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Dance of the Cleaning Ladies: Jennifer Lopez (center) and her underpaid fellow wage slaves kick up their heels in 'Maid in Manhattan.'

Room-Service Romance

'Maid in Manhattan' is arthritic New Depression fluff, based on Cinderella tale

By Richard von Busack

IN HER NEW FILM, Maid in Manhattan, Jennifer Lopez plays Marisa, a Bronx single mom who works as a maid at the Beresford, a midtown New York luxury hotel. During one shift, she meets a handsome prince--or, rather, a Republican senatorial candidate named Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes). Marshall is a third-generation politician, and yet he's oddly apolitical; he's bowled over by the maid, whom he sees dressed up (against her will) in the expensive clothes of one of the guests. Three fairy-godmother-like fellow maids encourage Marisa to dream big.

The action here is all between the lines--in the realistic details of the maids' work. Note the real-life signs downstairs at the Waldorf-Astoria that order the help: "Don't Think, Don't See, Don't Know." But the class conflict here is smothered at birth by screenwriter Kevin Wade (Junior, Meet Joe Black and worse), working from a story by "Edmund Dantès." Yeah, sure, and I'm Alexandre Dumas; the nom de plume conceals John Hughes (the Home Alone and Beethoven franchises).

Weird storytelling details include the way Marisa's son is a young history buff who admires Nixon and Kissinger, and the script bends Marshall into a reprise of Clinton's forced march through a press scandal. (Marshall's unmarried--where's the scandal?)

Wayne Wang's work-for-hire direction is flavorless, and the star is a no-show. Lopez, putting on the distracted niceness of a beauty-pageant contestant, has but three facial expressions. She causes the most sensation in the theater (naturally), where she shows up modeling about $500,000 worth of clothes and diamonds at the "Prince's Ball" bit. In the presence of his leading lady, Fiennes is caught between muted interest and apparent distaste. (This is the kind of movie where the lead actor has a dog with him at all time so we'll be reminded what a nice guy he is.)


Maid in Manhattan (PG-13; 97 min.), directed by Wayne Wang, written by Kevin Wade and Edmond Dantès (John Hughes), photographed by Karl Walter Lindenlaub and starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes, opens Friday at selected theaters valleywide.


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From the December 12-18, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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