Maid in Manhattan (2002)
Directed by Wayne Wang

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* ½

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Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez), the single mother of a precocious child, Ty (Tyler Posey), is working as a maid in an expensive New York hotel. Although she is extremely dedicated and hopes one day to be promoted to management, when left unsupervised in a suite where a wealthy and shrewish socialite named Caroline (Natasha Richardson) is staying, she cannot resist the temptation to surreptitiously try on an outfit belonging to that woman. When she does so, Marisa is seen by Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), a Republican assemblyman, who mistakes he for Caroline and quickly becomes infatuated with her. To retain his interest, and her job, however, Marisa has to keep her identity secret, which leads to a number of complications, especially after Christopher actually meets Caroline. Fortunately, despite such obstacles being placed in its path, true love wins out in the end, as it always does in this sort of film.

Wayne Wang's Maid in Manhattan is a truly horrendous movie. From its dull beginning to its hammy, predictable conclusion, the film is so hackneyed and poorly acted that it is almost certain to aggravate and annoy any person unfortunate enough to find himself watching it.

There is not a single character in the movie who is even vaguely appealing or intriguing. Marisa is a loving, ethical, hard working woman who dreams of getting more from life than she currently is. Ty is a quirky, smart kid who is made unique and engaging by his adorable fascination with the 1970s. Christopher is a decent man who is deeply concerned with doing the right thing. Caroline is a cruel, snobbish moron, and all of Marisa's various friends are pleasant, likeable people who are always ready to support her.

If these individuals are not sufficiently bland to bore the viewer, the story that is developed around them surely will, as the film's narrative is so foreseeable that no person who has ever watched a romantic comedy will be in any doubt about the direction it will take. I cannot even begin to express how uninspired and formulaic every moment of the movie is.

What is more, the various trite scenarios the director inflicts upon the viewer are consistently burdened with a distracting falsity. From the sorrows Ty endures because of his worthless, absent father to the heroine's obscenely affected celebrations with her co-workers and Caroline's evil machinations, there is not an incident in the movie that is not utterly contrived.

Maid in Manhattan is not, however, simply tiresome and prosaic. The clumsiness with which Wang has delineated his forgettable characters and the awkwardness with which he has cobbled together every recycled occurrence in his story actually make the film painful to watch. In fact, the director, writers, and actors have managed to pack the movie with so many dreadful elements that there were times while I was watching it when I actually felt embarrassed for them.

Be that as it may, those same individuals are responsible for a truly awful film. Maid in Manhattan is alternately tedious and irritating throughout its duration. There is nothing complimentary I can say about it.

Review by Keith Allen

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