Worth A Look: 9.64%
Just Average: 6.02%
Pretty Crappy: 15.66%
3 reviews, 65 user ratings
|Maid in Manhattan
by Erik Childress
Watching the opening credits of Maid In Manhattan, I was stunned to see the amount of talent involved in what has clearly been advertised as yet another piece of upchucked marshmallow fluff. I was even more surprised to discover that the screenplay had been credited to one Edmond Dantes. Considering I thought such a name only existed in the pages of Dumas fiction, it only made sense that the Count of Monte Cristo would have penned it as it’s a story as old as time like Beauty and the Beast. Ralph Fiennes plays the beauty and Jennifer “J.Lo” Lopez plays the immortal beast whom cannot be slain no matter how hard the box office tries. Where is Beowulf when you need him?Billy Campbell couldn’t finish her off in Enough, so now we’re forced to watch Ms. Lopez play the violin as the hottest chambermaid in New York City. Living single with a young son and under the thumb of a disapproving mother who’d rather see her take the low road than try for advancement, Marisa Ventura has basically three choices from the screenwriter’s handbook. (1) become a hooker (2) become a stripper or (3) use mistaken identity to her advantage. With a PG-13 rating, it’s pretty safe to assume where this is going.
"We Know Where You Came From Too. GO BACK THERE!!!"
Seinfeld: “Chambermaids…I’m attracted to them too.”
George: “Why is that?”
Seinfeld: “It’s a woman in your room.”
Pretty Woman is already the tentpole for women-selling-to-the-highest-bidder-romantic-comedies and while Marisa could hardly be called a whore, her cutesy deception is still something that can only be tolerated in the world of these movies. See, she’s got a spunky co-worker who apparently isn’t smart or pretty enough to go out for hotel management herself so she continually harasses her friend to. She also coerces her into trying on a fancy outfit owned by the snotty socialite (Natasha Richardson) who keeps talking down to her ethnicity. (Between this and Blue Crush, I will officially never trust anyone cleaning my room again.) When aspiring politician, Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), catches a glimpse of Marisa, it’s lust...I mean, love at first sight. And despite what J.Lo sings about, her Marisa forgets where she came from pretty easily.
“Children grow and women producing
Men go working
Some go stealing
Everyone's got to make a living.”
I guess so J.Lo. And anyone who wants to start writing screenplays can just follow the same blueprint from hundreds of other films, sell it to the highest bidder and walk away without anyone truly knowing your identity. I’ll break it down for you real simple. Take your main character, preferably a woman. Make her poor, lonely, etc… Introduce your male lead. Make him devastatingly handsome, rich and powerful. Now make him think the poor woman is someone she’s not. They will have close calls to discovering the truth, fall in love, despite the occasional reservation on her part, (the man will just love her unconditionally) UNTIL all is revealed. The deceived will get upset a half-hour (or 30 pages) before the end of the story and break off relations. They will contemplate their time apart (usually looking out of windows) while a pop song is cued on the soundtrack, until the deceived party swallows their pride into a faux romantic situation that gives everyone in the world a chance to watch. Finally, collect your check.
“Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got
I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block
Used to have a little, now I have a lot
No matter where I go, I know where I came from (from the Bronx!)”
Good, now go back and let us be. Jennifer Lopez just doesn’t have the charm to pull off this kind of role. And aren’t women tired of these hottie actresses playing roles like this and then have the audacity to give speeches like “half the time I’m a stereotype, the other I’m invisible?” (That is, while all the other maid characters strut and dance around like stereotypes to catchy retro tune of the month – “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross.) Lopez’s Marisa can be hesitant all she wants, but she still chooses to wear the expensive necklace and sleep with the rich guy. You can’t have scruples and then sellout at the same time.
Not that it would have made the script any better, but this kind of material needs a Sandra Bullock or Renee Zellweger in the role. The only things that can save formulaic 1-2-1-2-yessir material like this are charm and laughs. Thankfully, Ralph Fiennes is on board to lend all of one and some of the other to at least make portions of it watchable. Fiennes has a smile that could charm the pants off the world and any woman who would say they would rather fly off with his English Patient character than the one on display here is an idiot. Too bad his potential ladykiller ways couldn’t slay J.Lo for good; at least then his performance wouldn’t be completely wasted alongside the aforementioned talented cast which includes Bob Hoskins (very dignified as the hotel’s butler), Stanley Tucci (perfectly sleazy as Marshall’s top aide), Chris Eigemann (Barcelona), Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy) and Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under).How Wayne Wang became associated with this project is beyond me. God knows how much worse this could have been without him on board (especially with an original script by John “I’ve lost it and just cashing checks now” Hughes.) His influence to perhaps add some real human drama into a cottonball story is valiant but just decomplements how unrealistic everything else is like adding nuts TO the turd. Attempts at screwball comedy, like a lunch-serving scene where Lopez can’t be seen, are completely botched. Thus we are left with only half the charm of a couple we’re supposed to root for and very few laughs to make us forget we’re watching the same ol’ thing. It’s not exactly the prison conditions of one Edmond Dantes. It’s worse. We’re expected to pay for such an experience.
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originally posted: 12/12/02 19:44:07