Film Review: The Maid's Room

Initially gripping, in a Hitchcock/Ozon way, this atmospheric thriller turns banal and unconvincing in its second half.

With its carefully arranged atmosphere of subtle menace in classy surroundings and delineation of character through class hierarchy, Michael Walker's The Maid's Room initially calls to mind the work of François Ozon, presently wielding the medium with such assured grace. Here, a lovely young Colombian maid, Drina (Paula Garces), come to work at the Hamptons estate of the uber-rich and powerful Crawfords (Bill Camp and Annabella Sciorra) and their spoiled son, Brandon (Philip Ettinger). Given a small, tidy room to herself, she does not stay there very much; as soon as the Crawfords are out of the house, she wanders through it, opening drawers and discovering secrets. All goes pretty well until the night a drunken Brandon hits and kills a local worker while driving on a dark road. The Crawfords lean on Drina to keep quiet, bribing her with money, but when she refuses to refrain from alerting the police, things get ugly.

The movie begins well and you are irresistibly drawn into it as haughty Mrs. Crawford gives Drina the kind of strict household instructions, with a condescending air, that make you wince at her every word. Sciorra is very good as this entitled bitch and Camp also makes a convincing Master of the Universe, who is used to getting things his way, money being no object. Scott Miller's gliding cinematography creates an entire stultifyingly cushy world within the Crawford mansion, so that you feel the basic emptiness of the lives of its inhabitants.

But when tragedy strikes and Drina is taken out of the picture, the film rather falls apart and becomes a predicable what-to-do-with-the-body programmer while striking ever-heavier notes of class warfare, when the friends of the dead man come inquiring. Although there are three of these strapping young Latino workers, the middle-aged Papa Crawford singlehandedly bests and bloodies one of them, causing the others to flee in terror, and this unconvincing moment really throws you out of things. 

Garces has a fetching, quiet intensity, and Ettinger does entitled rich boy lusting for the maid to beefy perfection. The average filmgoer is again made to wonder why rich folk hire such pretty help, however capable. It always ends badly.

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