Monday, January 18, 2010

The Housekeeper

(Ousama Rawi, 1986)
Two really grave flaws here. The ill-conceived structure crams all the murder and mayhem save a couple quick hallucinations into the first and last ten minutes of the film; this leaves the middle section for character and plot development which are not forthcoming - Rita Tushingham starts as an unsympathetic biddy and stays that way throughout. Also, after a suitably bitchy intro, her wealthy employers are far too decent and reasonable - even the borderline-incest subplot is mild. This imbalance simultaneously skews the film toward bourgeois paranoia fantasy and creates unwelcome lulls in the camp nastiness. The latter is mainly provided not by Tushingham - though she has her moments - but Jackie Burroughs as the town crazy woman, a role she inhabits with alarming acuity. Ex-prostitute turned Christian soldier, domestic abuse victim and cackling survivalist, Burroughs is so compellingly obnoxious that she steals the movie. One is tempted to forgive the production its sins just for the opportunity to watch her tear up the scenery, but while scene for scene Rawi shows a nice flair for the grotesque - the church sequence is a riot - the whole lacks momentum and coherence, and the illiterate-as-monster premise fails to generate much pathos to balance the classbound revulsion.

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