2007-08-31 / Columnists

MovieScope

"Live-In Maid" - Class Co-Dependency
Review By Robert Snyder

The film, "Live-In Maid," turns TV's "Upstairs-Downstairs" upside down.

Writer-Director Jorge Gaggero's first feature is a microcosm of class struggle during Argentina's economic crisis in the beginning of the last decade, as personified by two women, the upper class Beba (Norma Aleandro) and her live-in maid of 30 years, Dora (Norma Argentina). In the establishing scenes, we see the haughty heiress being borderline abusive to her devoted servant, who keeps immaculate order in the Buenos Aires apartment, which they share in near silent co-dependency.

While at first all seems "correct" class-wise, it soon becomes apparent that Beba is broke, her lack of funds forcing Dora to reluctantly give notice (she's been without a salary for seven months). The always helpless, ever-arrogant Beba can't resist reacting with, "I don't know how you can do this to me when I need you most."

After a restrained, but sorrowful farewell, Dora goes back to her little house in the boondocks and her not-so-faithful, penniless companion Miguel (Raul Panguinao), and attempts to find work.

Beba is in worse shape. Having no skills, she pathetically pounds the pavement, hawking cold cream without success. It isn't long before the electricity is turned off and la senora is left drinking her last drops of booze in the dark.

Does Dora desert her? Absolutely not. In a tenderly subtle scene, the devoted maid shows up with cake and candle to celebrate Beba's birthday. And the strapped aristocrat has yet to give her a letter of recommendation.

The bittersweet finale has Beba packing her piano and belongings into a moving van.

Where to go? To Dora's, of course. There, pride is swallowed and her bed is moved in, along with the piano and everything else. Nonetheless, tea is served by the devoted maid and established order is maintained, though somewhat upside down.

"Live-In Maid" is a gem that could easily be missed, which would be a shame. The odd-couple performances from the two Normas, newcomer Argentina (who really was a housekeeper for 20 years) and acclaimed veteran actress Aleandro, are classic in their dead-on delineation of class struggle and co-dependency.

Maybe, the key to solving an economic crisis is friendship.

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