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Maid In Manhattan (2002)

Directed by:

Wayne Wang

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

Country: United States

One of the best perks of being in demand down Hollywood way must surely be the freedom to pick and choose from the abundance of scripts flying your way from every conceivable direction. So why Jennifer Lopez, worldwide phenomenon that she is, felt the urge to lend her particular talents to this completely average rom-com is a question that will probably never be suitably answered.

It could of course be that this is the latest chapter of J-Lo's seemingly never-ending quest to make sure everyone on the planet knows of her oh-so-humble, working class roots. After all, she has already informed us via various insipid pop tunes that she is both “real” and “still Jenny from the block”. Here, she rubber-stamps her desire for such an image by taking on the role of Marissa Ventura, a single mum from the projects who starts off a lowly maid (hence the appalling pun in the title) and ends up dating a high-flying politician. While the whole time remaining “real”, of course.

Ralph Fiennes plays the would-be Senator reduced to jelly-legged cheesemeister by Lopez' not-inconsiderable beauty, but for the whole thing to work you have to believe that a non-sleazy clean-living politician would attract such masses of media publicity as the film suggests. You also have to try to put to the back of your mind that Fiennes, slightly disturbingly, seems much more at home when playing a Nazi (Schindler's List) or psychopath (Red Dragon), than in this unaccustomed nice-guy role in which, despite his best efforts, he nonetheless looks more than a tad creepy.

It's likable enough as fluffy fairytale-type yarns go, but unfortunately it's also a bit toothless, and for a romantic comedy is seriously lacking in the “comedy” department. On the plus side, Lopez is a joy to watch (apart from the obvious reasons), and Bob Hoskins, seen here refreshingly breaking out of his usual typecasting, excels in his role as an English butler. Natasha Richardson also impresses as a toffee-snouted It Girl who mistakenly thinks herself the object of Fiennes' affections.

It's Got: A leading lady shooting well below herself.

It Needs: A lead male who constantly looks like he may flip out at any moment and stab the leading lady.

Alternatives:

Pretty Woman, Working Girl

Summary

A poor man’s Pretty Woman that, despite J-Lo putting her all into the part, has far too much sickly sweetness and not enough genuine wit to drag it into the “half-decent” category.

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