The Mad Women’s Ball Review – Toronto International Film Festival

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In the strange spirituality of Crazy Women’s Ball, a merciless medical system, and the systemic abuses women have suffered in the past from men in power come together in a chilling dance. In her film, writer-director-actress Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds and Take a deep breath) takes a cold look at how medicine and psychiatry have used women as the scapegoats and laboratory rats of progress without the essential foundation of care and understanding.

Crazy Women’s Ball revolves around the free-spirited Eugenie. Her audacity and independent spirit make her in 19th century France. In the asylum, Eugénie meets women of all ages – some seek help with a variety of ailments, others were brought there to be forgotten. What awaits them all is a system of abuse, condescension, and dehumanization.

True to the form of a historical drama, this film is an elegantly compiled film that uses the backdrop with glorious effect. Lou de Laâge and Mélanie Laurent are downright magnetic and bring warmth and calculation to their respective roles. The result is an unlikely friendship that reads well on screen and sells the balance between spirituality and science that Crazy Women’s Ball depends.

Wrapped in this story of the ugly truths of institutional abuse is a gentler story of what it means to be truly healed. Care arises from connection and friendliness and the desire to help others as best you can. The poetic irony of this film is that each of the “crazy women” turns out to be a better healer than any of the doctors overseeing their treatment. These women tell stories, protect one another, and offer all the gifts they have to support their sisters. It has such an impact and it’s a message that hits a contemporary nerve.

Crazy Women’s Ball has several commendable attributes that make it an absolutely competent drama. The film is decidedly feminist and even goes so far that it comes into contact with “girl power”. This is not necessarily a sign against the film, but a thought that should be reconsidered when looking at the film holistically. The movie is good … but it’s very superficial. The film is just beginning to skim the surface of its core themes and offers abuse as punctuation of the meandering plot. The runtime doesn’t feel entirely justified as, despite its grandeur, it doesn’t say much.

It is difficult to make an unequivocal decision Crazy Women’s Ball. The depictions of the feminine connection and shared experience are beautifully done and make sense of the exercise. The film doesn’t boldly venture into the darker shades of its subject, however. The end product is a great actor piece that is a bit hollow in the middle.

Crazy Women’s Ball shown at the Toronto International Film Festival 2021.

Crazy Women’s Ball

6/10

TL; DR

It is difficult to make an unequivocal decision Crazy Women’s Ball. The depictions of the feminine connection and shared experience are beautifully done and make sense of the exercise. The film doesn’t boldly venture into the darker shades of its subject, however. The end product is a great actor piece that is a bit hollow in the middle.

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