Maid in Manhattan

Maid in Manhattan

2002, PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Wayne Wang. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Frances Conroy, Bob Hoskins, Tyler Garcia Posey, Stanley Tucci, Chris Eigeman, Marissa Matrone, Amy Sedaris.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 13, 2002

Ever since the out-of-left-field hit of My Big Fat Greek Wedding this year, everyone has been wondering where the next mega-successful romantic comedy was going to come from. The field for “date movie” supremacy this holiday season has only two candidates: this new J.Lo starrer Maid in Manhattan and next weekend's opening of the Sandra Bullock/Hugh Grant vehicle Two Weeks Notice. Whether either will surpass the record box-office numbers of 1990's Pretty Woman -- as MBFGW did recently -- remains to be seen. But we definitely know that it won't be for lack of trying. Maid in Manhattan is a by-the-numbers Cinderella story. It has all the earmarks for success -- a proven director, an outstanding supporting cast, beautiful wardrobes and sets, and, of course, the multimedia “It Girl” of the hour, Jennifer Lopez. What the movie lacks, however, is spark and sizzle. There's no palpable chemistry between Lopez and male lead Ralph Fiennes, plus the script by Working Girl scribe Kevin Wade is workmanlike in the extreme. Nothing stands out as memorable, yet nothing impedes the film's forward progression either. It's as if the film has followed the motto of the service staff at the fictional Park Avenue hotel where Marisa (Lopez) works: “Strive to be invisible.” Lopez is supported by an outstanding ensemble. Partnering her with Fiennes seems a conscious choice to uplift the star's acting credentials as reflected by the company she keeps. Natasha Richardson, Bob Hoskins, and Stanley Tucci all lend beautifully modulated performances to this movie, pop-culture gal-about-town Amy Sedaris adds a touch of sass, and natural-seeming kid star Tyler Garcia Posey is a breath of fresh air. As Pretty Woman was Julia Roberts' ticket to major stardom, Maid in Manhattan may also prove to be Lopez's crossover film. She's already a star, but this film -- especially if it opens strongly -- may earn her the respect she desires as a multi-hyphenate. Also onboard as producers are Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Deborah Schindler of Roberts' New York-based company Red Om, a company that must receive a frightening number of Pretty Woman knockoff scripts per annum. Just as Roberts jumps several notches in class when she goes from prostitute to upper-class spouse in Pretty Woman, J.Lo goes from hotel maid to politician's wife in Maid in Manhattan. In both cases, the movies present Cinderella stories about upward class mobility. Neither woman feels as though she'll turn into a charwoman at the stroke of midnight, but when the time comes each eagerly grasps her shot at the brass ring. Marisa's bonds with her fellow maids and her disapproving and old-fashioned Latina mom seem to have more to do with the potential for sequels rather than anything happening in the immediate tense. Wayne Wang, whose career bounces back and forth between studio and independent projects was a good choice to helm Maid in Manhattan. Studio films such as The Joy Luck Club and Anywhere But Here have proven him an exceptional director of “women's” stories, although he has enough edge and insight not to get bogged down in the superficial. Somehow, that touch didn't fully carry over to this film: It's an upscale outing, but this Maid fails to leave a mint on the pillow.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Wayne Wang Films
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Chinese women's relationships in the past and the present are told in parallel stories in this film based on Lisa See's bestselling novel.

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 29, 2011

Last Holiday
After being diagnosed with an incurable brain disease, a woman (who is played delightfully by Queen Latifah) discovers her moxie.

Marrit Ingman, Jan. 13, 2006

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Way I See It
Portrait of presidential photographer Pete Souza has depth but lacks focus

Sept. 18, 2020

Our Time Machine
Stunning documentary about puppetry, art, Alzhiemer's, and a son's love

Sept. 11, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Maid in Manhattan, Wayne Wang, Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Frances Conroy, Bob Hoskins, Tyler Garcia Posey, Stanley Tucci, Chris Eigeman, Marissa Matrone, Amy Sedaris

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle