The Mad Women’s Ball Movie 2021
The Mad Women’s Ball (French: Le Bal des folles) is a French thriller film directed by Mélanie Laurent in 2021. Laurent and Christophe Deslandes wrote the screenplay. Laurent, Lou de Laâge, Emmanuelle Bercot, Benjamin Voisin, Cédric Khan, and Grégoire Bonnet star in the film, which is based on Victoria Mas’ novel Le bal des folles.
On September 12, 2021, it made its global premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, and Amazon Studios released it for streaming on September 17, 2021.
The Mad Women’s Ball Release Date
On September 12, 2021, The Mad Woman’s Ball had its global premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. On September 17, 2021, it was launched on Amazon Prime.
The Mad Women’s Ball Storyline
Plot Summary & Review
Two brothers in a high-society household in nineteenth-century France keep and share personal secrets. Théophile (Benjamin Voisin) is pressured by his family to marry a woman of similar social standing, but he is secretly gay, which only his sister is aware of. Given their close friendship, they may have a lot of trust for one another, but it’s probably simpler for Théophile to open up about his hidden life because her sister Eugénie (an excellent Lou de Laâge) has a gift that is likewise frowned upon by the era’s civilization: she is clairvoyant.
This is a fascinating first act juxtaposition in The Mad Women’s Ball that, in some ways, is more compelling than the insane asylum horrors that follow it, co-written and directed by French treasure Mélanie Laurent (adapting Victoria Mas’ novel of the same name alongside screenwriter Christophe Deslandes). While I don’t anticipate the story to follow Théophile after Eugénie is expelled from her home, the setup to this interaction feels underwritten and squandered. The narrative threat’s abandonment is so jarring that I wouldn’t be surprised if Mélanie Laurent added the character to this version just to find she didn’t have anywhere to go with him until it was too late.
Nonetheless, when assisting her grandma one night, Eugénie discovers a long-thought-to-be-lost heirloom. Eugénie tells her grandmother the truth about communication with ghosts when she asks how she found it. The next day, Eugénie’s mother wakes her up with some strange and concerned looks, then tells her to get ready for an event for her brother and his inevitable bride-to-be (someone she doesn’t agree with and has a habit of rubbing the wrong way with dismissive remarks about an upcoming ballroom ceremony she perceives as degrading to women). To her surprise, her father (and, against his wishes, her brother) are dropping her …
Eugénie is stripped naked and dehumanized within minutes, and she is deemed insane. Doctor Charcot (Grégoire Bonnet) also persuades others around him (including a team of ladies who believe in his heinous scientific research) that his hypnosis methods are the best approach to deal with “hysterical” women. It’s also evident that many of these ladies aren’t as nutty as the doctor would have you believe; some of them are outcasts from their families, have been admitted for misunderstood crimes, are mentally challenged, or have suffered tremendous trauma from sexual abuse. Eugénie immediately befriends Louise (Lomane de Dietrich), a lady who has been abused and has fallen for blatant lies.
The annual Mad Women’s Ball, which previously took place in real life, is the solution to that question. Such an event is designed to collide with Eugénie’s dislike, as it is now her sole chance for a night of enjoyment, albeit under twisted and humiliating conditions. An overhead perspective of the patients physically banging and knocking against one other to get to a crate of gowns first, claiming their claims, is one of the most iconic moments in the film. This is what passes for thrilling at a place of horrific torture, even if the whole process is designed to make the rest of society laugh at them.
With that in mind, it’s disappointing that The Mad Women’s Ball isn’t interested in delving deeper into the lives of these women, who all seem to have awful backstories and are worth learning more about. Instead, the story focuses on punishing Eugénie for not following orders (there is a sequence of cruel hypnotherapy that will give you the chills just watching it), doing everything she can to maintain her dignity (refusing to allow nurses to assist her in walking), and denying her ability to communicate with spirits. Eventually, she begins to converse with deceased nurses’ loved ones in circumstances that, while portrayed convincingly, always feel as if they do not exist.
Geneviève (Mélanie Laurent working triple-duty here) is one of the lead caregivers, and she has the most empathetic attitude, especially considering her wish to interact with a sister she sadly lost. Geneviève is given a significant amount of solo screen time, allowing a look into her private life living with her father, which works for the complicated bond growing between the two but also takes away from the more exciting terrors of asylum life and the forthcoming ball.
Even if it’s all intrinsically ludicrous, Lou de Laâge and Mélanie Laurent’s performances are grounded and cut deep enough to captivate the audience from the torture to the inevitable daring escape (with predictable results). One character is frantically clinging to her sense of self, while the other is having doubts about her work at the asylum. So it’s one aspect that The Mad Women’s Ball gets right, while the rest is either ignored or mishandled. It’s also difficult to suggest a film in which the fundamental story device of conversing with dead spirits lacks authenticity and appears to exist solely to advance the plot.
The Mad Women’s Ball Cast
- Lou de Laâge as Eugénie Cléry
- Mélanie Laurent as Geneviève Gleizes
- Emmanuelle Bercot as Jeanne
- Martine Chevallier as Grand-mère Cléry
- Benjamin Voisin as Théophile Cléry
- Cédric Khan as François Cléry
- Lomane de Dietrich as Louise
- Christophe Montenez as Jules
- Coralie Russier as Henriette
- Lauréna Thellier as Marguerite
- Martine Schambacher as Thérèse
- Valérie Stroh as Mère Cléry
- André Marcon as Dr. Gleizes
- Grégoire Bonnet as Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot
The Mad Women’s Ball Wiki
- Directed by Mélanie Laurent
- Screenplay by
- Based on Le bal des folles
by Victoria Mas
- Produced by
Lou de Laâge
- Cinematography Nicolas Karakatsanis
- Edited by Anny Danché
- Music by Assaf Avidan
- Production companies
- Distributed by Amazon Studios
- Release date
12 September 2021 (TIFF)
17 September 2021
- Running time 121 minutes
- Country France
- Language French