| This French comedy directed by Philippe Le Guay set in Paris 1962 is about new beginnings and broadening one’s horizons.
Jean-Louis Joubert (Fabrice Luchini from “Postiche”) has lived a sheltered existence with everything handed to him on a silver platter. His grandfather founded the brokerage firm that he heads up and earns commissions as an investment advisor in 1912. He resides with his class-conscious wife Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain) and their two arrogant teenage sons, currently away in boarding school, in the same luxury building where he was born.
The old family maid, Germaine from Brittany, has been employed for the past 25 years. Her loyalty was to Jean-Louis’ deceased mother. Germaine suddenly quits because she can’t get along with Suzanne and the contemplated interior decorating changes.
Suzanne takes the advice of her socialite friends that suggest she hire a Spanish maid.
Their world gets turned upside-down when beautiful Maria Gonzales (Natalie Verbeke) assumes the household duties.
The shy and reserved Jean-Louis is only fussy about his boiled eggs for breakfast. His day is ruined if they are not timed at precisely 3 ½ minutes.
Maria recently arrived in Paris at the invitation of her aunt Concepcion Ramirez (Carmen Maura from “Volver”). Maria has traveled a tough road in life. She left her village at age 16 to work for a family in the city. She then toiled 15 hours a day in a tobacco factory and slept on the premises in a crowded dormitory.
It feels like heaven to Maria to finally have her own room in the servants’ quarters on the sixth floor of the building. The title refers to the proud and fearless bunch of Spanish maids. Despite their mundane and sparse surroundings, they make time to sing, dance and celebrate life.
When Suzanne suspects that Jean-Louis has been having an affair, she kicks him out. He packs a suitcase and takes up residence in a small attic room on the sixth floor.
Jean-Louis gets caught up in a simpler and happier existence that brings joy to his life. These sassy senoritas bring out in Jean-Louis a more giving side of helping others.
This delightful slice-of-life observation on class distinctions will make you feel good inside. Le Guay, who also co-wrote the screenplay, took inspiration from his own childhood. His father was a stockbroker and he had a Spanish maid.
Luchini carries the movie as the central character with physical mannerisms that have a comedic bent. The perfectly cast supporting players exhibit top drawer acting skills.
Other strengths include the soundtrack, costumes and art design.
Maura won the 2012 Cesar Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was runner-up for the Audience Award at the 2011 Aspen Filmfest.
The dialogue is in French and Spanish with English subtitles. It is now playing exclusively at the Glenwood Arts.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"