Mnuchin’s Wife as a Killer Hedge Fund Manager Camps Up Trump Era
(Bloomberg) -- Somewhere near the end of Me You Madness, a movie starring, written, and directed by Louise Linton, her character explains why the people she’s murdered and dismembered deserved to die.
One is a pedophile, another is an MS13 gang member. And another? “Republican,” says Linton’s character Catherine Black, a sociopathic hedge fund manager. There’s an eight-second pause while Tyler (Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick), a petty thief she’s imprisoned and fallen in love with, exhales to let that sink in.
Catherine smirks, then moves on to her next victim. “Democrat,” she explains.
Linton, an actress, producer, and spouse of former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has made a movie that is, and is not, about being the wife of a high-ranking member of the Trump administration.
A self-described vegan and animal rights activist, Linton spent the better part of her husband’s four years in power stumbling into controversies of her own making. Shadowed by a self-published book about her trip to Zambia that was excoriated for its white savior narrative, in 2017 she posted a picture of herself on Instagram descending from a government plane, captioning the photo with her designer clothing brands.
After the inevitable backlash, she responded to an Oregon woman’s comment in a lengthy diatribe that included the line, “Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” (Linton later apologized.)
This would be irrelevant except that the movie, which Linton told Los Angeles Magazine she wrote in just two weeks, repeatedly alludes to her past controversies. There’s talk of paying (and not paying) taxes, references to political affiliation, and a throwaway line about “PC police.”
But Me You Madness is also just a movie.
Catherine, who informs us in a voiceover that “I am happy when I wake up because I remember that I am me and my life is incredible,” lures Tyler to her Malibu mansion under the flimsy pretense of needing a roommate. She then drugs him, falls for him, sleeps with him, and somewhere in there feeds him the sautéed testicles of one of her previous victims. That, in broad strokes, is the plot.
“You may think this is a straight ripoff of American Psycho,” she says in one of many breaks in the fourth wall. “And in some ways, you might be right.”
And that’s true, insofar as her character name drops luxury goods, works in finance, and is a murderer. But I’d suggest a closer comparison is The Naked Gun satires. The humor is broad, the slapstick obvious, the fart jokes numerous. There are even some dance breaks.
It’s one that defies a close reading: Catherine in her basement grinding against a severed, frozen limb to the tune of Deniece Williams’s Let’s Hear It For the Boy, which she then cuts with a table saw in preparation for dinner. Despite its weird joylessness, the scene is mesmerizing. It’s too knowing to be camp, too slick to be satire, but there she is, the wife of a former treasury secretary of the United States, shoving a severed head towards her crotch.
Must watch for that alone? Maybe.
Through all this, Westwick is mostly a nonentity—aside, perhaps, from an extended montage of him alone in Catherine’s house, gyrating in a pair boots, briefs, and a red silk dressing gown. Westwick’s reputation has already taken a few hits in the last few years; this film probably won’t help.
Linton, in contrast, is radiant. In the plot’s 48 hours, I counted her wearing no fewer than 20 separate outfits, at least six of which I would describe as “ball gown adjacent,” and all of which looked great. Indeed, multiple scenes appear to have been constructed around the outfits rather than the reverse. It was money well-spent on lighting and makeup, though it seemed to cut into the sound budget—I repeatedly had to skip back to make sure I could understand what the characters were saying.
Above all, Linton is eager, perhaps desperate, to show she’s in on the joke, to insulate herself from criticism. “My hope for this film is that it makes people laugh and reminds them of a time when we didn’t take ourselves so seriously” is her takeaway in the press notes.
She makes cracks about wealth, finance, the prison industrial complex, art collecting, wine collecting, and the IRS. Every moment is a supercharged wink at the camera, and no effort is spared to assure the audience that, yes, she’s familiar with the excessive, wild claims of business acumen and over-the-top glitter that characterized her husband’s administration, and no, she’s not a part of it.
For that very reason, though, Me You Madness is irrevocably tied to its writer-director-star’s milieu. The louder she tries to distance herself from the Trump administration, the starker her association with it becomes. Sometimes it’s not enough to say both Republicans and Democrats are equally deserving of reprobation or (wink!) murder.
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