Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: After fleeing an abusive relationship, a young mother finds a job cleaning houses as she fights to provide for her child and build them a better future.
Review: It doesn’t matter how much you love watching movies and television shows, it’s just a fact that there are genres you tend to avoid no matter how much people sing their praises. I’m no different folks, and while I have a ton of shows I religiously watch straight-up dramas is not something I tend to view. Yet there was something about Maid that drew my attention. And after watching it I just might be a bit more willing to give these types of shows a chance.
Based on true events and inspired by the life of Stephanie Rand who wrote the bestselling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive, the strength of this series is two-fold. Firstly, there’s the acting, especially that of lead actress Margaret Qualley. Her performance as Alex, a woman who faces adversity upon adversity and yet she keeps fighting to find a better life for her and her adorable little girl Maddie, is simply superb.
Qualley has this way about her where her performance feels in no way rehearsed and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s all about her reactions in the moment; the way she interacts with her mess of a boyfriend Sean, her undiagnosed bipolar mother Paula (played by Qualley’s real life mon Andie MacDowell) and a wealthy difficult client whose house she cleans, Regina (a fantastic performance by Anika Noni Rose). Sometimes it’s just minute changes in her facial expressions that tell us there’s so much emotional turmoil hidden behind those eyes. If Margaret Qualley doesn’t win an award or three for her work here that would be a damn shame.
While Qualley’s performance holds it all together, every single one of these actors shine here and we have the stellar writing to thank for this. The main reason I tend to avoid these types of stories is it’s so easy for them to go over-the-top with the drama. Maid may dance on the line every now and again but there was never a moment here where I felt like they were trying to force my emotions. Instead we get a story that feels real (probably because the screenplay follows the memoir closely) and the attention paid to details such as how difficult it is for people in Alex’s position to get help from the government draws your attention in a way similar stories just don’t.
I also appreciated how every character was treated like a real person and not just some caricature. Take for example Sean, Alex’s boyfriend and Maddie’s father. The show opens with Alex fleeing in the night to get away from him, yet as the story unfolds we see he’s not just some thinly written abusive jerk, but a man whose struggling with his own past traumas and his battle with alcohol addiction. He’s a good father to his daughter but he’s also a man trying to hold on to someone who he knows can do better, so he tries to break her spirit with emotional abuse. People are complex and the show beautifully illustrates why it’s not always easy for women in these situations to see the forest for the trees.
The only time things ever meandered into cringe territory for me was with the portrayal of Andie MacDowell’s character, Alex’s mom Paula. This isn’t a jab at the actress at all but more in the difficulties Hollywood seems to have when it comes to portraying mental illness in a realistic way. As someone who personally knows people who are bipolar I found it a bit hard to digest the way Paula was portrayed at times. And while I think they do their best to be respectful of the disorder, having her be an artist that seems to be constantly bouncing from one emotional high to the next with nary a quiet moment in between dangerously walked that line of becoming a caricature. Other than that I thought the way they addressed trauma and how adversely the past can affect the present was very well handled.
Incredible performances, smart writing and solid directing meshed together with a story that feels lived-in and thoroughly engaging. It all comes together to make Maid one of the few dramatic series I’ve seen that earns every bit of emotion it wrings from you, without the use of gimmicks like swelling orchestras and the like. Qualley keeps you rooting for Alex and connects you to this character where you’ll feel every one of her ups and downs as if they were your own. If you skipped this one in your Netflix queue like I originally did, I highly recommend giving it a second chance.
Sommer’s Score: 8.5 out of 10
So have you checked out Maid? What did you think of it? And you can check out more great drama content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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