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Reviews by Dr. Frank Swietek   

Producer  Anton Reixa, Diego Mas Trellis and Veronica Cura 
Director  Jorge Gaggero 
Writer  Jorge Gaggero 
Starring Norma Aleandro  Norma Argentina  Marcos Mundstock  Raul Panguinao  Susan Aanteri 
Claudia Lapaco  Eduardo Rodriguez  Monica Gonzaga  Elsa Berenguer 
Studio  The Film Sales Company 
Review  There’s very little plot to Jorge Gaggero’s “Live-In Maid,” but as a character study it carries a quiet, almost serene dramatic power as well as a strong current of dark humor. Set in an Argentina whose economy is collapsing, it’s the tale of a long-suffering maid named Dora (Norma Argentina), who’s grown impatient with the inability of her long-time employer, an upper-middle class alcoholic divorcee named Beba (Norma Aleandro), to pay her back wages or even scrounge up enough cash for household supplies. As Bebe’s finances continue to deteriorate, Dora quits, but her own home life is far from ideal, and in a final twist that’s hardly unpredictable but is at least played with amusing understatement, the women find themselves together again.

What makes the film work so well is the fact that it doesn’t turn either woman into a heroine or a villain. As portrayed by the apparently impassive but subtly expressive Argentina, Dora is conscientious, loyal and—as the resolution shows—empathetic, but she can also show flashes of anger (especially at her flighty boyfriend) as well as an appetite for homely middle-class pleasures. Initially Aleandro comes across as fashioning too broad a portrait of a flighty, pretentious woman who refuses to concede her loss of status and attempts to manipulate her servant to remain despite her lack of salary; but as we watch Beba futilely trying to make contact with her daughter, or finagle money from her ex-husband, or make ends meet by selling an infomercial-ready line of cosmetics, she’s gradually transformed into a figure who generates pathos rather than contempt. The remainder of the cast is unobtrusively supportive of the leads.

The technical values of “Live-In Maid” are modest, but they seem entirely suited to this piquant, and ultimately quite moving, tale of two strangely co-dependent women struggling to survive under straitened circumstances. The result is a small (and, at under an hour and a half, short) film that delivers more per minute than many bloated Hollywood blockbusters.

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