Director Yaniv Rokah is a barrista\wannabe actor in Santa Monica, where he encounters the woman who lives in the laundromat across the street.
Marie ‘Mimi’ Haist was born in 1925, married young and ‘obeyed’ her domineering husband. After 29 years of marriage she was left with nothing when he preferred his mistress. She was out on the streets in her 50s, homeless, spending her days in a laundromat until one cold night a kind laundromat owner didn’t kick her out at closing time. She’s been living in Fox Laundry ever since – some 25 years now.
The documentary is pretty low-key about how the laundromat guy, Stan Fox, was really her saviour. Not just for letting her stay, but for knowing her story, and for putting up with her. She’s not exactly a picnic; if she doesn’t like you, you’ll know it. But if you show her kindness, she’s a blast. She doesn’t work for Stan Fox but she does work in the laundromat, undercutting his business and often making more money than the actual employees. She likes nothing better than putting on some tunes and dancing her head off.
She’s 88 years young in the film and dresses like she’s 12. Her face is one of years hard-lived. Her teeth are nonexistent. Her back hunched, perhaps a side effect of sleeping scrunched up in a lawn chair in a laundromat for so long.
You kind of have to watch this film. Queen Mimi is a character, one you’d hardly credit in a movie, and one you have to see in a documentary to believe. She’s got her philosophies, her hard-won wisdom, and an outlook that’s totally unique. She’s cantankerous and whimsical and totally intolerant of homeless people (she doesn’t see the irony). And she has a knack for making famous friends: Zach Galifianakis has taken her to movie premieres (he met her while doing his laundry some 18 years ago), Renee Zellweger takes her shopping, and if you promise to keep a secret, Zach’s about to put her up in an apartment all her own. She hasn’t had a home since 1976.
What a fascinating portrait of a complex human being. We step over homeless people all the time, but everybody has a story, and this is Mimi’s. It’s heartening to see so many people rally around her, wonderful to see that people care. I kind of wish the same for all those lining the sidewalks.