THE MAID’S ROOM (2014)
Starring Paula Garcés, Bill Camp, Annabella Sciorra, Philip Ettinger, Herman Chavez, Remy Auberjonois, Bonnie Dennison, Alexis Suarez, John Brodsky, Stefanie Brown, Herman Chavez and Julio C. Peña.
Screenplay by Michael Walker.
Directed by Michael Walker.
Distributed by Paladin Films. 98 minutes. Rated R.
Ironically, The Maid’s Room is a bit of a mess.
The movie is a sometimes intriguing, sometimes blatantly obvious and occasionally confounding film that takes a rather clever premise and never quite figures out what to do with it.
It is the story of Drina, an undocumented alien who takes a job as a live-in housekeeper in the New England summer mansion of an obscenely wealthy family. She is played by Paula Garcés, a gorgeous Latina actress who was previously best known as the stunning girl-next-door who caught the eye of Harold (or was that Kumar?) in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and its sequels.
Drina does not speak English all that well, she doesn’t have a cell phone and she can’t drive, so quickly the home becomes her entire world. She is a good worker (though, honestly, a bit overly nosy, which could potentially cause her trouble in a real-life gig) who does her job to the best of her ability and tries to stay out of trouble.
Even as she is taking the gig, one of her best friends from New York – who is dropping her off to take the position – can’t figure out why she would want to work way out here and cut herself off from friends and family.
Even Drina can’t quite explain, though she likes the fact that it is a live-in position and the pay is pretty decent. Her room is plain and tiny, though big enough for her to tack up a movie poster for – of all things – Erin Brockovich. (Later developments lead you to believe that this may be supposed to be symbolic of Drina being a hard-working every-woman amidst amoral rich people, but that is a real stretch. And certainly there must be a newer and better movie to symbolize that if it is the case.)
The family who have hired her are the Crawfords. Mrs. Crawford (Annabella Sciorra) is a patronizing aging trophy wife. (She is surprised Drina speaks any English and treats her like a child.) Mr. Crawford (Bill Camp) is a distracted robber baron of Wall Street, whose life is entirely run by status and power. However, at first he seems to be a personable enough guy.
It probably says as much as you need to know that neither of these characters are given first names, they are just known as Mr. and Mrs. Crawford by their subordinates and mom and dad by their kid.
That kid is Brandon (at least he got a full name!), played by Philip Ettiger. Brandon is the kind of spoiled kid who lives in a gorgeous country mansion and bitches that his dad was too cheap to get one by the beach. He is entirely driven by partying, drinking and drugging with his friends. He also seems to be intrigued by the hot new interloper in their house, periodically standing outside of Drina’s room in the dark and watching her undress.
The house is a huge, sprawling one, though in another case of slightly heavy-handed symbolism, it does have a serious problem with ants.
The parents spend most of their time in their New York apartment, so much of the time the house is just Drina and Brandon.
Late one night, Drina is awaken by Brandon drunkenly screeching his car into the garage, banging into the wall. She slips into the garage and finds that he has wrecked his car. Then she finds blood all over the sink in his bathroom.
The next day, Brandon doesn’t really remember what happened, thinking he may had hit a deer. However when it turns out that someone was killed in a hit-and-run accident, dad returns and goes into spin-control mode. He offers Drina a hefty bribe to not tell what she knows. When she decides that morally she can’t stay quiet, Mr. Crawford’s techniques become more extreme and violent, taking her passport and keeping her captive in the home.
Soon Drina’s friends from New York show up looking for her. However, at this point things have gone too far to simply let her free.
Honestly, the Crawfords are a little too cartoonishly rich and evil to totally buy into. In fact, the only real interesting character quirk that any of the Crawfords show is that son Brandon turns out to not be nearly as big of a spoiled asshole as he originally seems. In fact, he eventually seemed more than willing to take responsibility for his act.
On the other hand, Drina eventually becomes a little too cartoonishly pure, martyred for her honesty and taken advantage of by her monied slave-keepers.
Still, the first 45 minutes or so of The Maid’s Room was rather suspenseful and well done. Sadly as the Crawfords’ scheme starts to unravel, so does the film. Eventually things get so out of control for the filmmakers that I can truly say that I’m not 100% sure what exactly happens during the climax. I think I know, but it was filmed so muddily and choppily that I truly can’t be sure. That’s a real problem for a film.
Jay S. Jacobs