Maid in Manhattan (2002) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and some sexual references
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Tyler Posey, Marissa Matrone, Natasha Richardson, Chris Eigeman, Amy Sedaris, Bob Hoskins
Director: Wayne Wang
Screenplay: Kevin Wade
If you are someone who absolutely never gets tired of hearing the tale of Cinderella in all its various forms, perhaps Maid in Manhattan will be worthwhile for you. However, anyone looking for a moving romance, funny comedy, or even a great time at the movies might save some money by flipping on the Romance Channel at home, because almost anything on there will offer just as many surprises and probably as much interest. Of course, if you are a hardcore J.Lo (Angel Eyes, The Wedding Planner) nut, no amount of redundant and predictable fare will dissuade you from seeing her in another forgettable film in a career full of them.
Lopez plays the maid of the title, Marisa Ventura, a lower-class New Yorker who works as a maid in a luxurious Manhattan hotel. She dreams often of being something more, including an interest in the management program of the hotel, yet doesn't think she will ever be good enough to bother trying. Luckily, one of her co-workers has entered her application, and she quickly becomes the favorite to get the position, but she has one secret that no one must know. One day she tries on an expensive ensemble belonging to one of the hotel's guests and catches the eye of Christopher Marshall (Fiennes, Red Dragon), a handsome Senatorial candidate who is enamored of her charm and also of her son, Ty (Posey, Collateral Damage). He doesn't know she's a maid, and she wants so badly to be looked at as something more even temporarily, she never lets on who she really is. With the press always around, it will be hard to keep a secret.
Maid in Manhattan tries to be one of those inspiring feel-good romantic comedies, but never seems believable enough to rise above the familiar material. The young boy does things only a child in the movies would ever do, here listening to 70s music like Paul Simon or a the Best of Bread compilation, in addition to knowing all about the politics of the era. Lopez is almost coronated into the management position the instant her application is put in, yet we never see why the hotel management would think she is worthy of the responsibility, and in fact, she is shown to be mostly irresponsible during much of what we do see. The Senatorial bid seems completely out of tune with how the political game works, especially in a rough-and-tumble state like New York, and the lack of insight is all the more glaring when Marshall is still running for Senator just a few days from Christmas. Aren't elections held in November?
Although the cast is mostly likeable, there's very little in the way of spark between Lopez and Fiennes, and the situations they are put into do little to evoke a sense of love between the two. The supporting cast are the typical whimsical sort, mostly meant for laughs but delivering the typical seriousness and pearls of wisdom when the time calls for it. The direction by Wayne Wang (Because of Winn-Dixie, Last Holiday) is less than magical, filming without much style or interest in punching up what is already a tired story. The soundtrack has some very eclectic and often odd choices, never seeming to be quite in tune with the themes and styles of the storyline.
Maid in Manhattan is a date flick, and I suppose if you want something to go to that isn't too heavy, isn't a kids film, or a three-hour ass-numbing saga, you might find the feel-good, light nature of the story decent enough to bring your significant other to. Hell, if you just go to the theatre to make out, it's perfect. You certainly won't be distracted by a gripping story or any fireworks from the two leads on-screen.
©2003 Vince Leo