They’re taken for granted, treated like human furniture, even openly derided by those they humbly serve. But the Spanish immigrants who fled Franco’s regime, came to France and found work as maids in the ’60s managed to take solace in each other’s company and mutual complaining. Most of their employers-including Jean-Louis (Luchini), the fusspot owner of a building that houses many of these female workers-simply considered them the hired help. Yet once new recruit María (Verbeke) gets a job in Jean-Louis’s household, he begins to see these sixth-floor occupants as human beings and, eventually, friends-as well as exotic creatures bursting with pious faith, fiery passion and every other stereotype you can think of regarding screen foreigners teaching tight-asses to loosen up.
Credit where credit is due: Luchini’s character doesn’t stoop to, say, turning the servants’ stories of prole perseverance into a literary best-seller, and the blinkered self-congratulation on display pales in comparison with the acrobatic back-patting of The Help. But other than giving Almodóvar regulars Carmen Maura and Lola Dueñas plum supporting roles, that’s the best you can say about Philippe Le Guay’s trite-to-intolerable tale on the discreet eye-opening of the bourgeoisie. Throwing caricatures of snooty housewives and clichéd life-affirming Latin ladies together for crowd-pleasing supremacy is one thing; treating a businessman pulling a Thomas Jefferson with his servant as some swoonworthy romance for the ages, however, borders on penthouse-level offensiveness.