The Maid’s Room is a film about those who are so well-off and well-connected that they believe they can make their problems disappear. There have been plenty of movies about people who think because they are rich and powerful that they are untouchable. However, The Maid’s Room stands out because it is a dramatic thriller that takes an unbelievably brave plot twist halfway through the film that defies any expectations you might have about the story… and then it keeps twisting into directions you won’t see coming.
The film focuses on four characters: the Crawford family and their housekeeper. The characters of Mr. and Mrs. Crawford are established only minutes into the film. They are interviewing Drina (Paula Garces), an undocumented Colombian immigrant, for the housekeeping job at their Hamptons summer mansion. The Crawfords speak about her as if she is not even in the room, and Oliver Crawford (Bill Camp) seems eager to hire her just because she’s there already and he could care less who cleans the house. Mrs. Crawford (Annabella Sciorra) is a bit more instructive and picky — for example, she hopes Drina is the type of girl who will instinctively know when the silver needs polishing. The Crawfords tell her that they will only be in the house on the weekends, but their son Brandon (Philip Ettinger) will be living in the house all summer as a high school graduation gift because he will be attending Princeton as a freshman in the fall.
Drina is soft-spoken and she makes for a nosy housekeeper. She’s constantly looking through the Crawfords’ possessions, which is a creative way for the audience to discover various items that will become important later in the film. In particular, she takes an interest in Brandon’s life, who is not much younger than her. At first, Brandon seems to be a typical obnoxious child of money — he complains that his dad was “too cheap” to buy a house closer to the beach — and Drina observes Brandon’s behavior as he sits idly about the house, sleeps late, and has his friends over. Yet they become friendly acquaintances as Drina becomes accustomed to her job.
One night Drina hears Brandon come home very late, stumbling, and obviously drunk. The next morning she notices that the front of the car is smashed up and there are remnants of blood. Brandon’s parents arrive and are clearly distraught, and Trina finds an article about a hit-and-run accident which killed a pedestrian that the Crawfords tried to hide from her. Shortly afterwards they try to dismiss her and offer her a large sum of money to keep her mouth shut. However, Drina is torn over what to do, but the Crawfords intend to keep her in the house until they can be assured that she’ll accept the hush money.
What follows is a movie that is unpredictable that takes a number of shocking plot twists that turn into a growing number of loose ends connected with the coverup. I’ve seen so many movies as a reviewer that often it isn’t difficult to predict where a movie’s plot is going because many movies follow the same typical story beats. Because The Maid’s Room is about the unpredictable snowball effects that follow the coverup of a heinous crime, it is engrossing as a viewer to follow the unexpected directions and watch as the Crawfords gradually lose control of the situation.
The key performance here is Bill Camp’s Oliver Crawford. Oliver is an aging man who sees himself as a good person because he has been generous with his money, and like most fathers he wants to protect his son at all costs. Yet there is an understated guiltless arrogance with each of Oliver’s actions, as if he believes that his advantages in society serve as the magic wand that can make consequences disappear. It would be easy for Camp to make his character a stereotype, but there is great craft here in developing Oliver as a multidimensional character.
The Maid’s Room is writer/director Michael Walker’s third film after 2000’s Chasing Sleep and 2012’s Price Check. Yet this is the work of a seasoned director, with Hitchcockian depth to its plot and visuals. Except for a brief sequence when Drina arrives, the entirety of the movie takes place at the Crawfords’ summer residence, which like many homes in the Hamptons is surrounded by a gate. This “closed set” adds to a feeling of entrapment throughout the film, as if the characters are fighting off a siege from the outside world. In a way they are, but despite everything the Crawfords discover that they are even incapable of controlling what goes on inside of the fence.
After the movie ended I reflected on some of the plot twists (I can’t be too specific about them without revealing too much) that might’ve made more sense if they went in a more conventional direction. However, that would rob the film of what makes it standout from others of its genre. I can imagine others being annoyed by these instances, but in high-stress situations like the ones in this film I can buy people not making the best decisions, especially if it makes for a better film (as it does here).
Rating: An unpredictable thriller about the wealthy and powerful attempting to control what they cannot (8/10).
The Maid’s Room opens in theaters and on VOD on August 8.