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Review: Jon Knautz and Alexis Kendra’s “The Cleaning Lady”

With a title like The Cleaning Lady, you’d automatically envision a movie about a maid that breaks into people’s houses and kills them. Well, you’d be mostly correct, but the new film from Jon Knautz and Alexis Kendra goes a little deeper than that. Shelly is a meek, homeless woman who’s face was disfigured in a tragic accident. She’s hurting for money until she’s offered a cleaning and service job by Alice. Alice is the polar opposite of Shelly. Beautiful, refined and classy, a profitable career, smart, personable and in a relationship. However, Alice is far from stuck up and she’s far from perfect, too. Her life isn’t so picture perfect on the inside, and she starts to confide her deepest secrets and biggest regrets with Shelly. As their friendship grows, Shelly becomes psychotically obsessed with Alice, so much so that she wishes she could be her. And for her to do that, the old Alice needs to die by any means necessary. Written, directed and produced by Jon Knautz and written and produced by Alexis Kendra, The Cleaning Lady stars Kendra (Hatchet, Goddess of Love), Stelio Savante (“Ugly Betty, “All My Children”), Rachel Alig, Elizabeth Sandy, Mykayla Sohn, JoAnne McGrath and Keri Marrone. Continue reading my review for my details and opinion on this psychological thriller, and then look for it on demand, digital HD and DVD on June 4th 2019 courtesy of RLJE Films.

The Cleaning Lady falls somewhere between an independent film and a studio release. Featuring cinematography by Joshua Allen and editing by Matthew Brulotte, it contains the more casual look that I’ve grown accustomed to and it’s virtually flawless in terms of production errors. Movie fans who enjoy more underground movies like this one won’t find any complaints in picture quality, audio and lighting. The Cleaning Lady has minimal gore, but the effects are realistic and successful. Throw in some surprise locations and beautiful camera work at night, and this one’s efforts become obvious. The budget may have been small, but the passion for the project shines through in a film that’s polished and sophisticated, and further raises the bar for independent standards. The acting is great, too, especially the ying and yang performances from Alexis Kendra and Rachel Alig. Despite both women delivering worthwhile portrayals, I have to say that Stelio Savante was my favorite actor, even though he was more of a secondary character. The way he delivered his lines – I just believed him more than everyone else. And even though JoAnne McGrath was a secondary villain in the grand scheme of things, she looked the part more than Alig due to her unique eye color and severely damaged character that was brought to life with perfection. No complaints with production value or the acting at all.

The script and story, well, I have a few problems with those. The Cleaning Lady has a few disturbing moments, that’s for sure. They were darker moments that I wasn’t expecting in a movie like this, and they really set the tone for the plot to transition from a psychological thriller to a straight up horror flick. By adding these subplots and flashbacks, which you’ll need to see for yourself because I don’t include spoilers like that, the script became a truly original narrative film that’s going to shock and surprise audiences. However, when the plot slows down… man, it really slows down! There are a few moments when you’re going to reach for the fast forward button. I did, and The Cleaning Lady loses its overall momentum because of that. The pace is up and down too much to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, so they’re not engrossed in the material on screen. Another problem is the story never went “there.” Home invasion, obsessed stalker, kidnapping movies have been popular for a long time, especially if you frequent the Lifetime Network. This means you have to push the envelope at least once to make your story stand out from the crowd. There were several moments, in my opinion, that could have been amplified with a little more effort or a little more horror. This also goes back to the momentum problem I mentioned, with the audience expecting a big pay out and only getting a modest return. It’s so difficult for me to say that was disturbing and that was boring in the same paragraph.

I watched The Cleaning Lady with my husband and a glass of wine. I think that’s how you should watch this movie, too. Enjoy it with a friend, and class up your viewing party with some alcohol. Try to be more like Alice, who has a really rough time in this movie. This way, you have someone with you to make guesses about the outcome and a partner to laugh with when something weird happens. Although, I would recommend watching with a friend who can appreciate a movie in this budget bracket. Since it’s not a Hollywood blockbuster and it drags in spots, you’re going to need to be a real cinema viewer to appreciate The Cleaning Lady. You need to be someone who can appreciate the art of film-making, actors giving it their all, and genuine suspense that starts from the moment Alice and Shelly meet. I really wish I could say I loved this movie, but the fact of the matter is I’ll probably forget about it once this review is posted. It’s good, but it’s nothing that got me too excited. It’s definitely worth the price of a stream or a download if you’re a fan of female-lead thrillers, but I don’t think I’d recommend buying it on DVD. Everyone involved with this movie did a fantastic job, but the script needed more work to keep the tone, timing and story flowing and growing in tandem.

Final Score: 5.5 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)