Main cast: Jennifer Lopez (Marisa Ventura), Ralph Fiennes (Christopher Marshall), Natasha Richardson (Caroline Lane), Stanley Tucci (Jerry Siegel), Tyler Garcia Posey (Ty Ventura), Frances Conroy (Paula Burns), Amy Sedaris (Rachel Hoffberg), Marissa Matron (Stephanie Kehoe), Priscilla Lopez (Veronica Ventura), and Bob Hoskins (Lionel Bloch)
Director: Wayne Wang
Funny thing about movies: I am preparing to hate this movie because I really cannot stand Jennifer Lopez, but I end up liking Maid in Manhattan anyway. Whatever I can say about Ms Lopez, she manages to pull off her role as Marisa Venturi, a maid in a glamorous hotel, who falls in love with Republican politician Christopher Marshall.
Marisa, apparently, is raised by her mother to believe that as a woman of Latin descend, she is not worthy of anything better than serving other people. Her colleague Paula is always egging her to apply for management (why Paula doesn’t just apply for it herself is never explained – she probably has a crush on Marisa). A divorcée, Marisa has a son, Tyler, and life is okay for her. That is, until Paula asks her to try on wealthy socialite Caroline Lane’s dresses one day. Tyler, a genius of some sort, meets Christopher Marshall who is also staying at the hotel. Christopher is a playboy politician who is thinking of running in the upcoming election and he is chaffing under his advisor Jerry Siegel’s constant nagging. Charmed by the boy, he ends up following Tyler and accidentally interrupts Paula’s Let See Marisa Naked session. He sees Marisa in a J Lo dress and whoa! Hot!
Complications arise when Christopher falls madly in love and Marisa doesn’t know what to do. This movie faithfully follows the Cinderella story, so I don’t think anybody will be surprised for the rest of the movie.
Ralph Fiennes is absolutely unconvincing as an American and as a romantic lead, he can be downright creepy with his deep, penetrating intense gaze that seems to want to suck the soul out of one’s nostrils. But I really like looking at him, and besides, an obsessed Christopher is really sexy. Christopher’s singular need to find Marissa to the exclusion of everything else is even sexier. Jennifer Lopez is actually pretty good in her role and she pulls off even the most cheesy lines with aplomb. Unfortunately, she is stuck in a script that is rather insulting: no matter what it says, in the end it still shows how a woman can only better herself by marrying a rich and powerful man.
Nonetheless, I enjoy watching this movie because the secondary cast complements the main cast perfectly and the moments of humor are gentle yet effective. The kid Tyler is very good, although I cringe when the last twenty minutes of the movie uses him as a plot device to plunge the movie into unbearable saccharine. Mr Fiennes and Ms Lopez are unconvincing in their roles as the American Kennedy and a mere maid, but they have no problems displaying enough engaging chemistry to make me root for them. Natasha Richardson is suitably icy, bitchy, and hilarious as the British snobby aristocrat caricature.
I can keep picking apart this movie if I want to, because the script and the premise provide enough ammunition for anybody who wants to rip it to shreds. Yet it manages to reel me in, charm me utterly, and make me sigh. Or maybe that’s because Ralph Fiennes is unbelievably hot. No matter what, Maid in Manhattan seems to be made for the romantic comedy fan in me.