Maid In Manhattan

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Movie Review by Toby White

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Tyler Posey, Marissa Matrone, Natasha Richardson
Director: Wayne Wang

As cinema audiences become more discerning and sophisticated in their tastes filmmakers can get away with less and less. As a result, there are some fundamental facets that cannot be overlooked or undervalued…the script, for one. Since the romantic comedy is an exhausted genre – a formulaic storyline simply regurgitated, repackaged and rolled out – it comes down to the scriptwriter to come up with a clever theme and some sassy dialogue to keep the audience interested.

Marisa (Lopez) works as a maid in a plush New York hotel. Chris Marshall (Fiennes) is a dashing Senate candidate staying at the hotel as he promotes his campaign. During a frivolous lapse of Marisa’s otherwise groomed-for-manager responsible nature she tries on a pricey frock in one of her guests’ rooms just as Marshall enters and her fate is sealed. You can guess the rest. What we have is standard Cinderella fare, a nauseatingly, sentimental, rags-to-riches tale of the morally upstanding, underprivileged girl teaching a thing or two to the rich man bored by his position and the attention of his peers because he just wants to meet that girl that can show him the outlook on life that he’s looking for. It’s unconvincing, it’s irritating, it’s not PRETTY WOMAN.

To be fair, Jennifer Lopez throws her all into it, giving a sympathetic performance but I just couldn’t get over the fact that it’s a vehicle for her to remind us that she’s just one of us. The montage of magazine headlines at the end falls just short of having her on the cover of Time running for President. But let’s not be too cynical. It’s fun to see Fiennes doing something light like this and Stanley Tucci as his aide de camp is marvellous. Similarly, the supporting Brits – Bob Hoskins as the chief butler and Natasha Richardson in ugly sister mode as the thorny hotel guest chasing Fiennes’ affections – give the film a dose of integrity it otherwise might lack.

For all the understanding that audiences are developing there will always be a call for old-fashioned feel-good entertainment. So if that’s your bag, MAID IN MANHATTAN is the ideal Saturday night movie. But if you come out bemoaning its predictability – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2 out of 6 stars