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Maid In Manhattan

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Maid In Manhattan

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Wayne Wang
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: December 2002
Genre: Romance

*Also starring: Bob Hoskins, Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci, Marissa Matro

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

When the largely aristocratic framers of our Declaration of Independence talked about the equality of all Americans, they sure didn't mean economic equality. Nor would social equality be likely to result from the way things are done in the U.S. The rich are different from the rest of us not only because they have money but because they have connections, they have certain social graces, they have the ability to move up in their professions more easily than we. Because of the social differences between the classes, a marriage between a prince and Cinderella is as likely to come about as a union between Rudy Giuliani and Al Sharpton.

There's one exception to the general rule. In the movies, anything can happen. In Wayne Wang's Cinderella story, "Maid in Manhattan," filmed without a single scene shot in Vancouver, a politician known even more for his playboy reputation than his position of power falls in love at first sight with a maid. If such a bonding is next to impossible given our system of social classes, how could this occur? Simple. Have the woman pretend to be someone else, an Eliza Doolittle transformed to a Hungarian princess, as it were. Then reveal identity only after Cupid's arrows have found their marks.

Scripter Kevin Wade's urban fable of centering on an unlikely Holly Golightly takes place almost entirely in midtown Manhattan in the vicinity of Grand Central Station, at a first-class hotel whose regular population includes single mother Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez). Marisa is the titled maid in Manhattan, who cleans the rooms of an odd and occasionally obnoxious assortment of guests while looking after her cute and gifted son, Ty (Tyler Posey). Convinced that she will never rise above her station, she is nevertheless pushed to apply for a management job in the hotel by her best friend and fellow maid, who is fond of getting into mischief. Dressing up in the expensive threads of a rich and pushy resident, Caroline (Natasha Richardson), Marissa is seen by candidate for the U.S. Senate and man-about town, Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), who mistakes her for Caroline and feels an instant connection ironically because he does not consider her a phony. Though discouraged in his pursuit by his campaign manager, Jerry Siegel (Stanley Tucci), the politician and the princess carry out a full-day's courtship, spurred by the film's Shakespearean theme of mistaken identity. Per the conventions of romantic comedy, they're kept apart by Marisa's fear of exposing her occupation and by the campaign manager's insistence that his boss stay clear of bad press.

"Maid in Manhattan" is quite a switch for Wayne Wang, the Hong Kong born director named after John Wayne. Wang would be a more likely candidate for a low-budget indie like the $22,000 film "Chan is Missing" or the slightly more costly "Life is Cheap...But Toilet Paper is Expensive." Yet considering his "Eat a Bowl of Tea," Wang does show a flair for examining cross- cultural liaisons and with "Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart," with mother-daughter relationships. In Wang's exploration of a relationship that transcends social class, "Maid in Manhattan" is merely pleasant enough fare, typically what's called a date movie, though one may wonder why the forty-year-old British actor Ralph Fiennes, best in much more serious works like "The English Patient," "Sunshine," and "The End of the Affair," got tapped for the role rather than, say, Ben Affleck. Kevin Wade's dialogue is short on wit, the only memorable line occurring when the rich and aggressive Caroline suggests to Chris that they meet once again for lunch, to which Chris replies, "A second time would be torture," Caroline replies, "Drinks, then?"

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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