Plot: Alice (Alexis Kendra) has the kind of life most people can only dream of, as she’s beautiful, has a great career, lush apartment, and a boyfriend she is wild about. But her beloved Michael (Stelio Stavante) is married to someone else, though that doesn’t stop the two from frequent rendezvouses and jet set excursions to Europe, so Alice can’t complain too much. When she meets Shelly (Rachel Alig), Alice strikes up a friendship of sorts and offers to pay her under the table to clean her apartment, making her life a little less thing to be concerned with. As the two get to know each other, Alice opens up about her life and problems, even letting Shelly in on her biggest secret, revealing Michael’s married status. But while Alice sees Shelly as a social outlet that helps her resist going back to Michael, Shelly begins to develop an attachment much deeper than her employer suspects. Will Alice be able to keep her friendship with Shelly within safe boundaries, or is too late to pull back from her new friend?
Entertainment Value: This movie mines a well worn narrative, but puts some fresh twists on the formula and goes for a darker tone, which helps The Cleaning Lady stand out from the crowd. The “friendship turns into obsession” routine is given a new shine this time around, thanks to the relationship between Alice and Michael, which has a similar, less sinister dynamic. The movie takes the time to develop the Alice and Michael bond, as well as how it impacts Alice’s emotional health, but the Alice and Shelly angle is what drives the picture. I appreciated how well the evolution of their relationship was handled here, but the pace can be a little on the slow side. I don’t mind a slow burn at all, but this feels drawn thin in some stretches, though it is never dull, just leaning into a more deliberate lane. The darker tone is effective and gives The Cleaning Lady a horror movie vibe, rather than melodramatic thriller, which is where most of these obsessed friend narratives wind up. I appreciated the sometimes twisted elements, including the wild blender antics, but if you prefer more sedate, grounded thrillers, that might not be a positive in your case. This one proves to be a solid watch, so fans of horror and dark thrillers should give it a look.
The dark elements and eerie atmosphere are crucial ingredients here, but the movie is pushed forward by the dynamic between our two leads, as that relationship is what carries the picture. Alexis Kendra plays Alice and she turns in a terrific effort, making good use of the solid development her character is given. I like that the movie doesn’t seek to paint her as this selfless person, her bond with Shelly is genuine, but not always motivated by pure intentions. The friendship is a means to an end of sorts, even if Alice does feel a real connection. Kendra is likable and handles the needs of the role well, but Rachel Alig tends to steal the show here. She brings a quiet menace that is tough to pull off, with bursts of both terrifying moments and more emotional, sympathetic ones, as you can tell she is desperate for Alice’s acceptance. The two performers have a good connection on screen and that is one reason The Cleaning Lady works so well, two great performances. Stelio Savante is also good as the married boyfriend and despite not being a lead, is given some good material to work with. I think we needed to see his charm to make Alice’s fixation hit home, so his turn provides that nicely. The cast is a small one, but they’re more than up to the task.
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