*** (out of 5)
July 21, 2017
Sally Hawkins as MAUD LEWIS
Ethan Hawke as EVERETT LEWIS
Kari Matchett as SANDRA
Gabrielle Rose as AUNT IDA
Zachary Bennett as CHARLES DOWLEY
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by: Aisling Walsh
BY KEVIN CARR
The main reason to see the biopic “Maudie” is for the honest and complete performance by Sally Hawkins. It is her ability to take on the innocence and purity of the character of Maud Lewis that adds life to an otherwise mild story.
Hawkins plays the Nova Scotian folk artist Lewis, a troubled and arthritic woman who is under the control of her disinterested family. When they plan to sell the house she is living in, Maud finds another means to live. She takes a job with a farmer named Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) as his housekeeper and assistant. Initially, Everett is aggressive and distant, ranking her lower than the chickens and dogs on the farm in terms of importance.
However, after years of living under the same roof, the two form a special – if not dysfunctional – bond. They get married and find a relationship between themselves that might seem caustic but works for them. During their marriage, Maud develops her painting skills, selling postcard-sized prints and larger works. She also literally paints the inside and outside of their home, installing an artistic treasure on the Nova Scotian land.
Not being an avid art aficionado – and a somewhat ignorant American in terms of such – I was unaware of the story and work of Maud Lewis. So, this was essentially a new story for me. It is an interesting way to approach a biopic, I have found.
On one hand, “Maudie” is an infuriating film because the dysfunctional relationship that Maud has with Everett borderlines on abuse at times. Its uncomfortable to watch, and it’s unclear whether the emotions felt in the relationship were truly love or a sense of duty and service that often befalls victims of such emotional tension.
On the other hand, I have to respect the story for telling itself unencumbered by how an ignorant person like myself might view it. After all, the purpose of a biopic is to reveal and celebrate a person’s life, flaws and all. Whitewashing the emotional issues in that person’s life may not server the story in the end.
Ultimately, “Maudie” is an interesting movie, mostly worth watching for Sally Hawkins’ performance. It feels a bit like a docudrama for British television, but still an educational experience for someone like myself.