Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Movie Review: "Maudie" (2017)

Director: Aisling Walsh
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

A look at the life of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis.

"Maudie" is a dramatic biopic directed by Aisling Walsh and written by Sherry White. Both of these women are known more for their work writing and directing television shows and made-for-TV movies than their work in film. It stars Sally Hawkins as the titular Maud Lewis, a woman who has battled arthritis since a young age. Maud went from being a housekeeper to a prolific Canadian folk artist. Joining her is Ethan Hawke, who plays her rather abrasive and often unlikable employer-turned-husband Everett Lewis. The film chronicles a journey of her career as a painter and their relationship from beginning to end.

We didn't know anything about Maud Lewis going into this movie since we aren't purveyors or followers of Canadian folk art. Still, with no previous knowledge or affinity towards this person, we still found her story very compelling and enjoyable. Sally Hawkins is magnificent as Maud. She puts on a wonderful performance as a woman who, despite having a rough and even tragic life, is amazingly optimistic at times. Maud has an underlying strength and even a little bit of a sass in her despite her physical shortcomings. Hawkins gives one of the few truly Oscar worthy performances we've seen this year. Ethan Hawke is also excellent as her eventual husband Everett, a gruff, often abrasive asshole of a character. Despite his miserable demeanor and his downright despicable actions, there is an underlying endearing nature to him. We can tell deep down he loves Maud, even though he isn't the best at showing it, or saying it, or doing anything about it.

As a person with chronic pain from severe rheumatoid arthritis, it's interesting to see my disease played out so achingly well in a film. It's not often discussed in cinema, and when it is, it's often done in passing (though there are some notable exceptions). Arthritis is at the front and center of "Maudie" from beginning to end. All of the little crooks and creaks I feel on a day to day basis, the disjointed, disfigured fingers, the swollen, achy feet, the flares, the pain from the cold, the inability to walk properly or hold a brush the right way, the debilitating nature of this disease is all there. And yet, somehow, Maud Lewis found a way to smile and paint through the pains of her ailment. She seemed to be relentlessly happy in her simplistic life. Maud Lewis embodies everything I've ever felt as a person with arthritis, going through life with a health issue that can't always be seen (not in Maud's case), but can sure as hell can be felt every throbbing movement. Her life's story has shown me that even when you're feeling at your worst, there's something to smile about.

"Maudie" exceeded our expectations. It is a heartfelt, special, emotional story that's really more about Maud as a person and her relationship with Everett than her art, though her art is still crucial to her story. It is very moving at times and has a couple of strong, impactful moments that will draw audiences into this woman's engaging but mostly simple life. Sally Hawkins is a marvel, and the amount of effort she put into researching and preparing for her brilliant role is apparent, one we hope is recognized come award season next year.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~88%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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