Maid is an American drama streaming television limited series inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, created by Molly Smith Metzler. It stars Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, Maddy Anika Noni Rose, Tracy Vilar, Billy Burke and Andie MacDowell in pivotal roles.
Maid tells the story of Alex (Margaret Qualley). She is a 25-year-old aspiring writer living north of Seattle, lies awake watching the man who just ended an argument with her by punching a hole in a wall. When she’s sure he’s asleep, she gathers their 2-year-old daughter, Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet) and goes out of the mobile home they share.
Across the 10 episodes of Maid, we see Alex and Maddy undertake a bitter, circular, hugely frustrating journey through the precincts of poverty. They move in and out of domestic violence shelters, halfway houses, friends’ and relatives’ homes and, for a particularly dismal spell. A counter consistently pops up onscreen with a running tally of Alex’s diminishing funds when she’s pumping gas or making agonizing purchasing decisions in a convenience store.
Screenplay & Acting performances
The screenplay of Maid relies on the valuable performances of its lead actors. This includes Sarah Margaret Qualley as Alex, Andie Macdowell as Alex’s mother Paula (Macdowell is also Qualley’s real-life mother), and that of Nick Robinson as Sean. However, the cornerstone of Maid is the performance of Qualley’s nuanced portrayal of vulnerability and strength, and the character’s working-class doggedness. She excels in not only the dialogue-heavy scenes, but also scenes where dialogues are minimal, especially in the scenes of quiet emotional breakdown and depression.
It is a fact that Domestic workers have been part of American popular culture since the early 1940s films. The themes of the suffering woman, generational divides, and the issues of class and colour have provided Hollywood writers with the necessary ingredients for socially rooted narrative cinema. This has also led to racial stereotyping of domestic work as Black, Hispanic or Asian women, most often new migrants.
However, the story and screenplay of Maid steers clear of the established stereotypes of the American maid. It presents a nuanced picture of what it means to be desperately poor in a developed Western country.
Despite the realistic and mature representation of destitution, Maid is essentially a television drama, and fluctuates between naturalism and dramatic exaggeration. While it does question the myth of the American Dream, it still suggests that it is worth living for.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.