You may think that this is a straight rip-off of American Psycho, and in some ways you may be right. But this is a woman's tale. We women are having a moment right now, and this is what we call in Hollywood, an "elevated story concept," AKA, "the same, but different." So shut the fuck up, turn off your cell phones, and enjoy the movie.

-Louise Linton, Me You Madness

It is obviously rude to introduce a new woman writer-director by talking about what powerful man she's married to, but in the case of Louise Linton, AKA Mrs. Steve Mnuchin, I think it's appropriate. For one thing, Linton's debut work, Me You Madness, is so obviously a vanity project enabled by having ready access to the resources of one of the wealthiest men in the film industry (prior to entering politics as Secretary of the Treasury for the Trump administration) that it would be genuinely poor criticism not to point it out. For another, it succinctly tells us all we need to know about Linton's connection to human morality, though I'm pretty sure we could figure that out from the evidence of Me You Madness. For this is, unmistakably, the work of an auteur who has made precisely the film she set out to make, with no compromises to her vision of aesthetics or the way society functions.

These facts are both and indeed should be terrifying - Me You Madness is a swirling nightmare vortex of horrible moments that suggest a person whose disconnect from the rest of humanity is entirely complete. Not since The Room have I seen a movie in which every narrative beat and every line of dialogue suggests so strongly that the writer-director-star is an extraterrestrial lizard person wearing a human skin suit (though Linton's suit at least fits well, without the puffy sagginess of Tommy Wiseau's). And in a sense, Me You Madness has The Room licked, since The Room at least had the decency to look as dyfunctional as it was, with its "hope and prayer"-scale production resulting in something that only resembles a real movie if you look at it from out of the corner of your eye. Presumably because of the Mnuchin connection, Me You Madness is real polished, like an actual crew of actual professionals worked on it and brought Linton's deranged requests to life the same as they would for anybody. I find this particularly impressive - or maybe the word is despicable - in the case of editor Sam Means, who had to execute some decisions that absolutely could not possibly have come naturally to anyone who knows enough about editing to successfully operate the software. Among its many identities, Me You Madness fancies itself a screwball comedy, full of the top-speed banter characteristic of the form. Setting aside for now that Linton, and her co-lead Ed Westwick, don't really have a handle on how the hell to deliver that kind of writing, the film tries to punch it up by cutting directly on the dialogue, making one conversation after another a perilous adventure in choppy rhythm that feels like the movie is going to start choking on its tongue if it doesn't take a second to draw a breath. One such conversation includes the two main characters shouting "Couch! Sofa!" at each other just forever.

That the film should be knowingly borrowing from 1930s romantic comedy actually kind of fits. As that quote up at the top of the review points out, Linton is borrowing from other movies - she is doing this very self-consciously, and telling us precisely when she does it. At two different points, her character, hedge fund manager & cannibalistic serial killer Catherine Black, turns right to the camera and mentions that she doesn't want to use a particular weapon because it has been featured in the following movies, at which point the titles she names start scrolling up on the left-hand side of the screen, and the movie fast-forwards (squeaky high-pitched sound and all) to get through the list faster. To credit the director with at least one thing, the second time she does this is obviously knowingly making fun of the first time she did it. Still. We have here a film that does not merely pay homage to other movies, it does so by having the main character, played by the drector, declaring "this moment should remind you of this movie, since that's where I stole it from". I do not know if this means that Linton really absolutely especially loves movies and just wants to cram all of them in simultaneous, Tarantino-style, or if she doesn't like movies at all and so can't think of anything else to do besides state their names as she stares at us.

Frankly, I am very often not sure what to think about what Me You Madness is pitching my way. I have to assume it's a satire, just because "hedge fund manager & cannibalistic serial killer" really doesn't seem to leave any other options available to us, though what it's satirising and how are very difficult to to suss out. For one thing, I genuinely cannot tell if the movie thinks that Catherine is awesome or not; insofar as it feels like a do-over of American Psycho (and it feels that way pretty much constantly for the first hour of its 97 minutes), it often seems to be a do-over by someone who thinks Patrick Bateman is super cool, even like a do-over done by Patrick Bateman himself. As Catherine introduces herself with clumsily ironic voice-over declarations like "I'm happy when I wake up, because I remember that I'm me, and my life is incredible" and "I'm rarely if ever comfortable, but I look incredibly stylish, which is much more important", it's clear - so wearisomely clear - that we're meant to see her high-cost, low-humanity lifestyle as the source of all her monstrosity, but the further we get into the plot, the more it's apparent that we're meant to laugh along with her extremely self-conscious villainy and evil wit, and cheer at her take-no-prisoners tough attitude, and enjoy her polished life of extremely costly hideous things vicariously. And it's not really hard to understand why a person in Linton's position in life would end up endorsing all of those things.

