Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Michael Walker's riveting THE MAID'S ROOM: Whew--talk about a hot-button-issues movie!

Immigration, class war, the use/abuse of power and money: THE MAID'S ROOM, a new film by Michael Walker (Price Check, Chasing Sleep) covers the hot-button bases -- and then some. And yet, thanks to an acting ensemble that remains committed and on-point throughout, and to a screenplay and direction (Mr. Walker handled both) that stays within the realm of possibility, while offering believable surprises along the way, the movie succeeds in holding us fast, while making us consider all the possibili-ties at play in Walker's tight, difficult scenario.

The filmmaker, shown at right, has also created full-bodied, multi-dimensional characters -- every one of them -- whose motives we observe as, well, mixed. Nobody here is completely guiltless or guile-free. Yet what happens to them is truly awful. By film's end you might very well imagine you've experienced something modern that comes awfully close in its effect to Greek tragedy. Yet nothing feels unduly pushed. One thing leads, quite believably, to the next. The stakes keep rising and the behavior grows more shocking.

A wealthy family in the Hamptons area of Long Island are in the process of hiring a new maid -- one that simply must speak better English than their most recent helper. The interview, while raising some red flags, goes well enough that our young and quite beautiful Drina (Paula Garcés, above) is hired, effective immediately.

Mom and Dad (Annabella Sciorra and Bill Camp, above, left and right) are decent enough people, once we get past their imbued sense of entitlement, while their teenage son, Brandon (Philip Ettinger, below), initially seems like the apple that has fallen all too near the tree.

They say that people really don't know who they are or what they are capable of until faced with a life-changing emergency. That would be the case here. When the emergency happens, no one is ready for it, and the behavior of everyone is up for grabs. Try to predict, and you are likely to be as wrong as right. Even if you are right, things will have changed in another instant or two.

The first-rate cast is splendid, right down to the smallest role, with the lovely Ms Garcés offering up a surprising store of strength and complexity as the movie proceeds. It is wonderful to see Ms Sciorra once again, away from TV for a change, and as good as she always is. Mr. Ettinger scores well, too, turning the weak son into a figure of almost frightening sadness and desolation. But it is Mr. Camp (above) as the quiet, seemingly distant dad who finally commands the movie. An extraordinary actor, he looks, acts and sounds utterly real at every moment, never more so than when he doing unconscionable things.

Shot in a widescreen that make full use of excellent composition and of character vis-a-via space, the movie is beautiful to observe. The filmmaker does not offer a heck of a lot of hope regarding topics of such concern to the U.S. and the western world today -- immigration, illegals, and the 99 vs the one per cent. But the scenario Walker has cooked up tastily then served with such relish should make a deep and lasting impression.

The Maid's Room, from Paladin Films and running a just-right 98 minutes, opens in theaters this Friday, August 8. In New York City, it plays at the Cinema Village; in Los Angeles, look for it at Laemmle's Noho 7.

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