We all know that couple. Those cohorts that -on their own- are pretty terrible people. Together, they’re often worse, but for some reason, they work. Whether it’s shared interests or shared trauma, these two people who skate on the edges of polite and acceptable society, find a way to exist there together. Catherine Black (Louise Linton) and Tyler Jones (Ed Westwick) find their own sullied soulmates in each other in Me You Madness.
In Me You Madness, Westwick plays Tyler to burnout surfer-bro perfection. There’s a vacancy behind his eyes that gives way to a small glint of mischief, hidden well until Tyler needs to unleash it. Linton’s Catherine is a wildly over the top portrayal that I would have actually preferred to see a drag queen take on in the spirit of the campiness of the film. But Linton plays the ice-cold, ‘80s music-loving murderess with just enough tongue-in-cheek irreverence.
On a drunken night with a group of friends, the movie can be a fun diversion. Los Angeles looks majestic and wide, the cars and fashion are bold and extravagant. There’s a neon motif that adds impeccable lighting, the movie looks good. Westwick looks great, Linton looks beautiful and though the characters are sparse, they are diverse and well played. We even get a notable appearance from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny’s Shuya Chang, playing Catherine’s girlfriend.
The script has its moments, solid and to the point for the most part, though near the end it loses some steam. What begins as knowingly self-referential, fourth-wall breaking narration becomes semi-pretentious dance dialogue as the two prance around each other with chainsaws and knives. I mean, there are some solid lines in there, but less is often more.
It’s not bad, and it’s not great. It was even pretty entertaining, but there was an element that shadowed the movie and my experience watching it.
That said, the love and care that Linton has for the project shows on the screen. I was able to sit with her and Ed Westwick to talk about the project.
Louis Linton: There’s not a huge number of characters in the film, but diversity was really important to me. Both in front of the camera and behind the camera. I actually asked my casting director to make sure that we could find at least one trans person, people who were gay, bisexual, etc. Obviously, my character is bisexual. This is a very female empowerment movie.
The film does treat femininity in a very empowering way. The women are beautiful in a Los Angeles style “you gotta visit my guy, he’s a miracle worker!” type of way; every lash is pristine, heels inside your own house are de rigueur, but these are concessions in the pursuit of earthly pleasure. There’s a line where Catherine says she doesn’t mind dying alone, because she’ll have “stuff”. It really is a “goals” move and one I respect. However, it’s not implied that not having these things makes you less feminine, but rather Catherine wields her overt femininity like a weapon and uses it to counter the cold, aggressive business persona she has as a successful hedge fund manager.
Linton: You’ll notice that at the beginning of the film, everyone in the office is female except for one guy. That was very deliberate. I wanted the character to have this cool, diverse office of like a stylish, brilliant woman. That was so important to me. Catherine is a different kind of feminist.
I asked about how Ed Westwick of Gossip Girl fame how he got involved, and Westwick sprung to life.
Westwick: I got involved, quite simply, my manager called me. They were friends with Louise and said she’s written a script and she’d love me to take a look at it. I did and I was laughing and smiling through the read. I said, ‘I’ve got to meet the lady who wrote this!’. So I went along and we had a great chat. Louise shared her vision for the film and I saw her energy and passion for it. I thought, this woman is so brave and just full of great ideas. I‘ve got to do this, I’ve got to have a go.
Westwick also remarked it was interesting that the film was an outlandish comedy and as a performer, he’d always wanted to stretch his wings in that way. Linton interrupts him with high praise.
Linton: You are a brilliant comedic actor! Sometimes he made me laugh so hard, I couldn’t actually focus.
Linton goes on to describe a long day where Westwick kept the atmosphere light and bright despite the long hours. Linton feared it was her that was ruining the takes. But Westwick was there to get things back on track.
Westwick: I’m quite bipolar. I can go from being really incredibly serious and professional to an absolute goofball in one second.
Linton: If we’re not getting the day done because I’m laughing too hard he’s like, ‘C’mon Louise, let’s get it together!”
Here’s a clip of Linton talking about what draws Catherine to Tyler!
All in all, it sounds like a fun shoot creating a dream project. I asked Linton to talk about the inspiration for the film and for Catherine’s frosty demeanor.
Linton: You know, when inspiration hits, you just got to plow into it. I was just having fun, you know? The character of Catherine makes me laugh. In many ways, she’s a parody of… sort of the media persona that they’ve created about me. I mean I have a good enough sense of humor and I can make fun of myself, and that’s kind of what this movie is. It’s a parody, it’s satire, caricature.
It may be time to take a quick sidebar. Just who is Linton, and why has the media created a persona of her? More in that in a minute, but take note of the idea of the movie being satirical.
TG: In that vein, I think there’s a viewing of this movie that can be seen as a vanity project. How does this movie set itself apart from that? Or is that something that you revel in and you’re like, ‘I do what I want!’.
I said the last part cheekily, but Linton seemed to chew on the question thoughtfully.
