1930's rural Nova Scotia. Maud Dowley, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, smokes heavily to deal with the pain. Because of her unusual gait from the arthritis, she is often mistaken as a stupid, incapable woman, that perception which does make her feel stupid and incapable. That view is held by her surviving family, her brother Charlie and her Aunt Ida with whom she lives. After an action by Charlie, Maud decides to seek some independence and is the only applicant for a posted job as housekeeper for brusque Everett Lewis, a poor fish seller. Despite not wanting to hire a cripple which only adds to their antagonism, Maud negotiates to get the job for room and board. Their antagonistic relationship ends up including Everett exacting beatings on Maud whenever she doesn't do what he wants. To keep herself happy, Maud begins to paint the interior of the house with happy pictures and paint similar pictures on small cards, these folk art pictures are how she wants to see the world. ...Written by
Folk Art is art that is not defined by your traditional academic notions of what art should be, whether technical or aesthetic. Folk is an old word, from old high German, basically meaning people in general.
"Maudie" is a movie about folks, especially one very important central figure who happens to be a folk artist. Maud Lewis is her name, and it's very likely she never classified her art by any term whatsoever during her life, much less folk art. Her art is just something she did.
"Maudie" is a sweet little biopic movie that at times is a bit disturbing. The disturbing aspects are subtle. The creators/directors gloss over some of the finer points of her life, with some alterations of the truth. However, the important questions are asked, literally, during the movie. It's up to the viewer to see these aspects, or not, and take them for what they are. Your reactions or discernment thereof may depend on prior knowledge or research of the subject.
What is clear from almost the outset the movie, is that Maud and her husband led a difficult life - not quite but almost abject poverty. Yet Maud filled her life with beauty through her art. Flickers of relative fame touched her life briefly, but it was not until well after her death in 1970 that full appreciation was recognized, not that she really cared about these things.
"Maudie" is a small movie with big performances by the mains, especially Sally Hawkins. In my opinion, her performance as Maud is the best this year so far, but I can guarantee right now that you will hear her name come Oscar time next year. Ethan Hawke is also exceptional as her husband Everett, although the role itself is a bit more static. The supporting cast - mostly unknowns - does well in more cardboard cut- out roles, but Matchett, a Canadian actress who you might recognize from some American TV roles does a nice job as one of her earliest patrons.
Will you like this movie? I don't know, but I loved it. It is what it is, not an action movie, but a small art-house drama/biopic of a very interesting and amazing person who lived most of her life in obscurity. This movie affected me not just during the viewing, with tears streaming slowly down my face, but well after. The tears that came were not only sad but also from joy at her creations, but most of all they stemmed from my belief that beauty and sweetness deserves beauty and sweetness and, well, Maud had very little of that in her life.
Many biopics have been made of famous people that rose out of obscurity or extremely challenging situations or disabilities to achieve greatness and renown. What really interested and touched me about Maud's story is there was no rise.
(Interesting side note: Maud sold her paintings during her life for a few coins to a few dollars at most. Now her paintings are selling for six figures)
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