Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The Maid’s Room: Welcome to the Hamptons

She does the kind of work Americans “just won’t do,” like cleaning up Master Crawford’s vomit. The Crawfords are most definitely one percenters—and writer-director Michael Walker will never let us forget it in the dark morality play-borderline-thriller The Maid’s Room (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Drina seems pretty, hard working, and illegal enough not to complain. That is good enough for the Crawfords to hire her as the live-in maid at their Hamptons house. They will only be there over the weekends, but their entitled son Brandon will spend the entire summer there. Of course, he notices Drina, but he is mostly too busy drinking like a fish to do anything horrifically inappropriate. Unfortunately, one drunken mistake will kill his buzz and put Drina in an increasingly awkward position.

Just in case you did not get it, the Crawfords think the rules do not apply to them because of their wealth, whereas the naïve Drina believes everyone is accountable in the eyes of God and the law. Subtle Maid’s Room is not. Still, the first major dark turn is a bit of a surprise, because the film seemed to be conditioning the audience to go in a different direction.

Perhaps Maid’s Room’s greatest inequity is the disparity between characters. Frankly, Drina is sweet but boring. Granted, Brandon Crawford, the sort of Raskolnikov, does not have much more going on either. However, Mr. Crawford is a forceful, surprisingly complicated character, who dominates the film in every sense. Even with the deck completely stacked against him, Bill Camp elevates his performance to classically tragic dimensions.

In contrast, Paula Garcés is unflaggingly earnest as Drina, but mostly she just bites her lip and furrows her brow as she wrestles with her employer’s moral bankruptcy. Annabella Sciorra is also fairly potent as Mrs. Crawford, but the uptight mom routine feels pretty familiar by now.

The Crawford home certainly looks exclusive, but some of the film’s details are a little ridiculous, like the Erin Brockovich movie poster Drina hangs in her titular quarters. Seriously, a Colombian immigrant in her early twenties would choose the 2000 Soderbergh film to brighten her walls? It is almost laughable when Walker uses it as a device to strengthen her resolve, as if asking WWEBD, what would Erin Brockovich do?

There are several nicely staged sequences in the second act that demonstrate how one mistake inevitably begets another. Unfortunately, the film is overly-preoccupied with its intended take-aways at the expense of narrative. As a result, the promising moments are smothered by its class consciousness. A misfire despite Camp’s highlight reel work, The Maid’s House opens this Friday (8/8) in New York at the Cinema Village.