Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Women on the 6th Floor (2010) ***

This little international dramedy, in French and Spanish (with subtitles of course), tells the story of a bourgeois French banker.  His family owns a floor in a fine, Parisian building in which all the maids are housed in dormitory-like quarters on the top floor.  Mr. Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) has spent his entire life in that very building, yet he has never paid any attention to all those women on the 6th floor.  This changes when his family hires a new, Spanish maid.  Maria (Natalia Verbeke) is beautiful and confident, and she knows how to boil an egg.  Mr. Joubert is so intrigued by her that he gets drawn into her life and the lives of the other maids.  All Spanish, they turn out to be a fun, lively group, and their friendship makes Mr. Joubert reappraise his way of life even as his attraction to Maria threatens his marriage.  Meanwhile, his friendship with the maids triggers something of an awakening in his wife, as well.
In a sense, the story is perhaps a bit sentimental, celebrating as it does the simple, life-affirming ethos of these working-class women over the bourgeois lifestyles of their employers.  Fortunately, the actors are charming enough to get away with such a cliché.  I had never heard of Fabrice Luchini before, but I get the feeling he is somebody special in France.  His looks are very ordinary, but he radiates a humanity and charisma that make him imminently watchable.  He reminds me a bit of Paul Giamatti or Argentinean actor Ricardo Darin.  Natalia Verbeke holds her own well opposite Luchini, and Sandrine Kiberlain manages to make Mrs. Joubert rather sympathetic.  “The Women on the 6th Floor” is not groundbreaking, but it is funny and quite enjoyable.

3 stars

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