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Staid in Manhattan

2006-03-30 11:54
Good romantic comedy is deceptive - it looks so easy, the cast looks like they're having so much fun. It's only when you watch a failed attempt at the genre that you realise quite how difficult it is to get a 'rom-com' right. Jennifer Lopez's latest attempt - Maid in Manhattan - is a textbook example of what not to do.

The film concerns Marisa Ventura, a headstrong single mother working as a maid in a plush New York hotel. When Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), an up and coming politician, checks into the hotel, he mistakes her for one of the guests. The aspiring senator is charmed by Marisa's lack of pretension and quickly falls for her, ignorant of her true identity. A predictable series of misadventures follows.

Predictability is not unforgivable - rom-coms are supposed to be predictable. The real problem is that the two leads have absolutely no screen chemistry, and this drains the plot of all its believability. When they finally kiss each other it seems totally out of place, like two complete strangers suddenly smooching for no apparent reason.

Even with chemistry Maid in Manhattan would still be tedious. Every emotion in the film in treated with sledgehammeresque delicacy, while most of the roles are showy and badly overacted. Director Wang seems content to slap together an uneven pastiche of Pretty Woman, mixing wooden comedy with nauseating schmaltz.

To his credit Fiennes makes a sincere attempt at his role, but his powers are wasted on the dull script. Bob Hoskins is excellent as the dignified hotel butler Lionel, and 10-year-old Tyler Posey is both cute and convincing as Marisa's son Ty. Otherwise the cast is uniformly terrible, 'J.Lo' particularly so.

The only person getting any satisfaction out of this endeavour is Lopez herself, who commands a nice fat paycheck. If you're looking for a fun night out you're better off watching Two Weeks Notice or Chicago. It'll be a lot more satisfying than feeding the 'Make Jenny Lopez Rich' Fund.

Maid in Manhattan is a textbook example of how not to make a successful Romantic Comedy. Even Ralph Fiennes can't save this thoroughly unsatisfying film.

megie 2003/05/20 2:09 PM
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