No matter what is darkening your thoughts, clouding your innate glee, pulling you into a morass of gloom; “The Women on the 6th Floor” is a guaranteed elevator ride, scaling the tallest building, bypassing the minutia of the minute, leaving you on top of the world, flying to the moon, laughing, feeling your heart is fatter, fuller, richer for the ride. This is a FIVE STAR!!!!! French film: dialogue, warmth, humor, transformation keep the viewer riveted, never wanting it to end.
You have a potpourri of characters, genuine, likeable people; the women living on the 6th floor are the servants of the owners, luxuriating beneath; they work uncomplainingly from dawn to midnight at the discretion of their “masters”; their bodies might near exsanguination but their minds and spirits are alive and kicking, dancing the Flamingo. They hail from Spain (story take place in 1962), with salty, tangy tongues and peppered personalities.
“Maria” ( exquisite, Audrey Hepburn- type beauty, Natalie Verbeke), the newcomer who is hired by the “owner”, stockbroker “Jean-Louis” (Fabrice Luchini) and his wife “Suzanne” (Sandrine Kiberlain). A couple of hilarious scenes precede her employment; their housekeeper of 25 years berates Suzanne for how she mistreated her mother-in-law while alive; now ceasing to mourn, six months after her demise ; she flees opening a window of opportunity for Maria.
The enchanting Maria changes lives one day at a time, especially Jean-Louis and Suzanne: Jean- Louis breaks the shackles of the bourgeois existence that has chained him to a life of mundane predictability; Suzanne recognizes the restraints of role- playing as the wife of a successful business man, coming to terms, acknowledging the vitality of the “women on the 6th floor”; yearning to doff the drab, “dead”, sparkless hours, numbing the greatest pleasure of “sucking the marrow” out of life.
Jean-Louis’s metamorphosis is the core of this brilliant film; he flings with wanton abandonment the catatonic strapping’s of his life, plunges headlong, fearlessly helping “the women”, finds freedom and the perfect, consummate joy of “letting go”, forsaking the commandment of unnecessary responsibility. Watching him blossom is the most fun I have had visually in eons.
There is an archival expression about leopards not changing their spots. I left happy, immensely satiated, mentally singing, gratingly off-key; they can, they can, they can!!! Jean-Louis did.