Review

Intimate portrait of 'Queen Mimi,' ruler of the laundromat

A beloved Santa Monica fixture, 90-year-old Marie Elizabeth “Mimi” Haist often staggers behind a laundry cart along Montana Avenue sporting an ear-to-ear smile on her wrinkled face and hobo chic on her fragile humpbacked frame. For two decades, she has literally taken up residency at the Fox Laundry. Though known for her joie de vivre  and party lifestyle, Haist has remained an enigma to even her closest pals. Filmmaker Yaniv Rokah spent five years learning about Haist's shrouded past, culminating in the documentary “Queen Mimi.”

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Though technically not a Fox Laundry employee, Haist takes it upon herself to boss around workers and customers while cultivating her own clientele. She has a set of keys so she can let herself in after a night on the town to sleep on a foldout chair sandwiched between rows of industrial washers.

Offering more than a portrait of a woman about town, Rokah gradually exhumes the hardship of surviving the streets of Los Angeles for four decades and the associated stigma and shame that have prevented Haist from reaching out to family. Yet she’s comparatively lucky for having friends who let her couch-surf and for Zach Galifianakis setting her up with an apartment in 2013.

Rokah shows Haist a rough cut toward the end of the film, finally earning her blessing to interview her estranged daughter, Kate. Presented with this other side of Mimi Haist, we are finally privy to the parallel lives she has led and will carry on.

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‘Queen Mimi’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica 

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