Retro Review: Maid in Manhattan

Jennifer Lopez continues with her romantic comedy streak as she dons a chambermaid outfit and falls in love with a hotel guest who happens to be a candidate for the Senate.

The last time we saw singer/actress Jennifer Lopez on the silver screen, she was delivering a right hook to the chin of Billy Campbell in the self-defense
thriller, “Enough”.

In her latest charmer, “Maid in Manhattan”, Lopez plays single-mom Marisa Ventura. Ms. Ventura works at a luxurious hotel in New York as a maid. Marisa dreams of bigger things as she sets her eyes on management and a better life for her son.

When a ritzy hotel guest, Caroline Sincaire (Natasha Richardson), asks Marisa to
return an outfit to a boutique Marisa is duped by her friend to try on the
$5,000 ensemble. Before she has a chance to get out of the outfit, Marisa’s son
bursts through the door with Senator candidate Christopher Marshall (Ralph
Fiennes). Her son wants to go with Marshall to walk his dog. Before Marisa knows it she is caught up in an excursion with Marshall and her life becomes a lot
more complicated. If Marisa could breathe she may actually enjoy this new lease
on life.

“Maid in Manhattan” is your basic mistaken identity comedy that does all it can
with the material presented. It doesn’t apologize or try to overcome its
obviously cliched premise. Director Wayne Wang showcases a lot the supporting
players who include Richardson, Bob Hoskins and Stanley Tucci. It was smart to
cast them but it would have great to see them in a better film. It’s really too
bad that this trio of superb talents are wasted in a Jennifer Lopez comedy.

There are a lot of cutesy fluffy moments but really very little hearty laughs.
How can a comedy work if there are very little laughs?

I have liked a lot of romantic comedies in the past from “Kate & Leopold” to
“Sleepless in Seattle” to “Pretty Woman”. What made those comedies better than
your average comedy is that they found a way to overcome the cliches and allow
us to follow the characters wherever they may go. These comedies also had an
ability to reach more than one audience in their quest to entertain. They also
highly delivered on chemistry and laughs.

In “Maid in Manhattan”, I found the chemistry between Fiennes and Lopez to be
forced and contrived at times. Fiennes looked overly stiff through a lot of his
scenes. There was a sparkle in his eye when his character looked at Lopez but it
was hard to tell what the man was thinking. Lopez does have a knack of
supporting odd cast love interests. From Jim Caviezel to Matthew McConaughey,
Lopez really struggles with her romantic scenes. I haven’t bought her falling in
love since 1998’s “Out of Sight”. In her next two films she will be teamed with
real-life lover, Ben Affleck. There better be sparks a flyin’ there.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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