Agonize all you want over the newfound popularity of the old revolutionary slogan “Eat the rich,” but available evidence suggests that it is, in fact, the rich who want to eat us. In Louise Linton’s grisly, stylized dark comedy Me You Madness, the writer, actress, and director plays Catherine Black, a sassy, sexy, and ruthless hedge-fund manager who has a predilection for fine-dining cannibalism and makes a killer “frat boy bouillabaisse.” Linton is, of course, the wife of Steven Mnuchin, former studio moneyman and Donald Trump’s loyal Treasury secretary. The identity of her spouse shouldn’t really be anybody’s business, save for the fact that Linton has gotten in some notable Instagram scrapes over the last several years involving her use of government jets and jaunts to Fort Knox and whatnot, which has only served to elevate her celebrity — to the point that her directorial debut is now some matter of interest despite a relatively thin Hollywood résumé.
To her credit, Me You Madness plays up the stereotype of the cold, fashionable, bestilettoed gazillionaire sociopath to the hilt, and Linton seems to be having fun with the part of someone addicted to “cocaine, Champagne, excessive exercise, sex, expensive shoes, and indescribable violence” — even if the viewer isn’t. “You may think that this is a straight rip-off of American Psycho, and in some ways you may be right,” Catherine’s rapid-fire voice-over admonishes us in the film’s early scenes. “We women are having a moment right now, and this is what we call in Hollywood an ‘elevated story concept,’ a.k.a., the same, but different. So shut the fuck up, turn off your cell phones, and enjoy the movie.” The whole thing is like this: one overwritten, obnoxious, hyper-self-aware rant after another.
A little of this goes a long way, but it can be particularly grating if the writing isn’t witty or interesting, and Me You Madness consistently seems to think it’s a lot smarter — and, for that matter, a lot crazier — than it is. The film opens on Catherine in a meeting with her underlings, berating them about their investment advice: “You want me to stick it in some shitty company that can’t even make its own down-revised earnings because its CEO, whose tiny balls are bigger than his brain, completely fucked their ability to turn a profit?” she hounds them, with motormouth contempt. Not long after introducing us to her lavish lifestyle, her fancy house, her exercise regimen, her Aston Martin, she intones: “By now, you’ve probably figured out that I am a materialistic, narcissistic, self-absorbed, preachy misanthrope. I don’t deny it. I may or may not have an undiagnosed personality disorder, which manifests itself in extremely antisocial attitudes and behaviors. I also have an acute lack of conscience.” Again, the whole movie is like this.
There is a plot, to be fair, and it involves Catherine and her next quarry, a grifter named Tyler (Ed Westwick) who pretends to be interested in renting a room in her palatial home. He’s actually casing the joint, but no worries, she is in turn casing him. After multiple costume changes, repeated cutaways to Catherine gyrating, and some montage-y hot sex, he’s smitten and has second thoughts about robbing her. There might have been some value to the cat-and-mouse back-and-forth between them … if there were any actual cat-and-mouse back-and-forth between them. The film eventually devolves into a series of vaguely violent standoffs that keep getting interrupted for more costume changes, not to mention arguments over whether a piece of furniture is a sofa or a couch, an explanation of all the various sins committed by those whose body parts are in Catherine’s freezer, an entire list of movies that feature guns (complete with quick-scrolling onscreen text!), and the relative merits of using a curling iron as a murder weapon.
There was probably a way to make all this stuff work — the chase interrupted by various digressions isn’t exactly a novel comedy concept — but it would have required some actual comic timing and a sense of pace, not to mention funnier, sillier digressions. But despite all the colorful outfits, the ’80s pop tunes, and the overzealous editing, the film just hangs there, unable to muster any comic energy or visual inventiveness. (There is one good bit, about how red wine is the only thing forbidden in Catherine’s massive all-white living room.) The sound design also plays up various effects — a whoosh here, a clang there, a cat screech there, even a couple of farts — as if to lend some Looney Tunes–style verve to the action, but that just adds to the dissonance, because what’s happening onscreen isn’t nearly fast or funny enough to warrant these audio punctuations.
Linton isn’t necessarily without talent as an actor: Her character’s cold insincerity is occasionally convincing, and she’s clearly trying very hard — all those verbose, speedy rants probably weren’t easy to memorize — but it’s not nearly enough to build a whole movie around, or for that matter a whole protagonist. We keep waiting for something interesting to happen, not just narratively, but on the level of character. But all Me You Madness has to offer are poorly written rants, indifferently staged action, and ill-conceived comedy. In the end, it doesn’t even deliver on the madness.
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