“Life is too much fun” is the mantra of Marie “Mimi” Haist, an 88-years young local icon of Santa Monica. She is touted as “Queen Mimi,” and the documentary of the same name, directed by Yaniv Rokah, is a comforting balm for the soul. With a mystery format similar to the 2013 Academy Award-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier, Rokah takes his living subject and peels back the layers of her mysterious life to show us a woman who lived by the rules for much of that time and is now content on breaking them.

Los Angeles is a city known for its colorful characters. In fact, we expect the entirety of Southern California to be filled with people whose interesting stories are lost in the morass of humanity. Struggling actor Rokah met the tiny, bubbly Mimi while working as a barista at a local coffee shop. A friendship spanning five years ended up with Rokah making this documentary as a gateway to understanding Mimi and her friends, both wealthy and average, who’d do anything for her.

Queen Mimi is a film with the ability to restore one’s faith in humanity. It’s amazing how many people, including actor Zach Galifianakis, have found themselves drawn to this little old woman’s magnetism. Originally homeless and living on the streets, Mimi’s journey starts with a local laundromat owner allowing her to stay and unofficially work there. Mimi is a brash, uncompromising figure who doesn’t care what people think, wearing clothes that aren’t age-appropriate and calling people “assholes” with little compunction. Delving into her life, Mimi never acknowledges herself as being homeless. As one of her friends says, “What is being homeless? She has a home.”

In fact, many of Mimi’s recollections showcase Southern California’s continuing homeless problem. Mimi details sleeping in a department store stairwell adjacent to UCLA in one of many instances where wealth tramples and ignores the cries of the needy. Later, a friend mentions how wealthy friends of Mimi’s were uncomfortable with donating to her cause. Later, when Mimi’s more famous friends — including Galifianakis and Renée Zellweger —help her, their good deeds ending up in the tabloids, it’s a source of embarrassment for our heroine. Mimi wants people to know she isn’t homeless. In fact, she kicks homeless people —people similar to her—out of the laundromat, demanding her friends don’t help them. This sounds callous, but there’s a blinding sense of pride within Mimi that ends up separating her from other people whose stories might be as fascinating as hers.

Though she doesn’t have a place of her own, it’s heartwarming watching people open themselves up to Mimi, in spite of her tendency to drink and self-sabotage. Mimi details her lengthy marriage, and how divorce and arguing weren’t condoned in the confining landscape of the 1950s. The revelation of Mimi’s two daughters that she left behind with seemingly little care is the film’s third-act bombshell that threatens to destroy any goodwill Mimi has created. As a person, Mimi is a complex and often frustrating individual. In many ways her life mimics that of 1940s star Veronica Lake; both who had seemingly good lives but ended up in poverty without their children.

Though named after Mimi, as well as unearthing the secrets of her life, the documentary uses her as a springboard for the people whose lives she touched. “Her zest for life brought out the best in us,” Rokah declares, and though there are no big success stories directly attributed to Mimi’s placement in their lives, it’s evident she’s helped people realize getting older doesn’t mean you have to be old. Contradictorily, Rokah’s interview with Mimi’s daughter, Kate, illustrates Mimi like the sun—creating warmth and happiness but leaving people cold in its shadow. Kate alludes to anger she and her sister experienced when Mimi left, contrasted with Mimi providing happiness to others, even while being laid up in the hospital.

We should all bow down to Queen Mimi. Yaniv Rokah’s depiction of friendship in a city littered with the friendless is uplifting and touching in all the best ways. Mimi isn’t perfect, but her story reaches out to people from all walks of life. Her take-no-prisoners attitude and “I don’t care” personality is something I only wish I could have at 88 years old.

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