Maid in Manhattan Review
By Shawn McKenzie 12/09/2002
Before I start this review, I need to do a brief rant about movie screenings. I went to the screening of Maid in Manhattan, which was scheduled for 3:30 PM Mountain Time. My girlfriend and I sat down in the theater, looked up on the screen, and saw a countdown clock for the start of the movie. I thought that was kind of cool, but little did I know that we were about to be tortured with a 50 minute pre-show of the Hollywood premiere of the movie. Supposedly, this premiere was being broadcast live to theaters in several cities around the country. It was just a bunch of posturing and interviews with the stars of the movie, some celebrities who wanted to just see the movie, and four couples who had won some ?most romantic meeting? contest. When they were finally wrapping things up, everyone in the theater cheered (at least the people who had stayed, because several people left out of frustration.) My girlfriend pointed out that the Oscars have a pre-show. That is true, but the Oscars have a set time when the show starts, so you can choose whether or not you want to watch it. This movie was scheduled to start at 3:30 PM, and dang it, it should have started at 3:30 PM! (At the very least, the screening pass should have said that the movie would be preceded by a live pre-show so people could make plans accordingly.) In the future, Hollywood, know this: no one likes unannounced pre-shows in movie theaters!
Now that I am finished ranting, let?s get to the review. Like the unannounced pre-show, Maid in Manhattan was full of surprises. Unlike the pre-show, these were pleasant surprises, at least in the acting field. I?m not saying that anyone in this movie will get an Oscar nod (though J-Lo might get a Golden Globe nomination), but most of the actors brought the movie unexpectedly good performances.
Maid in Manhattan is the story of Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez), a single mother born and raised in the boroughs of New York City, who works as a maid in a first-class Manhattan hotel. She is raising her ten-year-old son Ty (Tyler Posey) alone. Inspired by a study of the ?70s in his history class, Ty is obsessed with everything ?70s, from his music (he listens to Paul Simon and Bread) to his politics (he develops a love of the Republican Party, and most notably the accomplishments of Richard Nixon.) Marisa has dreams of advancing in her job to hotel manager, but her mother?s words of negativity have kept her from pursuing it. One day, while cleaning a guest?s room with her friend and co-worker Stephanie Kehoe (Marissa Matrone), she tries on the guest?s expensive jacket and pantsuit that the guest, Caroline Sincaire (Natasha Richardson), had sent out to be cleaned. Meanwhile, Ty meets another guest in the hotel, Republican Senatorial candidate Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), in the elevator. Marshall is impressed by the kid?s political knowledge and asks if he would like to tag along while he walks his dog. When Ty brings Marshall with him to ask his mom for permission to go with the politician, Marisa is still wearing the outfit. Marshall is instantly attracted to her, and makes the assumption that she is Caroline, based on the outfit. He asks her if she would like to come with him and Ty to walk the dog. He soon finds out that she is as outspoken as her son is. They have a magical afternoon, but her little deception might cost her the manager job (Stephanie had submitted her application without her knowledge.) She makes a deal with her supervisor, the floor butler Lionel Bloch (Bob Hoskins), to dump Marshall until after she gets the job. After a romantic night with Marshall at a political fundraiser, she decides she can?t do it. When Marisa's true identity is revealed, they find out that they are from two different worlds.
There were several pleasant surprises here. I?ve always thought Lopez was one of the few highly paid actresses who could pull off blue collar, and she does so again here convincingly. Posey is a talented kid actor who I think has a promising future ahead of him. Richardson, who normally has roles in stuffy films and indie features, is hilarious as the snobby hotel guest. The biggest shock, though, is Fiennes. This is his first time as the lead in a romantic comedy, and he was pretty good. He had decent chemistry with Lopez (much more than Matthew McConaughey did with her in last year?s The Wedding Planner.) I have to be honest. When I saw that Fiennes was the romantic interest in this movie, I had serious doubts that he would be able to deliver a credible performance. Even while I was watching the movie, I saw Francis Dolarhyde (his character in this year?s Red Dragon) when his character was first introduced. He quickly made me believe as the movie went on. This might be my bias against Richard Gere, but I thought Fiennes did better here then Gere did in Pretty Woman.
In addition to the acting, I was surprised by the director, Wayne Wang. He is known mainly for independent dramas, but he did a great job for his first romantic comedy.
I only had a couple problems I had with the movie. The first one was the politics. They tease you with some topics about class structure and society, but they don?t follow through. I would have liked Marshall to actually listen to what Marisa was saying instead of just noting how outspoken she was. The other thing is actually not my problem, but males in general. I personally can appreciate a good chick flick, but most guys might groan if they are dragged to this movie by their wife/girlfriend/date. Make no mistake?this is definitely a ?chick flick.?
If you want a great date movie, check out Maid in Manhattan. This take-off of the old Cinderella story is a fun romantic story. It is a little predictable, but the directing and acting are excellent. Those manly men seeing this ?chick flick? might end up having a good time too!
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