'Me You Madness' is Louise Linton's stab at whatever's beyond a vanity project

Posted February 12, 2021 6:51 a.m. EST

— As the wife of Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton seems to understand there's no separating the art from the artist, so her new movie, "Me You Madness," doesn't try. Instead, this whatever's-beyond-vanity project that she wrote, directed, produced and stars in winks at the camera so often you begin to fear for her eyelids as well as your own.

Instead of pulling away from her image as the Trump era's poster child for conspicuous consumption, Linton leans into it, in a horror send-up that name-checks "American Psycho" as inspiration, but which mostly resembles an extended perfume commercial or music video, possessing roughly as much substance.

Alas, there's not enough pleasure in the viewing to call it guilty, exactly, but the movie does conjure a strange sense of fascination in terms of the media-political nexus it unavoidably occupies.

The darkly comic, psycho-sexual thriller seemingly devotes most of its budget to two things: Licensing songs from the 1980s, and acquiring lavish wardrobe options for its central character.

Linton's Catherine Black spends the movie talking directly to the audience, describing herself as a hedge-fund manager with a long list of addictions, among them "indescribable violence." By way of introduction, she discusses how male spiders risk death in order to mate, then promptly tosses a rather large eight-legged critter into her mouth and eats it, offering a not-so-subtle preview of where this all might be heading.

Catherine meets a handsome younger fellow, Tyler ("Gossip Girl's" Ed Westwick), who is actually a thief casing her opulent house. She's well aware of his plans, and what ensues is a lot of sex, a fair amount of violence, and the likelihood that the two -- who somewhat claustrophobically share the screen for most of the movie -- will talk each other to death before it's over.

Yes, Catherine has a freezer full of body parts, and occasionally dines on them. But the tension, such as it is, hinges less on "Will they or won't they?" (they do), but "Will she or won't she?," in terms of adding him to her culinary collection.

It's designed to be ridiculous, which, unfortunately, isn't the magic talisman that Linton seems to think (or hope) it is in terms of warding off criticism. Satirizing this genre requires more finesse than the movie brings to it, and setting the aforementioned violence or a threesome to music isn't daring, but simply dull.

Beyond modeling a dizzying assortment of outlets, Linton appears determined to prove that she has watched a lot of movies, occasionally running a scroll of relevant titles down the side of the screen.

"I was not born with money, so I learned its value early on," Catherine says, explaining the character's infatuation with possessions -- perhaps her least objectionable excess. Given the fallout from Linton's 2017 pose with sheets of cash and her subsequent apologies, that dialogue almost sounds like the character is speaking for her alter ego.

As the New York Times reported, the movie was actually shot not too long after that much-dissected episode, so the timing of its release looks calculated to capitalize on Linton and Mnuchin's notoriety. Their connection to the Trump administration virtually ensures even negative reviews will gin up publicity and can easily be dismissed as axe grinding by the liberal media.

The none-too-bright Tyler, for one, generally sounds as confused as the audience is likely to be. "I can't tell if you're being funny," he tells Catherine not long after they meet.

"Me You Madness" serves as a reminder that you can clearly try to be funny, and still produce something that turns out to be kind of a joke.

"Me You Madness" is available on demand beginning Feb. 12.

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