The Women on the 6th Floor (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/07/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Enjoyable, frequently funny French comedy with likeable characters and a strong central premise, though the script wobbles in the final act and the conclusion fails to convince.

What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Philippe Le Guay, The Women on the 6th Floor (Les femmes du 6ème étage, original title fans) is set in 1960s Paris and stars Fabrice Luchini as Jean-Louis Joubert, an uptight, unhappily married Parisian stockbroker who feels like his life is in a rut. When his equally miserable wife Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain, who seems to be in every French film around at the moment) causes their long-suffering maid to quit, she employs newly arrived Spanish girl Maria (Natalia Verbeke), the niece of Concepcion (Carmen Maura), one of a happy community of Spanish maids who live on the cramped sixth floor of their apartment building.

When pretty Maria catches Jean-Louis' eye, he ventures upstairs and meets all the women, becoming charmed by their easy friendship, their shared food evenings and their cultural differences. And when circumstances force him to leave home, he decides to move in with them, unbeknownst to Suzanne.

The Good
Fabrice Luchini has the haughty, somewhat cold act down to a T at this point, having played variations on the same character in his last few films (most recently in Potiche) and he's on fine form here, sparking strong chemistry with Verbeke, Maura and the rest of the superb supporting cast. Kiberlain is equally good (if ill treated, script-wise) as Suzanne, though the lovely Audrey Fleurot is sadly under used as Bettina de Brossolette, with whom Suzanne suspects Jean-Louis is having an affair.

The frequently funny script is full of great gags and there are some superb comic set-pieces, such as an early sequence where Maria, having been told by Suzanne to clean their entire apartment before she gets home if she wants the job, asks all the women to help her and they happily spruce up the whole place, Snow White-style, while singing along to Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. On top of that, Le Guay creates a convincing and likeable sense of camaraderie between the women, while not losing sight of the tragedy (e.g. Franco's regime) that caused them all to leave their lives in Spain in the first place.

The Bad
The only real problem with the film is that the script falters in the final act, pushing forward with a love story that doesn't really convince and, worse, ends up making the characters less sympathetic as a result. More frustratingly, it's easy to see how an alternative solution would have worked better – there's a key scene towards the end where the film could easily go one of two ways and it chooses the wrong way.

Worth seeing?
Despite some final act flaws, The Women on the 6th Floor is an entertaining and frequently funny French comedy with strong comic performances from a superb cast. Worth seeing.

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The Women on the 6th Floor (12A)
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Content updated: 18/10/2017 15:38

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