Saran-Wrapped Scream: On The Cleaning Lady – David Kuhnlein

After the prom, and I ain’t got no scum bag
Saran wrap, Saran wrap
Freak together, love together, slurp together, scream together
Saran wrap, Saran wrap
– The Fugs

Amazon Prime, our colosseum peepshow, worldwide bathhouse, keeps our stalls sufficiently partitioned. The walls long for priapismic normalcy. It’s more fun when we’re struck blind by content for looking. Elevator jazz on a boombox, steady rhythm ride cymbals, candles over an immaculate altar of skin, silk robes float to the floor, a cosmetic billboard of our own mobility, bubble bath teased with a toe. Eyes shut to the lurking dark, zooming through steam, ratcheting the aperture, everyone’s entropic keyhole. Cinema has bulked its brachioradialis to the auric meat next door. Any brief bounce deeper into the FOMO – that film created – to increase the pleasure of surveillance.

The Cleaning Lady’s body horror comes trapped in a plaster cast of American minimum wage. With a cringy twinge of telescopic empathy, beautician Alice (Alexis Kendra), sees herself in her cleaning lady Shelly (Rachel Alig). Their faces signify opposing spectrums of whitewashed beauty. “It’s just my face [that’s deformed], everything else is normal,” Shelly clarifies. Both men and women have self-inflating uses for a butterface. Friends make the best customers.

Never in history has trauma provided such a high resale value. Good intentions only mean guilt now. The new faux benevolence hurts more than harms. Teaching a burn victim to put on makeup will remind her of having been a child prostitute. Locking a woman to a replica of her bed brings her abjectly close to her sex addiction. Half the internet’s itchy trigger finger falls off while squeezing. They stopped to smell the roses and swallowed every thorn. Stirred-crazy tech babies abound. Shelly’s a better breed of antihero. At least she has the moxie to dice several rats in a blender and serve them, sloshing in a metal bowl, to her patronizing captive. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? got a makeover.

Americans obsess over the piecemeal lucre of a job. We have no compunction about inflating our sustenance into a blank thaumaturgy. The Midas touch miracle anally huffed. Centerfolds stack into a Sadean dreamland for the price of your own self-distributed arthritis. “A woman grows up and lets self-esteem issues take hold…what if we never lost that little girl confidence,” (this bite-sized stomach roll is from Amy Schumer’s masterwork I Feel Pretty). Must we mistake our sores for glue? Will every scab fit on the fridge? The Cleaning Lady retaliates, a dominatrix beautifying her own body with a whip. Anti-aging cream, friction against time, sexual objecthood prolapsed into visibility. Shelly stays anonymous thanks to backtracked rifts in all the wrong places. Her face bears an evil cartography. She’s able to slink through her fantasies, materializing them at a glance. The peripheral flicker of film contributes to her mutilation, stunted onscreen. Shelly’s inherited serenity, antidote to her mother’s iciness, further deranges the interior of the mask she burrows into, grafting it with herself. Every sex addict, pimp, prostitute, cuckqueen, and cheater nibbles at, and is satiated by, the chains that obfuscate them.

Makeup like the stars and stripes, Alice says to Shelly: “Thank you for sharing, I know how hard it is to open up about things.” Women are supposedly the receptive gender, their interiority flexing against dichotomies of internal and external. Pulsing organs worn as clothing, they have ample space to receive, physically and emotionally. The film provides a body count of rooms to populate. “Cutting him out of your life” leaves each chest cavity gasping. Shelly studied her victimhood until it laughed in scrapes across its whetstone, ubiquitous for anyone who met her. Cleanliness is a blissful façade through which a Saran-wrapped scream can barely peep.