Opinion: ‘Me You Madness’ is Louise Linton’s Valentine to herself

It’s hardly shocking that Louise Linton, wife of ultrawealthy former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, chose Valentine’s Day weekend as the perfect date to release her feature film “Me You Madness,” a special gift to the person she loves most: Herself.

“Me You Madness” bills itself as a dark comedy, but Linton seems to be the only one in on the joke — it’s hard to imagine anyone watching this serial murder celebration and laughing, other than its writer/director/producer.

But that probably won’t bother Linton, who has crafted a career as a kind of performance artist of self-indulgence: The daughter of a wealthy Scottish developer, she burst into the public spotlight in 2016 after self-publishing “In Congo’s Shadow,” her memoir of a college gap year in Zambia, which she described in its Amazon synopsis as the “compelling coming-of-age story” of “a ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair'” who travels to “darkest Africa” and “learns that friendship can transcend race, age, and history.” The book’s handful of readers pointed out its blanket factual inaccuracies and condescending, White-savior tone, and it went viral as a diamond-dusted example of staggering privilege, until Linton finally pulled it from virtual shelves.

Stories like this flare up and fade away just as quickly, and Linton’s likely would have as well, if it hadn’t been for her marriage to Mnuchin, and Mnuchin’s subsequent appointment by ex-President Donald Trump as secretary of the Treasury immediately thereafter.

From there, Linton stumbled through a series of “Let them eat cake” controversies, including Instagramming a photo of herself returning from a trip to Fort Knox tagged with an array of luxury items in her wardrobe, and posing gleefully with Mnuchin holding a freshly printed sheet of uncut currency. But now, with the release of “Me You Madness” — a product of her personal production company Stormchaser Films — it has become a lot less clear whether these entitlement eruptions were accidental, or merely early guerrilla marketing for this incredibly bizarre vanity project.

Since the trailer was released a few weeks ago, Linton has been actively promoting the film as a satirical combination of wry mea culpa and clap back at her critics. Having expended several regretful hours watching it, it’s clear that it’s both of these, and neither.

Spoiler warning, for anyone who thinks this movie could possibly be spoiled further: The film focuses on Catherine Black, played by Linton as a kind of neon cartoon of herself (or, she might argue, how she’s been falsely depicted in the news): Catherine is a narcissistic conspicuous consumer of both material possessions and men, in the latter case, quite literally — she has a freezer full of severed male body parts, which she and her Chinese BFF/accomplice/female sex toy Yu Yan (Taiwanese American actress Shuya Chang) gleefully dine on in gourmet meals prepared, naturally, by Catherine herself.

Things get complicated when Tyler, a hunky would-be thief played by British actor Ed Westwick, enters the picture — with a dubious blue-collar American accent.

Ed Westwick and Louise Linton in 'Me You Madness'

Much of the unhinged remainder of the film is alluded to in the trailer: Catherine and Tyler have sex, fight, have more sex, brandish various weapons — in one already-infamous scene Catherine whirls nunchucks while explaining that they’re “cool” because Bruce Lee used them, and Bruce Lee is cool — but everything ends happily in the end, as Tyler ends up embracing Catherine’s way of life, making the threesome with Yu Yan permanent (they celebrate with a vegan dinner, with the clumsy joke being that the dinner is in fact a vegan) and then turning it into a quartet with the credit-sequence arrival of Tyler and Catherine’s cutie-patootie baby.

It’s hardly new stuff, even as a shock-tactic black comedy. Murder and cannibalism as a comic metaphor goes back to Jonathan Swift’s modest proposal, and has remained a popular concept ever since, in musicals like “Sweeney Todd,” movies like “Delicatessen,” “Eating Raoul,” “The Cook, The Wife, The Thief and His Lover” and entire franchises like the vast canon of Hannibal Lecter.

Ed Westwick (back to camera) and Louise Linton in 'Me You Madness'

Sometimes it’s the rich eating the poor. Sometimes it’s the poor eating the rich. Sometimes it’s the interesting eating the boring, or the sophisticated eating the crude. “Me You Madness” purports to focus on gender, with a very specific pop culture antecedent — which is even noted in one of the movie’s many fourth-wall breaking moments, as Catherine says that “If you’re thinking this is a straight rip-off of ‘American Psycho,’ in some ways you may be right. But this is a woman’s tale.” (In one early scene, Catherine publicly eviscerates a chubby loser on her hedge-fund team — figuratively, in this case — whose name turns out to be Patrick, undoubtedly a reference to “American Psycho” protagonist Patrick Bateman. The point being perhaps that Catherine, the movie’s Batewoman, outmans Bateman.)

So this is Linton’s ultimate girlboss movie, her paean to independent womanhood, or something.

But if Linton’s claims of telling a “woman’s tale” are made questionable by her unique privilege, her assertion that her “inclusive” team seeks to “celebrate diversity” (as she said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter) is simply laughable: Linton has apparently learned nothing from the backlash after her 2016 book release.
Linton's clueless post has a dark side

Every major speaking role in “Me You Madness” is White (the only Black thing in the movie is Catherine’s last name, though it’s an act of mercy to Black actors that they were excused from this fiasco), with two prominent exceptions: Catherine’s sister man-eater Yu Yan, and a Vietnamese male manicurist named Tien, played by Jimmy Dinh.

Yu Yan is relegated to speaking exclusively in Mandarin and letting her body talk, in scenes as Catherine and Tyler’s bedroom third wheel; she’s solely there to express her enthusiasm for man-flesh, both living and dead. Tien’s dialogue is similarly all in Vietnamese; his only role in the movie is to cringe when Catherine accuses him of doing a bad gel job and to give her the excuse for comic exposition over why working-class himbo Tyler is lying unconscious in her palatial house.

Despite Linton’s vast privilege, she’s continuously positioned herself as both an excluded outsider and a victim of the “woke mob.” She told Fox News, “When I was in my early 20s, I definitely felt like it was a boys club, and I felt like people didn’t take me seriously because I was trying to produce as young as 25”; the fact that very few people are able to produce films at twice that age doesn’t seem to register for her. In a softball profile for The New York Times, she said that while Mnuchin was in office, she “felt censored” and didn’t know what she was “allowed to be” due to social media pressures. Perhaps in her mind, angry tweets create a cage as oppressive and confining as the ones the Trump administration used to store the children of migrants.

Playing Catherine, by contrast, allowed Linton to finally feel liberated: “In writing and playing Catherine I’ve discovered an extraordinary sense of freedom and fun,” she said to the Times. “This character can be so uninhibited in her universe.”

Which underscores what “Me You Madness” ultimately amounts to: Not a scathing parody, an act of subversion, or a humble confession, but a multimillion-dollar spa day, in which a child and wife of privilege gives herself the chance to relax, unwind and be herself, to a soundtrack of her favorite Eighties hits.

The madness is that, in a time when tens of millions are out of work and hundreds of thousands have died, the Trump administration’s aristocracy are not only paying no price for the ruin they’ve visited on America — they’re giving themselves over-the-top consolation prizes for the trauma they believe they experienced. While Marie Antoinette may never have actually said “let them eat cake,” Louise Linton’s message with this movie is clear: Let the masses eat cadavre humain.

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