Who knew that the Red Dragon and J. Lo could fall
in love and live happily ever after? Or rather, a Hispanic
working-class single mom and an upper-class prospective senator?
Amazingly, a well-tailored Dolce & Gabbana suit can do
a lot for a lady.
Dedicated mother Marissa Ventura (Lopez) labors day
in and day out at a ritzy Manhattan hotel as a maid. She wholeheartedly
strives to fulfill the staff motto of being invisible while
serving the rich and famous. Outside of work and in the Bronx,
she supports her precocious son Tye (who is an aficionado
of Richard Nixon among other curiosities), all the
while juggling his school functions, her overbearing mother,
and cancellations from her deadbeat ex.
Assemblyman Chris Marshall (Fiennes) runs his Senate
campaign on the 22nd floor of the aforementioned hotel with
the help of right-hand man Jerry Siegel (Tucci). He
meets Marissa’s son Tye while going down in the elevator with
his dog, and becomes intrigued by the boy’s ability to expound
on politics as if it were regular 11-year-old gossip fodder.
They shoot upstairs to ask mom for permission to take a walk
together. Only mom has been cozened by a co-worker into donning
a guest’s white Dolce & Gabbana suit. Inevitably, Chris
becomes mesmerized by Marissa. (Or is it the suit?)
Only he thinks her name is Caroline. Caroline (Richardson),
a.k.a. “The Goddess,” is actually a snotty, snobby, and recently
single upper-class cliché who orders Marissa around like her
personal lackey. After a few misunderstandings, the real Caroline
sets her sights on Chris as her next conquest. His eyes, however,
are still on the outspoken, mysterious Marissa, who deftly
eludes all his advances and skirts around personal factoids.
After a midnight escape from a ballroom on the night she was
supposed to end the whole facade, she finally gives in to
And the rest, they say, is romantic-comedy formulaic history.
This movie is more evidence that Wayne Wang’s directorial
efforts are steadily evolving toward mainstream American audiences,
his more recent productions being the acclaimed adaptation
of Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club in 1993
and 1999’s Anywhere But Here, starring Natalie Portman
and Susan Sarandon. Wang, who has helmed more than
a dozen movies in America and abroad, has had Big Hollywood
struggling to get out of him since birth. Named after Western
legend John Wayne, it was only a matter of time before
his translation to the realm of anticipated blockbusters.
The supporting cast in Maid In Manhattan is refreshingly
varied, albeit mostly annoying. Nonetheless, they sprinkle
in diversity. They fill the movie with tiny spots of folly,
like Amy Sedaris in her brief time on screen. But there
are no belly laughs worth mentioning, and most of the jokes
The movie, on the whole, is unsurprising, and includes cinematically
overdone favorites that should be bygone, like the obligatory,
glitzy makeover scene (the one in Pretty Woman is better)
and the “girlfriends prancing and dancing to pop music” segment.
In short, Maid In Manhattan is a Cinderella story
that lacks the charisma of the classic fairytale, and sadly,
also falls short of more modern-day class-transcending predecessors
like Working Girl. Fiennes, a fine actor, comes
off as being a little too stuffy and conservative to truly
pass for the dashing Prince Charming. Likewise, Lopez proves
that she can do the leading lady role in fluffy movies such
as this, but her proficiency cannot compensate for the lack
of a lust-inducing chemistry.
When the couple kisses for the first time, the whole movie
deflates instead of intensifying, and any yearning for their
happy ending vanishes in that one, un-magical moment.
—Sandra M. Ogle