I originally wrote the following for ScreenComment.com, but I think once the publisher puts them in my column, they disappear once the next thing's posted (I've written a few other things). So, I'll repost here my thoughts on "The Maid."
The film: Quite compelling and good, if very different.
After watching ten films in twenty-four hours a couple days ago (thank you, Netflix!), a feat I've achieved but a few times, I decided it was time to rejoin the real world by going to the movies—-to sit in a darkened theater--by myself.
So, I arrived at my favorite East Village cinema to find only one movie of interest playing: Chilean writer-director Sebastian Silva's “The Maid” (“La Nana”) about a crazy housekeeper/nanny who's dead set on keeping her position of twenty years in a Chilean upperclass household.
Raquel, played by Chilean actress Catalina Saveedra, is bug-eyed, has atrociously frizzy hair and about as much social grace as a goat. She also has a curious hatred for the eldest girl of the household; a creepy infatuation with the young sons; and a "Single-White-Female" streak during scenes where she tries on the lady of the house's clothes and later buys them.
Raquel begins having health problems, so it's suggested that the family hire additional help. This leads to some evil jealousy, yet pretty hilarious exercises by Raquel to eliminate the new maids by driving them away screaming, humiliated, and scraped up.
That is, until the younger, sweeter Lucy turns up as the new help and is more unwilling to be battered around by the bullish Raquel.
The movie takes some quite curious detours, and you're often left wondering what tone Silva was going for. It was often very funny, but there were many moments I found myself cringing and tense, worried that Raquel had really lost it and that just-around-the-corner we were going to find one of the new maids with her head lopped off. I thought for sure she might try to grind up the cat and serve it for dinner a few times.
And, there were certainly some loose ends as to the matriarch's motivation for keeping the crazy maid on for so long—as if there was some bond, or back-story, between them that we're missing. But, all in all, it was a pretty great film, if uncomfortable, confusing in tone, and meandering. Catalina Saavedra as the maid was fantastic.
PS: The movie starts out with Raquel, the maid, not wanting to be celebrated on her birthday; those who know Grice's adamant ways about Birthday Week know this was as unsettling as the movie, itself.
"The Maid" trailer: