By Don Simpson | November 8, 2011
Director: Philippe Le Guay
Writers: Philippe Le Guay, Jérôme Tonnerre
Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain, Natalia Verbeke, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Berta Ojea, Nuria Solé, Concha Galán
Writer-director Phillipe Le Guay’s upstairs-downstairs satire begins with a series of video confessionals made by some Spanish cleaning ladies who discuss their specialties and limitations. This scene is one of countless examples of how Le Guay perpetuates the one-dimensional stereotypes of domestic help, and women in general. Essentially, working class women are only good for cleaning, cooking and screwing; and bourgeois women — such as Jean-Louis’ uptight wife, Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain) — are only good at being nagging bitches.
The Women on the 6th Floor is filled with a lot of mixed messages, just like its lead protagonist, Jean-Louis (Fabrice Luchini). Jean-Louis purports to be an advocate of the Spanish cleaning ladies, setting out to improve their living conditions and serving as their protector; but, when it comes down to it, Jean-Louis really just wants to screw his hot Spanish housekeeper, María (Natalia Verbeke). Jean-Louis goes to extreme [comedic?] lengths to bedazzle María, including relocating upstairs to the sixth floor to live among the hired help. While living in the cramped maids’ quarters, Jean-Louis experiences what he considers to be absolute freedom for the first time in his entire life — and then he finally gets into bed with María. Oh, and Jean-Louis ends up convincing all of the Spanish maids to purchase stocks and bonds from his investment banking firm, because the Capitalist machine is the only way to help these women shatter the rigid class system in France. Hurray! Success on multiple fronts!
The Women on the 6th Floor seems to want to be sympathetic toward the working class, but the story is told from the perspective of the bourgeoisie and it is Jean-Louis who turns out to be the savior and the winner. Putting the confounding facade of sociopolitical commentary aside, I am left with one question: Are we really supposed to take María and Jean-Louis’s relationship seriously? Other than his wealth, what would María possibly see in this man? Is this “romance” not the ultimate condescension of the working class?