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Maid in Manhattan

Hotel Love

What is it about the Great American Dream, that story of a poor, down-and-out individual who rises to the top through hard-work and sheer determination, which gets translated over and over again on film? Moreover, why is it that women in these stories so frequently improve their lives through sleeping with rich and powerful men rather than attending night school, going to college and becoming megalomaniac capitalists themselves?

J.Lo takes a break from singing, designing clothes and cavorting with Ben Affleck on Entertainment Tonight to make the romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan. Jennifer "I got back" Lopez plays Marisa Ventura, a divorced single mom living in the Bronx and working as a maid in the fancy shmancy Berensford Hotel. Her precocious son Ty (Tyler Posey) brings the charming senatorial hopeful Christopher Marshall (Ralph "I pronounce my name weird" Fiennes) into her life, and what follows is an endearing comedy of errors.

Fiennes and Lopez have great on-screen chemistry and for a moment you even believe that something like this could actually happen, but then one of the supporting cast members opens their mouth and you realize that, unlike the cute and cuddly characters, you live in reality. Natasha Richardson is fabulous as a hotel guest dubbed "The Goddess" who acts every bit the part, and Marisa's fellow maids add a hilarious edge. Posey shines in the movie and steals every scene he's in. There are great shots of New York City, but they are weirdly devoid of the Twin Towers and bittersweet to witness.

Many comparisons have been drawn to Pretty Woman and some have even coined J.Lo as the "Brown Julia Roberts", but Maid in Manhattan lacks the depth of its earlier counterpart. In Pretty Woman, Vivian is helped by a group of characters that really go out of their way for her; although Marisa gets turned into a modern day Cinderella by a large group of friends working at the hotel - they are, for the most part, nameless nobodies, and you just can't understand why they love her so much, other than the fact that Director Wayne Wang told them to act like they do. Furthermore, Maid in Manhattan seems to skim the surface of the story and the characters are not as well developed; they are reduced down to one-dimensional pin-ups who seemed to have jumped out of an air-brushed fifties sitcom like Leave it to Beaver. One of the greatest things about a romantic comedy is the build-up; here the build-up moves too quickly, so that you never get a real sense of the couple's dynamics. Fiennes and Lopez may have good chemistry but the culmination of their relationship fizzles out like a firecracker that turns to be a dud.

Let's be honest - this is a chick flick in every sense of the word, but it's a well-balanced one. There's humor and sex appeal for those jaded cynics, and heroics and love for those sappy sensitive types who enjoy (at least every now and then) good, wholesome brain-dead fun. As for the enormously cheesy ending... do I smell a sequel?

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Maid in Manhattan
Rated PG-13
1 hour 45 minutes

Jennifer Lopez
Ralph Fiennes
Natasha Richardson
Di Quon
Kevin Wade

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