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Review: MAUDIE (2017) 'Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke are terrific in the biopic of folk artist Maud Lewis'

In FLIX!

Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
July 12, 2017 at 3:26 p.m.



MAUDIE (2017)

Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Rose, Billy MacLellan, Zachary Bennett, Kari Matchett

Directed by Aisling Walsh 

Sally Hawkins has a smile that could instantly cheer up anyone, well almost.  The actress plays Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis who had a tough time winning over coldhearted Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) after answering his ad for a live-in housekeeper.  Together they shared a small 10’ X 12’ foot cabin with no electricity or running water and while he was out peddling fish she began painting the walls of the cabin before expanding to small paintings sold by the side of the road.  Eventually the simplistic yet whimsical artwork captured the imagination of the world including the Nixon White House which commissioned two of her paintings. 

Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh, also a painter, brings the life of this remarkable woman to the big screen in a biopic that shows how Maud overcame several hardships to emerge as one of Canada’s most renowned artists.  Born with juvenile arthritis, Maud was a tiny woman who walked hunched over with a limp.  Despite her crippling disfigure she stood taller than most by remaining optimistic and determined to chase her dreams.  Hawkins, an extraordinary actress, undergoes a transformation to embody the physical characteristics and spirit of this amazing individual.  To prepare for the role Hawkins took painting lessons for six months prior to the start of production and she researched Maud’s life which is the subject of several documentaries. 

U.S. audiences are most familiar with Hawkins’ performance as the working-class sister of Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine but the accomplished actress is responsible for so many memorable performances in films that include Happy-Go-Lucky, Layer Cake, An Education, and Made in Dagenham.  Hawkins also played scientist Vivienne Graham in Gareth Edwards 2014 reboot Godzilla and is reprising the role for the sequel Godzilla: King of Monsters starring Vera Farmiga, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Millie Bobby Brown from the Netflix hit Stranger Things.  

Just as Hawkins undergoes a transformation for the film so does her co-star Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) who is usually cast as the caring romantic lead or concerned father, so this is quite a change for the actor who plays Maud’s employer then husband Everett Lewis.  He’s a 40-year old curmudgeon who audiences may detest during the first part of the film but by the time the credits roll you will have a change of heart as Walsh uncovers the tender man under that rough exterior.  Hawke does a fantastic job playing the reserved fish peddler and through his performance the audience gets to see what perhaps only Maud or Maudie, as he called her, saw in the grouchy bachelor.    

Walsh along with screenwriter Sherry Write concentrate on the period of Maud’s life that involves her relationship with Everett so don’t expect a true biopic.  The film focuses on how the unlikely couple became partners for life while Maud’s blossoming career as a folk artist becomes the backdrop for this wonderful film.  There is a reference to the hard life Maud had growing up with her cold aunt (Gabrielle Rose) and patronizing brother (Zachary Bennett) that involves both conspiring against her.  Maud tragically lost both her parents within a couple of years and quit school at the age of 14 after facing years of mocking by her classmates.    

Maud Lewis was a tiny fireball who didn’t let anyone hold her down.  Hawkins is superb in the role often interjecting humor when least expected and Hawke is equally impressive in the film.  “Maudie” is a beautiful and inspirational film that, thanks to Walsh, will introduce audiences to an amazing woman and a talented artist. 

(4 stars) 

Maudie opens Friday July 14 in Houston at the AMC Dine-In Houston 8 and in Austin at the Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills.

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