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Women on the 6th Floor, The (DVD Review)

11 Mar, 2012 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Street 3/13/12
Box Office $0.6 million
$27.99 DVD
Not rated.
In French and Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Sandrine Kiberlain, Carmen Maura, Fabrice Luccini.

Set in Paris in 1962, The Women on the 6th Floor uncovers the dirt swept under the rugs of bourgeois French households, as it examines the dynamics between housemaids and the elitist people for whom they work. Spanish women, although viewed as second-class citizens, are the true masterminds behind orderly French homes.

The women are displeased with the way they’re treated, their dismal living quarters and their meager pay, but they continue to work hard without griping (only to each other behind closed doors, of course). It’s only when Monsieur Jean-Louis Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), who employs new hire Maria (Natalia Verbeke), makes an impromptu stop to the sixth floor that he becomes aware of their reality.

We see the once-persnickety, patronizing employer evolve into a relatable, caring friend. Jean-Louis immediately earns respect from the women when he brings in a plumber to fix their disgusting clogged toilet. The gaggle of maids — played by a memorable ensemble that includes Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Berta Ojea, Nuria Solé and Concha Galán — express their gratitude, while also giving Jean-Louis insight into their world. They teach him Spanish and feed him their favorite dishes, while he teaches the women about stocks and bonds, and continues his display of generosity.

Seeing the attractive, youthful maid often (more so than his wife), Jean-Louis falls for Maria, and the possibilities of a happier, romantic life with her. The middle-aged businessman has grown tired of his monotonous wife, Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain), and vice versa. When the couple part ways, the plot takes an unforeseen but interesting turn wherein Jean-Louis dives head first into pursuing Maria.

While the press materials mislead with its comparison of The Women on the 6th Floor to Disney’s The Help, the former remains a much-better-than-expected take on a common theme of a master-servant bond.

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