Writer/director Michael Walker’s class-conscious thriller The Maid’s Room is simultaneously a study of almost and too much. The film examines the day-to-day life of Drina (Paula Garcés), a paperless Colombian immigrant who takes a job as the maid to the wealthy Crawford family in the Hamptons. All we know of Drina is her reticent nature, her capable English, and her naïve sex appeal.
Drina’s orientation to the household is cold and two-dimensional and immediately defines the polar roles of the characters at hand: rich family bad, unassuming South American maid good. Mrs. Crawford leads Drina from room to room, patronizing her with firm and overly enunciated English while describing in detail how the paintings must be dusted and the silver polished: “I could tell you when they need to be polished, but it would be nice if you knew when to do it.” It is not difficult to immediately hate the family, especially with the insertion of creepy Mr. Crawford (Bill Camp) and the Princeton shoe-in Brandon (Phillip Ettinger), the spoiled son at the center of the story.
After Mr. and Mrs. Crawford leave for the weekend, Drina appears palpably uneasy about her stay in the stately home, and becomes fond of snooping around, though she discovers some unsettling artifacts about the house. She and Brandon are alone in the house, and share polite yet uncomfortable exchanges.
In the middle of one night, Drina hears Brandon park his car in the garage and stumble noisily into the house. Intuitively gathering that something is wrong, she gets out of bed to inspect. She discovers Brandon’s jeep mangled and smashed and a pile of vomit on the ground. While tending to her duties the next day, she wets a sponge in preparation for cleaning. As faucet water hits the sponge—in one of the film’s few moments of visual innovation—blood billows from it, confirming Drina’s suspicion that the accident was no innocent fender bender. Drina must spend the rest of her time in a troubling conflict with the Crawfords, who wish to protect their son’s name no matter the cost or consequence.
Annabella Sciorra’s Mrs. Crawford delivers a decent frigid power-wife. Garcés, on the other hand, injects far too much Telemundo into her method as Drina, gasping and recoiling in wide-eyed horror at pretty trivial stimuli—ants, for instance. Bill Camp is no exception to the overacting epidemic, burdened with lines like “I can’t believe you’re my son.”
Herein lies a big issue of the film: the dialogue. The above mentioned was just one example, but many of the conversations seemed clichéd, expositional, or just plain unrealistic and forced. At one point, Drina blatantly sums up the film’s theme (just in case you didn’t get it) while reprimanding the Crawfords: “Everyone is equal under the eyes of God.”
A score can truly make or break a film, and The Maid’s Room falls under the hammer, unfortunately, with an accompaniment fit for a Lifetime operetta. We’re talking, aggressive, sweeping orchestral arrangements at the strangest moments, often not allowing time and space for the audience to form their own emotional reactions to a scene. There were several moments that could have been harrowing if left alone. The camerawork also got a bit melodramatic with soap opera-style sudden zooms and fast pans. The actors’ overreactions were enough without needing an extreme close-up (cued by menacing strings).
However, the storyline is interesting in theory, and there are some risky plot twists that challenge the assumed outcome and some clever motifs throughout, such as ants appearing in the kitchen when food is left out, besides other little foreshadowing gems. Just don’t see it with a too critical eye. You’ll find flaws.