Saturday 31 December 2016

Movie Review: Maid In Manhattan (2002)

A romantic comedy derived from Cinderella, Maid In Manhattan showcases the worst of the genre in a gag-inducing saccharine package.

Single mom Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez) works as a maid at the swanky Beresford Hotel in New York City. Marisa looks after her young son Ty as best as she could, and harbours ambitions to apply for the management training program. One of the guests at the hotel is Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), a third generation politician running for a Senate seat. Marshall's campaign manager is the highly strung Jerry Siegal (Stanley Tucci).

Chris bumps into Marisa just as she is surreptitiously trying on a designer Dolce & Gabbana suit belonging to Caroline Lane (Natasha Richardson), another guest at the hotel, and he is immediately smitten. They start an unlikely relationship, and Marisa keeps her identity as a maid a secret. Meanwhile Jerry recognizes that his candidate is inviting bad publicity, while Caroline has ambitions of her own to seduce the handsome Chris.

Directed by Wayne Wang, Maid In Manhattan is an inoffensive fairy tale with a predictable start, middle and end, fully dependent on coincidences and misunderstandings due to characters never saying what needs to be said when it needs to be said. There are maybe two sharp lines of dialogue delivered by Jennifer Lopez to underline issues of classicism, but otherwise the Kevin Wade screenplay is an exercise in vanilla bland dialogue set to a vanilla bland music soundtrack.

The tired ingredients are all here: the cute kid, the lovable dog, Marisa's sassy maid friends, the romantic competition in the form of the conniving Caroline Lane. Two elderly French sisters provide attempted comic relief as incompetent hotel burglars.

Lopez is not a horrible actress and spends long intervals in a deglamorized maid outfit, but she does tend to over emote at every opportunity. The supporting cast contains plenty of talent taking the day off, with Ralph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins (as the hotel's head butler), Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci and Frances Conroy slumming it in the overacting department for an easy paycheque. Fiennes never comes close to establishing chemistry with Lopez, and the comic moments are more silly than funny.

The only miracle of Maid In Manhattan is that it ever got made.

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