“Maid” deals with dirty truths that too many of us want to ignore.
Alex (Margaret Qualley) is 25, has a 2-year-old daughter named Maddie (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet) and lives in a trailer in Washington state with Sean (Nick Robinson), her boyfriend. She doesn’t work, Sean runs a bar and drinks too much, often becoming abusive. One night he goes too far and Alex runs away with Maddie.
She and Maddie essentially become homeless. Alex turns to social services and immediately discovers a Byzantine world of conflicting rules and demands. First and foremost, to qualify for most benefits, she needs a job. So she pointed to maid service. Completely broke, she starts cleaning the homes of the rich.
And the family ? She is estranged from her long-absent recovering alcoholic father (Billy Burke). And her mother (Andie MacDowell, Qualley’s real mother) is a bipolar artist living on a campsite and just about the most irresponsible person imaginable.
Maddie therefore ends up living in a safe house for domestic violence survivors and cleaning the houses. She once dreamed of going to college and being a writer. Now she’s dealing with a toilet and millionaires and finds the two vile.
‘Maid’ is an exploration of how trauma is passed down from generation to generation, how cycles of abuse and addiction intermingle and, most importantly, the raging income inequality that plagues the society.
It’s far enough away from being watched by the breeze, but Qualley (“The Leftovers”, “Fosse / Verdon”, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”) is absolutely fascinating – innocent though hardened, alternately broken and strong, drowning in a system that doesn’t take much care. And MacDowell is on fire like his mad-eyed mother, eternally deluding himself.
Over 500,000 people are homeless in America. Over 900,000 cases of domestic violence are reported each year. A recent study indicates that one in eight Americans is an alcoholic and drug overdoses are at their worst. Meanwhile, billionaires continue to accumulate wealth at an obscene rate.
“Maid” sheds a warm and personal light on all of this while telling an informative and entertaining story. It’s never really heavy, but it can be exhausting. It should be.
Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.