Linton: I think that there’s an awful lot of people in Hollywood who produce their own movies. I think that because of who my husband is, people like to say things like it’s a vanity project, but actually, you know, I’m really proud of this film. It was a load of hard work. I directed it because I love directing and I wrote it and I really wanted to play the character of Catherine. So it’s less of a vanity project and more just… I mean, I only had myself really to write and direct it, I co-financed it myself, you know. I have skin in the game.
There was a pressure to these words, a passionate heat. They are the words of a woman ready to fight. The source of the provocation notwithstanding, she readies herself for critique that is not threatening, but instead inevitable. Linton loves this film, but she knows it will be affected by the atmosphere it’s released into. This was the added element to the film I couldn’t get past.
Louise Linton is the wife of Steve Mnuchin, former Secretary of the Treasury under Donald Trump and film producer who produced fan favorites like The Lego Batman Movie, Suicide Squad, and Scully. Linton got into hot water by posting photos on Instagram that depicted her as an out of touch socialite. As divisive as the Trump era was, she gained no favors by her excitement of having Trump and Pence at her wedding or becoming friendly with Jared and Ivanka.
She’s given interviews since apologizing for her crassness, but while her mea culpa appears genuine, there’s still a sheen of misunderstanding that covers her intentions and brings her authenticity into question.
It’s hard to really review a film like Me You Madness. It skates the line between vanity project and camp masterpiece finely, but I’m afraid the effort to define the film is mired by its participants.
I should clarify that Catherine Black is essentially a female Patrick Bateman. Linton even namechecks American Psycho in the script. The only difference is that while Patrick Bateman is a psychopath, he doesn’t want or need redemption. Catherine does.
And so does Linton.
We’ve seen when celebrities get into hot water, they try to mask it with good deeds or projects that show them at their best. Say a racial slur? Play an abolitionist. Be homophobic to someone in the LGBTQ+ community? Headline in the next AIDS biopic. Get caught up in a #metoo scandal? Star in a movie where a woman tries to kill you and you win her over by respecting her! Hollywood loves a redemption story, but this? Me You Madness is its own anti-redemption tale.
When Linton says Catherine is a satire of the media’s perception of her, my interpretation is that Catherine is the worst of anyone, and yet she still has the capacity for kindness, for compassion and love. And if Catherine does, then maybe Linton does too. I mean, c’mon, she’s not that bad. If you can root for Catherine in this movie, then surely you can root for Linton in real life, right?
I don’t know. Because while you can enjoy this movie on its own, once you know of Linton’s background, there’s no unknowing it. Suddenly moments in the movie take on different meanings. There are full-on music video length montages of Catherine sexy dancing to ‘80s music. She stares into the camera, daring you to say she’s not sexy. Daring you to say she doesn’t have it together. She’s bathed in couture, drives the hottest cars, and weekends in an architectural dream, but the feeling vacillates between “don’t you wish you could be like me?” and “don’t I look happy?”
The couple gets closer and closer to killing each other and then back off saying, “wait, should we get married?” And this conversation is happening between the couple, but also with the viewer. The participation is so blatantly mandatory that you find yourself wondering why the scene goes on so long. Is it because they’re waiting for me to jump in?
It’s an interesting play. Is it possible to plea for acceptance completely on your own terms and have it work? The movie is a visual feast for the eyes, but all of the pomp and circumstance just create greater potential for those neon lights to become lasers, pinning Linton and Westwick under a very scrutinizing spotlight.
Despite lightheartedly touting it as an outlandish comedy, Me You Madness isn’t irreverent enough to be full camp. Linton wants the film to be taken seriously. It really is beautifully shot, this movie is the very definition of effortful. This isn’t a B-movie misstep, there’s experience behind the production. But it’s that pride that refuses to cut the corners needed for this to truly be “good bad movie” material and too many emotional corners sacrificed for it to be a “bad good movie”.
It’s good because it has to be, it has a higher purpose than being simply entertaining. It wants to charm you, much the way Linton does naturally. However, even though the film does exist as a satire, there is a stated lack of introspection involved in the process. Catherine spends the bulk of the movie telling you how she is, but there’s little weight given to the effect this lifestyle has on her. Why does she need Tyler in her life? By showing us the character is aware of her own flaws, there’s potential to truly appreciate the transformation.
As a “film” it doesn’t fully gel together.
But, as a piece of performance art, or even an anti-morality play where the need for understanding trumps actual penance, it’s… interesting. Me You Madness encased in the political zeitgeist is an experience that is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking.
Linton, the Trump era socialite is not someone that I find easy to empathize with. But Linton, the philanthropic movie producer who cares about diversity and producing inclusive content is very intriguing. I just don’t know that one person can successfully inhabit both personas. But there are lots of phenomena these past four years that I never thought could exist so here’s to small miracles!
Me You Madness, distributed by STX, was made available on VOD starting Friday, February 12th.
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