Maid in Manhattan review by Tom Blain

Ooops, she did it again.

Im not talking about Britney, but one of the other lovely divas, J-Lo. She got married again, and this time its not Ben. Word around the Vegas strip is 3-1 that the wedding doesnt make to the paper anniversary. Ladies and gentlemen we have the Liz Taylor of the 21st century (and yes, she already has her own line of fu-fu spray!). I know I am a man on the outside of the world known as J-Lo but based on what I read and see in the papers, her real life romances are much like her movie romances: spontaneous, flimsy, poorly written, and before you know it, she does another one in 6 months. That brings me to Maid in Manhattan.

In Maid in Manhattan, Jennifer Lopez plays a maid in an upscale New York hotel. Oh how she dreams... maybe one day she will run a hotel herself, maybe one day she will find the right Ben, err man, maybe oh maybe if she is lucky. Anyway one dreamy day as she is cleaning the top floor, she decides to try on the clothes of one of the hotel residents. Upscale senate candidate Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes in a questionable decision) walks in and unexpectedly falls in love and so begins the rags to riches story.

The usual elements of the Cinderella fantasy are present: the princes search for his beauty (as he goes back to the hotel room to leave a message for the wrong woman), the mistaken identity of the love interest (as Chris sends a date invite to the actual woman whos clothes Marisa tried on instead of Marisa), the evil stepsisters (Paula, the woman who Marisa is mistaken for, is completely irritating in that daddys money sorta way), the Fairy Godmother (which in this case seems to be a collection of maids pooling together money and favors from various upscale NY shops), the big ball (where Chris sees his true Cinderella), and of course the dreaded midnight (which was really the next morning when Marisa wakes upewww! I slept with that!?).

In order to make a movie like Maid in Manhattan good, something has to be added to it. The writing has to be cleaver, or it has to be a completely new twist on the classic Cinderella tale. Unfortunately this movie is quite standard and doesnt take chances. There are a number of little things that annoyed me about it though. The first and most obvious thing is the lack of believable love between Fiennes and Lopez. There is zero chemistry between the two. The writing doesnt help, and the direction isnt good enough to make up for it. While we are on the topic of writing, lets talk about character consistency. Fiennes character states that he likes Marisa because she doesnt throw herself at him and plays hard to get. Lopez states, quite seriously, that she intends to keep playing hard to get and he wont get lucky tonight. I mean after all she is a single mother and very responsible. Within two minutes, movie time, of uttering such a statement they are playing the mattress mambo and she wakes up in his bed (conveniently she works there). I guess she forgot about her kid that night no big deal. She called him up that day and he understood Way to go Ma! Way to knock the dust off and get it on with a scumbag politician!

The most painful 93 seconds of the film came in the middle for me, when she and her maid friends get all giggly discussing her big night at the ball. They give her a pep talk, convincing her to live her dream and go to this really nice galla event (while Chris Marshall is still unaware of her true status in life). The pep talk is then followed by the group of maids dancing to the rhythms of Im Coming Out by Diana Ross. Ten seconds would have been hard to watch. But the scene just keeps going and going. In most poorly made movies, I am sure a director would say what tremendous ad-libbing. Lets put all 93 seconds of this in the movie so everyone can see how much fun we had. And thats what was done for this poorly made movie. Director Wayne Wang (which is really fun to say) seems to be very confused by this one. His credentials include Anywhere But Here, critically acclaimed Joy Luck Club and Slam Dance. Its pretty hit or miss, but I can tell you that romantic comedies probably arent his strong suit.

I am not anti-romantic comedies, I am just anti-this one. Its pretty dreadful. You would think there would be a laugh or two despite its flaw but there really aren't any worth remembering. Ralph Fiennes must have lost a bet for his soul to take this part; maybe he owed someone a really big favor. This guy is known for doing movies like Schindlers List and The English Patient. Hardly a career boost. John Hughes has his poor name on the writing credits as Story by, I cant help but hope that the same guy who did Ferris Beullers Day Off may have just had an idea for a movie that got written and directed into tripe. My guess is that Maid in Manhattan was probably rushed through production and post-production in order to get the big theatre bucks at Christmas time and ride Jennifer Lopez media circus (since this was, I believe, her first release since the whole Ben Affleck relationship went public). It succeeded in doing both, but it didnt succeed in making an entirely watchable movie. Avoid this movie as if your life depended on it.




2 out of 10 Jackasses
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