Live-In Maid ***
Directed by Jorge Gaggero
Written by Jorge Gaggero
Norma Aleandro as Beba Pujol
Norma Argentina as Dora
83 Minutes(Not Rated-Nothing Really Objectable)
I ended up getting to the theatre a little earlier than I thought I would on the afternoon that I was set to see "Live-In Maid." It was playing at the Film Forum, a theatre in Manhattan that shows a lot of foreign films that play nowhere else in the city, or classic films (aside from "Live-In Maid" the triplex was showing Woody Allen's "Manhattan," and Fritz Lang's "Metropolis.") This theatre is great at decoration, and along one of the walls there is also plenty of information about all the films that are playing there. And surrounding the poster for "Live-In Maid" there were plenty of reviews and photographs from the films, which I took a glance at, and learned a few things. The first thing I learned was a little bit about the actress-Norma Aleandro. She is compared to Meryl Streep in terms of being well known. And every movie that she is in in her Latin American country is usually met with glowing reviews-this one no exception. But this is considered an independent film in her country as well, with Jorge Gaggero being a first time writer and director. In fact, Gaggero was nervous about asking her to be in his movie, but she agreed after reading the script. The second thing that I learned was the back story-the historical facts of the films-something that the movie itself leaves out a bit. In 2001, the country of Argentina was going through an economic decline so powerful that it changed the lifestyles of literally everyone in it.
And Beba Pujol is going through difficulties because of the economy. Once a rich matron, Beba had it all. And now she is so bad off that she is forced to go to pawn shops to try and pawn her coffee pot. And she is so bad off that she can't afford to pay her maid of the last twenty-eight years, Dora. Eventually Dora is forced to resign from her post, simply because she knows that Beba cannot afford to pay her. But can Beba really go on without Dora, a firm rock in her life for the last three decades? And that is pretty much all the back story that you need to know before watching this charming film.
You may notice that in the cast list that I provide, I only put the two leads on the list. There are other characters, but all of them are completely background when these two women are on the screen. Norma Aleandro may be more famous than Norma Argentina (who, I learned from the reviews stapled onto the wall, was an actual maid for many years being getting the part in this film) but she is easily matched in a great performance by Argentina. And together they ignite the screen. This is a film about a friendship-an odd one and one that has no expression-but a strong friendship nonetheless. Dora, sad faced with eyes of somber experience, looks at Beba in a new way. She is not angry by the fact that her loyal employer has problems paying her, but sees her as an equal now. The class difference that has always been there since the start of Dora's tenure is slowly disappearing as Beba becomes less and less important financially. And considering the two of them barely speak to one another, there is just tenderness in all of their moments together that you are reminded of a marriage between two people that probably would both die within a few months of each other. The core of the film is this friendship, and Gaggero screenplay and story are so simple, that it is really does require the two great performances by the two Norma's, who really do put life into both of their characters. I can imagine that, on the page, Beba and Dora may not seem amazing, but the actress' really do put strong effort into it. The work between the two of them is about equal to the six or seven great lady performances in "Evening."
"Live-In Maid" is a well acted charmer, and that is that. It is a nice little film about friendship, loyalty, and the kinds of relationships that form over a long period of time, whether you want them to or not. At a brief hour and twenty minute run time, it is not something to devote yourself to, and when you leave you may forget it a few weeks later-but for a first time film it has a lot of say about class systems, and relationships between them, and it is quite an achievement.