Louise Linton’s directorial debut almost didn’t happen. While filming Me You Madness in November 2018, the Woolsey fire blazed through Los Angeles and Ventura counties and shut down production on the movie. “The fires ripped through that whole neighborhood,” she told KABC of Los Angeles. “It was so tragic and so sad, we didn’t even know if we could go back and film there, because we didn’t know if our location had burned down.”
Unlike some connected Angelenos, apparently, Linton did not get a personal check of the home where approximately 95 percent of Me You Madness was set. The Woolsey fire was especially destructive—the most destructive fire in LA County history and 295,000 people evacuated—in part because local governments were caught unprepared. A report from LA County in 2019 made it clear, according to the Los Angeles Times, that “residents must take responsibility for their own preparedness and safety, especially when multiple blazes break out.”
And, what do you know, the Me You Madness home was fancy enough to be spared. “Because it’s such an architectural home with steel and glass, it was one of the very, very few homes in that neighborhood that actually did not perish in those fires.” Basically, Louise Linton was both lucky and privileged enough that the massive government failures during the 2018 California wildfires wound up not being an especially huge deal for her. The historic fires only briefly stopped production on her movie.
The home in question is indeed quite architectural. As seen in various swooping overhead drone shots through the film, the home appears to be several football fields long, but only one story tall. It is Snowpiercer: The House. It also appears to be from an alternate timeline of The Office where Michael Scott got rich: The home is absolutely filled with neon, which occasionally reflects off characters’ faces when they’re talking. In an interview on a YouTube channel that has been watched by fewer than 175 people, Linton said she’d seen the house in another movie and wrote the script for that house. “It’s so beautiful,” she said. “It’s very representative of the character as well. She’s very tough, she’s very modern, she’s very cold, she’s very minimalist. Trust me, I dream of living in that house, too.”
I write about the house a lot here because it is, as the critics like to say, something of a character in Me You Madness as well. It is in fact the best character in the film. It is the only one affiliated with the movie that comes off unscathed. Me You Madness is a dull, boring, deeply unimportant film whose only saving graces are the house—which is weird, but sure, I’d take it—and the soundtrack, which features a litany of hit tunes from the 1980s and ’90s that must’ve cost a fortune to license. Imagine the passion project of a very rich and very confident woman without any evident talent or perspective, or a functioning sense of humor. Me You Madness is that movie.
Linton stars as Catherine Black, a powerful businesswoman who also kills and eats men for fun. Late in the film, she turns to the screen for a monologue about and why she’s actually doing the world a favor by killing these dudes—prison is expensive, she says, and rehabilitation isn’t possible. The plot of the film, which features so few characters it might as well be adapted from a Louise Linton one-woman show, involves Black having sex with a character named Tyler Jones, played by Ed Westwick. Yes, Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl is in this movie. He’s in it because in 2017 he was accused of sexual assault by three women and can’t get another job.
I first became aware of this film due to a tweet that went around earlier this week. I immediately knew I had to watch the film.
I watched the movie that night. I figured I’d enjoy it. I have a pretty high tolerance for bad media. I hate-watch some things. I have seen every Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. I have hours of infomercials saved on a hard drive somewhere. I can and frequently do get into something that isn’t particularly good. The movie I have watched most the past few years is Mannequin. I have seen nearly every WWE Studios film. In 2020 I watched all 242 episodes of Baywatch, plus the wrap-up movie and the execrable 2017 Baywatch remake, a movie that was worse than 241 episodes of the original Baywatch. Recently I have watched two different Spanish-language shows that appear to be a combination of Survivor and American Ninja Warrior. The other day I was screaming at my TV during a cornhole competition. I will watch whatever, in other words, and usually pretty much enjoy it.
Me You Madness was not a fun watch. It was not interesting. While the movie is bloody and profane, it’s also not particularly gory. It seems cheap. Catherine Black’s outfits—in a puff piece about the movie, the New York Times informs us she wears 42 of them—seem expensive but are not noticeably cool. (The Baywatch costume designers, working in the 1990s, had better fashion sense.) Rather than reference films she likes obliquely, Linton sometimes decides to just state the name of the film she would like to refer to, often in a monologue directed straight at the camera. Quentin Tarantino watched all the movies and made homages to them; Kevin Smith watched all the movies and made movies about the guys who watch all the movies. Louise Linton made a movie about the people who reference movies without really even knowing what the references mean. At one point, a list of movies just scrolls up the screen as her character names them. At some point, her voice is sped up so as to more quickly make it through the list.
And the kissing. The kissing!! Louise Linton very much did not want to open-mouth kiss Chuck Bass. Every sex scene in this film is a chaste encounter where she makes out with his philtrum.
The movie is a mess. There are innumerable dance scenes, both from Westwick and Linton, none of which are interesting. It is allegedly a comedy, but there are almost no attempts at jokes, even. There is one half-decent joke, and the movie immediately runs it into the ground. It features lots of fancy cars and furniture—rented, per the credits—but none of it is specific enough to be memorable. There is a ridiculous “happy ending” in which the two main characters, who appear not to have aged at all, suddenly have three children. (The Times article says she “falls in love and softens into a nice person.” That does not really happen, but whatever.) And I cannot put the film’s treatment of its two Asian characters better than Common Sense Media did:
Also, there’s a weirdly high degree of Asian fetishism and exoticization in the film. Of the very few side characters in the film, 2 of them are Asian, both are confidants, one a manicurist named Tien-Ting (Jimmy Dinh), the other a lover named Yu Yan (Shuya Chang). In every scene with these two Linton shows off her Mandarin and “downness” with Asian peoples. It feels odd and disingenuous.
You will be happy to learn Louise Linton open-mouth kisses Shuya Chang. She apparently just didn’t want to French kiss Chuck Bass.
Every review of this movie includes the disclaimer that Linton is the wife of Steve Mnuchin, former Treasury Secretary. I don’t really think that matters, honestly. Sure, Linton says “family and friends” funded the movie, and since more than half the audience for the premiere left before the film was over, they surely lost a lot on this film. But all of those people likely have money to spare; Linton herself grew up in what Elle described as “a small castle.” Mnuchin has produced a lot of movies, some good and some bad, but his name is not on the credits here. Me You Madness stands on its own. This is Louise Linton’s film, and while it was perhaps the worst visual experience of my entire life, it is also a clear directorial statement. It’s just not saying anything that anyone would want to hear.