(Netflix; 10 Episodes)
From Frame 1, I was hooked to this true-life story of a single mother who takes up the job of a house-help for a livelihood. It’s a tough life. And this admirable series doesn’t make it look easy for our heroine Alex(Margaret Qualley). It is not easy to escape an abusive marriage specially when your partner doesn’t beat you up and there are no surface injuries to flash in the court room.
The first and second episodes which are the best, reminded me of that extraordinary 2018 Irish film Rosie where Sarah Greene was outstanding as a mother of a homeless family. Maid captures the same immediacy and panic, at least at the start as Alex leaves her “emotionally abusive” boyfriend with their 2-year daughter in the middle of the night. I held my breath to know where she, and the series, would go from here.
Then the urgency level begins to drop. Homelessness begins to seem like an excuse to pitchfork some of the most …how shall I put it—believably unbelievable characters I’ve seen. These are people who are sometimes kind and sometimes inconsiderate, like all of us. And yet they are not the people I’d want to meet, or even get to know. They are unreliable even to themselves.
Alex’s mother(played by the redoubtable Andie MacDowell who incidentally is ‘Alex’ Margaret Qualley’s real-life mom) is an impressively irresponsible gypsy who doesn’t have time for her daughter. Alex’s father(Billy Burke) is kinder, more caring and he eventually gives Alex and her little girl Maddy(the adorable Rylea Nevaeh Whittet) a home. But then the writer Molly Smith Metzler decides to transform Daddy into a closet abuser from the past, a shift in tone that is not just unconvincing but a sexist slur only to make the mother’s irresponsible behavior seem….ummm….morally acceptable. And how far can we trust Alex’s judgement of her father’s conduct from 20 years ago?
Speaking of irresponsible behavior, try this: Alex after cleaning up a rich BLACK lady’s mansion(please note the in-your-face irony of a white heroine serving as domestic help to a black boss) invites a shy date chosen on an app, to visit her at the mansion whose owner Alex pretends to be.
The entire episode rings deeply hollow and completely out of character with Alex’s normal upright self-righteous conduct.
On the plus side, in the way Alex’s bonding with her baby girl is chalked out, Maid is suffused with a slender but sturdy warmth. Significantly the child’s father Sean(neatly played by Nick Robinson) is not demonized in the plot. Sean and Alex may not get along. But when it comes to their baby girl they are one.
Maid left me with a feeling of curious ambivalence. There is much to be admired in this very successful series, specially Margaret Qualley(remember her from the hard hitting HBO series The Leftovers) who brings an eerie calm to Alex’s shattered life. I also liked the guy (Raymond Ablack) who secretly loves her and wants to help her. When he offers to lend her a car that he claims is “just lying around” Alex is quick on the uptake.
You just can’t trust any man in a series that wants to prove a woman is better off on her own.