“I am not alive; I only exist.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
… and when she allows herself to seek temporary solace in companionship with a male friend, her downfall is guaranteed. Unfortunately, however, because Holly is portrayed so sympathetically (she never stops loving her husband, and we understand that she never considered her friendship with Montalban to be anything more than just this), viewers aren’t given much to feel other than pity. And when, as a “free woman”, she turns down a chance for love and happiness with a wealthy European pianist, we realize that our tragic heroine is basically biding her time until her death.
Ironically, it’s only once Holly’s life goes completely downhill that Turner — never the greatest of actresses — begins showing some true chops. Her performance comes alive in the second half of the film, but the earlier scenes are less than convincing (particularly since Turner was much too old to be playing a newlywed socialite). Unfortunately, other performances in the film are equally problematic. John Forsythe (Turner’s husband) is so bland as to be practically non-existent; Keir Dullea as Turner’s grown son acts as woodenly as ever:
… and while Constance Bennett is effectively cruel (in what was to become her final screen role), she’s not on-screen nearly enough: once Holly is banished to Europe, we don’t see Bennett again until the final courtroom scenes, when she inexplicably appears to have tears in her eyes at the sight of her daughter-in-law.
Indeed, the entire denouement of the film — while exciting in some ways, given that we really don’t know how things will turn out — is ultimately unsatisfying, primarily due to an egregious error in logic: in a convenient yet highly unlikely twist of fate, Holly doesn’t learn that her lawyer is her son until the final tear-jerking day of the trial. However, one watches a melodrama like this simply for the emotions and colorful set designs, which Madame X has in spades. If you enjoy your dramas bordering on camp (typical dialogue: “I don’t give a damn about the past; the world begins with you and me!”), and consider gaping plot holes to be a necessary sacrifice for high melodrama, then perhaps this film was made just for you.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: