TV review: Maid
Margaret Qualley isn't just a pretty face who scored acting jobs via nepotism.
The 26-year-old daughter of actress Andie MacDowell has had small roles here and there, but it was only when she appeared in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood as the Manson Family hippy chick who picked up a driving-by Brad Pitt that mainstream audiences really took notice.
But there was nothing much for her to actually do in that Tarantino flick, except flaunt some sex appeal and those striking looks. So it is satisfying that show creator Molly Smith Metzler took a chance on Qualley and cast her as the titular lead in the poignant drama series Maid, currently showing on Netflix and inspired by Stephanie Land's memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And A Mother's Will To Survive.
It is a star-making vehicle, and Qualley more than rises to the occasion, proving sceptics wrong once and for all.
After fleeing an abusive relationship with her three-year-old daughter in tow, young mother Alex (Qualley) seeks help from social services and lands a job with a maid agency cleaning houses.
Amid her desperate fight to provide for her child and build them a better future, she faces a series of soul-crushing setbacks.
It is hard to take your eyes off Qualley's phenomenal, nuanced performance of such a richly delineated female protagonist.
There is so much toxicity and trauma running through the show's veins, the heartache can sometimes be hard to bear, as characters fall back into patterns of co-dependent and/or abusive behaviour even as they try to break the cycle.
The push and pull of Alex's bond with her three closest loved ones - her alcoholic boyfriend and baby daddy (Nick Robinson), absent father (Billy Burke) and crazy mother (MacDowell) - is irresistible.
Maid's subject matter is sensitive but expertly handled, whether it's poverty, homelessness, emotional and domestic violence, addiction or child custody. And in almost every episode, expectations and cliches are subverted.
The journey we take with a powerless victim who attempts to reclaim her power can be triggering at points, but the destination will be worth the trouble. - JEANMARIE TAN