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Maid in Manhattan

Starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes
Screenplay by Kevin Wade
Directed by Wayne Wang

IN SHORT: A (barely) passable dateflick. [Rated PG-13 for some language/sexual references. 105 minutes]

Unlike some other A-list singers who shall go nameless, Jennifer Lopez (click for StarTalk) took the time to learn what she was doing shen she launched her acting career. She started with small roles. She worked her tail off in movies whose big name stars took the money and ran. But there's little she can do when no one else seems to give a damn in a story that's about as plain jane as you can get. Nothing has changed about her method in Maid in Manhattan, in which she portrays a working mom who wears the maid's uniform at a prestigious Manhattan hotel. Lopez nails the role. There's little trace of popstar in her performance which puts even more weight on the shoulders of co-star Ralph Fiennes, as an upper class candidate for the New York State Senate who is lovestruck at his first look.

Earnest and hardworking is great ninety per cent of the time. Chemisty, especially in awkward love stories is just as important. Some godmother tossed magic fairy dust sure would help but Maid in Manhattan's got none of that magic in it. One reason why a story is considered to be classic is that you can pop in any kind of setting and still have an enjoyable story. See if you can figure this one out:

Marisa (Jennifer Lopez) spends her days cleaning up after the wealthy patrons of the Beresford, an upper class Manhattan hotel. One of those patrons is a patronizing ditz Caroline Layne (Natasha Richardson) who gets Marisa to do chores that fall outside of her responsibilities. One of those favors is to return a $5000 designer suit to a hotel store. Urged on by a maid, Marisa tries on the clothing, just in time to be discovered by politician Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), whose campaign offices are being set up in the hotel. Prince Charming is dumbstruck by the beautiful maid and, once she disappears from view, moves heaven and earth to find her again.

Yep, Maid in Manhattan is yet another reworking of Cinderella (as was Pretty Woman a number of years ago). In this particular case, the attraction for audiences isn't the one between JLo and Fiennes, it's in the performances of the supporting cast. All the humor, all the laughs, all the character chemistry comes from below for there isn't much of it between Lopez and Fiennes.

That's also why Maid in Manhattan fails. But, as far as dateflicks go, whether or not it works isn't really the point. If the film fails, you can always neck.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Maid in Manhattan, he would have paid . . .



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