No one works harder than the people who have no choice but to work in the hardest, dirtiest jobs out there. It’s a truth that takes center stage as Margaret Qualley delivers a compelling performance in this American series based on Stephanie Land’s memoir Girl: Hard work, low pay and a mother’s will to survive.
But it’s not just this unusually positive depiction of a modern working poor mother that has made Domestic help a quiet smash on course to overtake The Queen’s Gambit as Netflix’s most-watched limited series. Created by Molly Smith Metzler (Shameless, Orange Is the New Black), it’s an exceptionally well-reviewed piece of work – harrowing but punchy and entertaining – and one that offers insight and validation in a myriad of areas.
Qualley is at the heart of it as 25-year-old Alex, whom we meet as she picks up her young daughter, Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet), to leave her abusive partner in the middle of the night. She has nowhere to go, but she has to put gas in the car, and as the pump turns off, we see her bank balance drop further and further — all the way to $12. It’s a simple device, but one that exudes a stomach-churning feeling of free fall. .
That feeling continues the next day as Alex, after a night in the car, tries to navigate the Catch-22s of poverty – for starters, she can’t get a job unless she has childcare, and she can’t have child care unless she has childcare. has a job.
In doing so, she gets almost no help from her mother, Paula (Qualley’s real mother, Andie MacDowell), a flaky “undiagnosed bipolar” performer who will later turn out to have an unsuspected history that sparks a certain sympathy for her.
And when Alex lands a low-paid, precarious job through an exploitative cleaning company, a whole host of other complications and humiliations surface.
The thing that keeps her going is little Maddy, and the intimate, organically physical on-screen relationship Qualley has with squiggly toddler Whittet is extraordinary. If you saw them on the street you would definitely mistake them for mother and daughter, and the script gives them a lot of poignant little details – unable to put out an official Ariel doll. The little Mermaid, they have a cheap fake they call Schmariel.