starring Ed Westwick, Louise Linton
written and directed by Louise Linton
by Walter Chaw Louise Linton's Me You Madness is a particularly fraught and grim fandango seeking to walk the line between self-parody and self-aggrandizement. It dances along the edge of a blade, this one, with the kind of extraordinary privilege afforded the fabulously wealthy, powerful, and beautiful. On the one hand, you're making fun of your ridiculous luck; on the other hand, or maybe the same hand, you're rubbing everyone's face in it. False modesty is dangerous--and unsuccessful self-satire is the most deluded manifestation of it. Shit, successful self-satire isn't that great, either, because it suggests that one's station is so elevated it can be a target of satire. So is Me You Madness terrible? It's fabulously terrible, calamitously terrible. It's also genuinely fascinating as both symptom and diagnosis of exactly what's wrong with the particular strain of capitalistic excess embodied by Linton and her vile husband, Steve Mnuchin. These are the architects of the end of the world, and this is evidence that they're aware of it but don't quite know what it is that they know.
What we know is that Linton has written, produced, directed, and cast herself as hyper-intelligent ("I have an IQ of one-seventy-three"), super-toned ("I can do 1000 butt crunches!"), multi-lingual, cannibalistic (literally), hedge fund-managing, fourth-wall-breaking serial killer Catherine, named after the Sharon Stone character in Basic Instinct. Is there an icepick scene? You bet. Indeed, there are several references to other films here, though Linton is careful to call them out. "You might say this is just American Psycho. Maybe it is." Yeah, it's the intentional/unintentional, documentary version. Me You Madness opens with a boardroom sequence in which Catherine dresses down the only male member of her finance think tank (Joel Michaely), and, just as a theory begins to coalesce, she clarifies that she's not dressing him down because he "has a penis" but because he's a fucking idiot. She will later grope a sleeping guy and say something to the effect of this is the first time in history you're seeing a woman sexually harass a man (which ignores Disclosure, another foundational text for this type of thing), and then say the PC police should shut up because it's fucking hilarious. It's hard to suss out whether it's meant to be "fucking hilarious" or if this is part of the satire of a rich, terrible, sociopathic person Linton is trying to pretend she isn't by recognizing that she is in a lighthearted way meant to indicate that she isn't really. But maybe is.
All of it is like this. When Catherine chips a nail, she phones her Vietnamese nail person in a rage but, get this: in a stunning twist, the nail person is a man, Tien Minh (Jimmy Dinh). Catherine chews him out in his native tongue, and after they hang up, he calls her a bitch in her native tongue. Later, as he's fixing her manicure at her Ex Machina estate, they engage in a game of trivia in which Tien beats Catherine. You see, he's servile and beholden to her whim, but he's smart. This is somewhat impressive. The next scene finds Catherine speaking Mandarin with her Chinese girlfriend, Yu Yan (Shuya Chang), who is set up as a sex fantasy, more or less, which is not the slightest bit impressive. If the image of a man being objectified is a relatively rare one in cinema, the image of an Asian woman cast this way is commensurately common, and never not damaging. If the whiplash between a good intention and an unexamined bias is exhaustingly common, it's whiplash just the same. It bears mentioning that Catherine keeps a frozen cadaver in her freezer trunk that she defrosts bits of now and then to serve as gourmet dishes to unsuspecting boy toy Tyler (Ed Westwick), whom she's planning to kill and eat but catches herself falling in love with. It bears mentioning, too, that this film has the soundtrack WW84 should've had (New Order, The Cure, The Pointer Sisters, Deniece Williams, Duran Duran), and the fact of it--of how expensive licensing some of these songs must have been--is itself walking the same sort of tightrope between effective parody and "fuck this person."
Linton provides herself multiple scenes of working out in Olivia Newton-John's '80s outfits, complete with close-ups of her glutes in the kind of pornographic detail that demonstrates she is aware of how this is at once ironic and extraordinarily vain. When I was a DM at Starbucks, our Regional Vice President made a self-deprecating joke about her Jimmy Choo stilettos, worth somewhere north of $1,000 a pair, sticking out in a room full of people making about $40,000 a year. Me You Madness shows off this woman's extraordinary wealth and possessions, her health-club body, and her cosmopolitan tastes in a humblebrag of a film that she willed into existence through the power of her blindness to how much people hate her. The film is actually quite brilliant, albeit accidentally, in equating the accumulation of wealth to sociopathy, cannibalism--all forms, ultimately, of unchecked consumption. It does this by being the product of a sociopathic cannibal. Linton is a glutton making fun of herself, but there's still nothing left for anyone else.
Be that as it may, Me You Madness is still better than WW84. (Honestly. In every way.) And just as there will never be any consequences for Mnuchin's looting of the Treasury, there will be no consequences for Linton giving herself scenes where she lists dozens of gun movies to the tune of Jermaine Stewart's "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" (too late, she already enthusiastically has), or figures out that she has the capacity to love to Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love." In one of many verbal runs she gives herself--the logorrheic version of those workout montages--she scoffs at the idea of starting a charitable foundation instead of spending her money on obscene indulgences: "I'm a self-serving, materialistic, narcissistic, homicidal sociopath, Tyler. I mean, a charitable foundation is not exactly in keeping with my character." See, she says that as a joke, but is she joking? That, again, whiplash paves the way for the ending from Thomas Harris's Hannibal, marking Me You Madness as a braver commentary on its characters than Ridley Scott's adaptation of the same. It's difficult to explain why any of it works except to say that if one wants a movie about a sea cucumber, one should let a sea cucumber make it. Hang around for a credits sequence featuring Thompson Twins and a series of influencer selfies charting the unchecked proliferation of wealthy scumbag spawn, because of course. Me You Madness is an essential text, a movie satirizing excess that is the product of excess. It is our madness, the American scream. Hail to the queen, baby.