The Cleaning Lady follows a woman who is struggling with her affair with a married man, and decides to let a disfigured (and secretly disturbed) cleaning lady into her life to try and positively distract herself.
The Cleaning Lady Review
The quiet, warm person with homicidal tendencies is nothing new to film, and isn't even exclusive to the horror genre. Technically Sling Blade follows the same model. The usual progression found in these movies happens here: a quiet woman with a dark past gradually snaps over the course of the film until she responds violently. It's true that this film doesn't introduce a lot of new concepts, but there's something worthy of discussion amidst the moral compass.
The performances carry familiar weight. We have empathy for the cleaning lady, but we struggle to care for almost anyone else. It's difficult to sympathize with a woman who continually participates in an affair, despite the script giving its all in explaining the temptation struggles these people suffer with. Within the final act, I find myself struggling to find an emotional response in a scene designed to bring up emotions. I still only feel sympathy for our attacker.
And that isn't to excuse her behavior. Of course our cleaning lady isn't doing the right thing and should be stopped. But we get regular flashbacks of her treatment at the hands of her mother and it's easy to understand some violent tendencies arising from that treatment. Any vengeance taken out upon those from her past is...beyond understandable. Yet, there are moments in the final act where we are left cheering for no one, except maybe the cuckold-wife, who eventually makes an appearance as well. The film is difficult to wrap your heart around because it's a lot of despicable people surrounded by despicable actions with a few victims in between.
The pacing is slow, but moves in a direction with purpose. We know things will be coming to a head eventually, and the climax delivers plenty of intensity. Yet, it still struggles to find its rhythm through the plodding progression of the cleaning lady's actions and the unevenly timed flashbacks. On top of that, our affair subplot scrapes away any remaining empathy and we are left with interest only in who kicks the bucket before the credits roll and the eventual "why" revealed through the flashbacks.
I also can't help but feel that too much of the plot feels pulled from a Lifetime Halloween special with various moments of inspiration extracted from classic horror films. One particular set of scenes feels practically shot-for-shot copied from The Audition. It feels almost worthy of a lawsuit.
The end result is a movie that I found interesting, yet emotionally draining. It has moments of intensity and purposeful messaging, but it's uneven and plodding at times. I wouldn't call it a waste of time to watch, but the problem with films like this one is that they struggle to retain interest when you know the otherwise harmless disturbed character is going to snap, and said snap is clearly in the climax. There are certainly better films of a similar ilk out there, but they're hard to recall off of the top of my head because, frankly, they're often forgettable.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10 Horror Quality: 4/10
Film Quality: 6/10