Hollywood’s latest fairytale cinematic romance is a somewhat dated comedy of class & manners but thanks to the chemistry of its stars it manages to stand its ground for the most part.
“Maid in Manhattan” could easily be written off as yet another banal J-Lo attempt at romantic comedy such as “The Wedding Planner,” but unlike that film the subject matter has more of a fantasy element to it which makes it much easier to swallow, whilst Fiennes brings a more mature and refined sense of class than Matthew McConaughey.
Two people in love but struggling to overcome the differences in social classes has been done many times before and with much greater success – “Pretty Woman”, “Working Girl” and “Notting Hill” all worked under this setup but thanks to the superb writing and performances they helped pull it off and became landmark efforts in modern cinema.
Sadly ‘Maid’ will never reach such territory. There’s a refreshing retro feel to the proceedings with a lack of cynicism and overall family-friendly warmth, but for this genre there’s a surprising utter lack of laughs. Not one gag is memorable and what few attempts there are only provoke a slight giggle at most. Its kind of fun to watch Lopez act like a regular gal whose shocked to be slipping on Dolce & Gabanna clothing – despite all her personal life publicity and rather interesting stories behind the scenes, on screen she remains a considerable talent even with fluff like this.
As mentioned before Fiennes charms his way through an utterly dull romantic male lead role, Stanley Tucci madly flaps about and is probably wondering where in the hell all the good supporting roles have gone. Bob Hoskins as the wise and refined kitchen head butler brings a bit of class, whilst Natasha Richardson has great fun as a spoiled British socialite.
Director Wayne Wang tries his best with the thin script, but short of giving the lead character single mother and ethnic status – this remains a poor man’s “Working Girl”. At times it tries to explore those new directions but in order to do so has to come down to reality a bit more which slows the movie down and makes the flaws that much more noticeable.
The production design and look of the film is better than you might expect, and help enhance that ethereal quality to it all but if only the writers had taken their heads out of the clouds – we could have had a real fantasy treat. What’s here will satisfy fans of the leads but without laughs and little romance – this doesn’t exactly fit the mould of solid entertainment in this genre.