the kind of effortlessly breezy cinema that France does to perfection.
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