As much as Me You Madness is a thematic slurry, it's so much more confounding as a piece of cinema. The approach to answering the question "what kind of style do you want to use" seems to have been "all of them", with the only consistent thing being that it's going very fucking fast. So we get, for example,  the freakish steel-and-glass austerity of a terrifyingly modern, all-white house (Linton wrote the movie around the location, which she saw elsewhere and loved), so inorganic that it survived the devastating 2018 Woolsey wildfire interrupting the production because literally not enough of the structure was made out of combustible materials for it catch on fire; this location is all full of stark, sterile angles being thrown at sharply, all while Linton appears in a new outfit on the order of once every two minutes (or, to be roughly once every 2¼ minutes), their bright, over-saturated colors and sleek lines that are not meaningfully designed to accommodate the human body providing a garish, poppy contrast to the space (Westwick, for the record, spends the entire movie in a white Henley with a yellow plaid shirt tied around his waist, like 1997 never ended). And after a couple of minutes of this, we pivot over to the indescribably hideous bar in this house, a hell of pink neon and navy blue surfaces, all of it feeling like a void in a black box theater where the only thing defining a second wall of the space is a giant white, red, and sky blue neon sculpture of giant lips with a cigarette protruding out of them. It feels like a toxic version of a Barbie doll house, drenched in a sickening magenta hue that has been, for God knows what reason, heavily emphasised in the eye-lighting on Westwick, making it look like he's trying to cover up black eyes with sparkly raspberry-flavored lip gloss. I will not flatly say that it is the single ugliest cinematic, image I have seen in the 39 years I have lived on this planet, but it would be irresponsible not to allow the possibility that it might be.

So inhuman austerity on the one side,  freaked-out orgasms of inexplicably, unnatural color on the other, and the whole array of possibilities in between. And boy, do we get plenty of options: sunny naturalism with lens flares, wide-angle lenses on ugly fluorescent lighting, shots of Westwick "driving" a "car" with the view out the rear window window apparently represented by an out-of-focus still photo. And, then, the montages. My Christ, the montages. Me You Madness has no fewer than 22 fairly major hits from the '80s and '90s on its soundtrack (a few of them awful sound-alike covers), almost every last one of them artlessly faded in and out under a short flurry of shots of Catherine or Westwick's thief-turned-cannibal-escapee Tyler doing something; "Jump (For My Love)" by the Pointer sisters accompanies a sot of Catherine walking up the stairs to her private jet, for example. Mostly these are only around 15-30 seconds long, though a sequence of Tyler randomly dancing and lip-syncing in a red robe and red underpants to "I'm So Excited" (also by the Pointer Sisters, but I promise there's more variety in the soundtrack than that), crosscut with Catherine carving up frozen corpse parts in her killing room, goes on for nearly the whole length of the song. The effect is extremely strongly that of a whole bunch of temp tracks that were used for the first cut of the montage sequences - they do not appear to have received second cuts - which the filmmakers fell in love with and just used, because there was no financial reason not to shell out what the money for what was undoubtedly an enormously expensive song list.

Indeed, if there's one thing that unifies the bizarre mass of Me You Madness into a singular object, other than the relentless purity of Linton's bleak, downright sociopathic vision of the world, it's that there were very obviously no hard decisions made ever. The money was there, so they did it, for every new, appallingly random incarnation of "it". What results is a dazzling movie in the darkest possible way, a cutesy romcom buried under the most rancid cynicism, except that the film genuinely doesn't seem to be cynical about it. And they're so romantic that every time they kiss, they're just mashing their tightly-closed lips against each other. There is absolutely no humanity to this film whatsoever; even its characters, written with trite dialogue that's stuffed full of literally unspeakable clauses and asides, feel like they were crudely assembled by someone who had heard about people but only third or fourth hand. And Linton's dumbfounding performance intensifies that feeling considerably, with her outlandish cornucopia of accents - she was born in Edinburgh, and that keeps bodily forcing itself through what sounds like she's trying to do a Mid-Atlantic accent, but also with a clipped, birdlike tone, and on top of all of this she takes great pleasure in segregating the word "fuck" from every single line where it appears, just really caressing and rounding it, so we get lines like "Did you know there are actually no. Fuck. -ing spiders in Antarctica?" at a fairly steady clip. Anyway, the voice she's attempting to use makes the brittle banter all the harder to listen to, and combined with the sheer random accumulation of jokey narrative asides, musical numbers, and satiric misfires, Me You Madness and Catherine end up feeling like some repulsive burlesque of human existence, forced out into the world because nobody was ever in a position to say no. It is an extraordinary object, mesmerising and terrifying - I have genuinely not seen another movie like it, and I will spend the rest of my days trying to make sure it stays that way.