Maid to Order (1987)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rich girl becomes servant.

Jessie (Ally Sheedy) is a spoiled rich girl still living at home with her philanthropist father (Tom Skerrit). Even though she’s in her mid-20’s she has never worked a job due to her father’s fortunes and she takes everything for granted seemingly unaware of her privileged lifestyle and how it affects others. Her father becomes frustrated with her cavalier attitude and one day speaks out loud that he wished he never had a daughter, which summons a fairy godmother named Stella (Beverly D’Angelo) to come to earth and erase all memory of Jessie from him. Now Jessie must learn to survive on her own, but without any job skills. She finds work from a rich Malibu couple (Dick Shawn, Valerie Perrine) who are practicing ‘reverse affirmative action’ by hiring white woman in the role of the household maid instead of a Hispanic or Black one. Jessie, now desperate for money, readily accepts the offer, but her inability to do even basic household chores causes her employment to be in almost constant jeopardy.

The main character is what really hurts this one and it’s not so much that she’s unlikable either, which she isn’t,, but more because her personality is too watered down. This is the type of role that needed a real bitchy lady that exuded snobbery at every turn like Alison Arngrim who played Nellie Oleson the brat in the old TV-show ‘Little House on the Prairie’ or maybe even Shannen Doherty from ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ fame. Sheedy is just plain unable to play-up the bitchiness enough coming-off more like someone who lacks self-awareness instead of an elitist snob, which then makes her transition to humbleness not as interesting, dramatic, or funny. I’ve liked Sheedy in some of her other films and I realize she was trying to broaden her acting resume her by playing against-type, but she lacks the necessary charisma to keep it engaging.

The limp plot doesn’t help things either. It’s way too obvious where it’s headed and the viewer can easily predict the plot points before they even happen. There needed to be more confrontation from the contrasting personalities and more comedy from the quirky situation instead of the annoying life lessons that makes it seem almost like some afterschool special. Everything is aimed too much at the pre-teen audience, which leaves very little for a discernable adult tp enjoy.

The fairy godmother concept is a bit batty too. Why does a fairy answer this father’s wish, but no one else’s? Many people make wishes all the time, but no fairy godmother ever gets summoned, so what makes this situation so special? The script should’ve implemented some sort of side-story involving the father, or maybe even Jessie, getting involved in mysticism, which could’ve helped explain why this otherwise unusual incident then occurs.

I did however, really enjoy Dick Shawn in a very funny portrayal of the nouveau riche and he along with Beverly D’Angelo as the wise-cracking fairy godmother needed far more screen time. I was especially perplexed how underwritten D’Angelo’s part was as she plays a role that is quite fundamental to the story, but not in it half as much as you’d expect though her snarky remarks give this otherwise vapid material some much needed energy for the few minutes that she has.

Valerie Perrine, as Shawn’s wife, isn’t as amusing though her variety of gaudy outfits, and hairstyles, does at least lend visual flair. Skeritt though is completely deadening and it’s amazing how this guy has been acting on the screen since 1962 and yet the vast majority of his work is highly forgettable despite some of the movies he’s been in being memorable in other ways. Same for Michael Ontkean as Jessie’s romantic interest, he’s got the perfect pretty-boy face and hunky body, but seemingly no actual personality.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 31, 1987

Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Amy Holden Jones

Studio: New Century Vista Film Company

Available: DVD

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