Señora Beba
Como se dice, “Get your hair did”?

Theatrical Release Date: 05/26/2005 (Argentina), 07/18/2007 (USA)
Director: Jorge Gaggero
Cast: Norma Aleandro, Norma Argentina

With any social structure where wealthy families employ servants to do chores and/or take care of their children, there is a clear distinction of the classes.

The servants are typically viewed as second-class citizens and while that sounds cruel, it’s the only way that situation works. If you were a millionaire with a “live-in maid” (see how I work in the title), telling them to clean up after you and your drunk buddies is more difficult if you see the maid as your equal.

It’d be like hiring your college buddy to be your butler. Either you’d feel like a jerk ordering them around, (when during college they were the ones making sure you slept on your side), or you’re a sociopath.

In “Live-In Maid”, that type of social structure exists. Norma Argentina plays Dora, a live-in maid who has served Señora Beba (Normal Aleandro) and her family in Buenos Aires for almost thirty years. She has been there for the creation and dissolution of the family unit, as the parents have split up and the daughter that she helped raise is living in Madrid, having little to no contact with her mother.

The twist to the story is that the family is now going through financial meltdown and it’s been months since Señora Beba has been able to pay Dora. She stays with her out of loyalty for a time though and the film’s central issue is where their relationship will head towards.

The obvious obstacles of class and perceptions are there but they’ve spent so much of their lives together that when they come to a crossroads, it’s not a cut and dried situation.

As far as the acting goes, both actresses are superb. There are many nuances to each performance and they’re able to convey the subtleties of their struggles without having to say anything. Clearly, the casting department gets a big pat on the back for their efforts.

However, writer/director Jorge Gaggero seemed to fall in love with watching his actresses silently emote and the result of the film is a long, drawn-out affair that quite possibly could have been condensed into a short film. That’s how little actual plot occurs.

Sure, I like character studies but by about the three quarters mark of the film, there weren’t any new revelations to be thrown out. At that point, it was simply a matter of getting to the end and enduring the process.

If you’re a fan of either actress or want to see how uncomfortable it can be to have people cleaning up after you and making afternoon tea, I could see why this film is for you. For the rest of us, there are better ways to spend a few hours; like cleaning up your own filthy apartment. So, while the actresses deserve much better, I’m giving “Live-In Maid” a 2 out of 5.

By the way, if you went looking for this film you may also need to know the alternate title of “Cama adentro”. That’s how IMDb lists it, although in the subtitled version I saw in theaters, the title comes up as “Live-In Maid” with “Señora Beba” also put up on the screen. I’d be interested to know how it was listed in foreign countries … just not that interested, kind of like the film experience itself.