Claire and Solange (both played by Amanda Hull) are maids whose personalities are often at odds with each other. One tries to play above her position as a maid, lazing about and daydreaming about being the Madame they serve under, while the other is more strict in her duties, and also more critical of the unseen Madame. Then, the maids switch roles, and it’s the other’s turn to play loftier than a cleaning lady while the other represents the disdain for their role and master.
In Jon Salimes’ black-and-white short film, The Maids, it all plays out in dialogue and cuts back-and-forth between the medium-to-close-up performances. The result is, in its best moments, as engaging a show of acting as the sequence in the Lord of the Rings films where Gollum argues with his Smeagol-self; one actor going back-and-forth to entertainingly best themselves. In its worst moments, it’s a wordy short that tells far more than it shows for far too long.
Unfortunately, it lives in its lesser moments more than its best. Since the source material is a play from Jean Genet, I understand the idea to let the entire experience play out in dialogue and back-and-forth, static performance, and in spots Hull is up to the task, but it would’ve benefited from a much shorter running time. Twenty-four minutes of nothing but dialogue and back-and-forth cuts of an overall performance that is inconsistent in its charisma is just too much. Maybe it does the play justice, I can’t say, but it doesn’t do the short film format justice.
Again, though, there are enough moments where the deliberate pace of the film, the haunting atmosphere and the performance truly clicks. When it happens, the film is hard to ignore or look away from; it’s a power that, unfortunately, the film just can’t sustain all the way through.
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