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Maid in Manhattan (PG)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None currently stated

THE Jennifer Lopez self-delusion story continues unabated in Maid In Manhattan, a New York-based fairytale that feels spectacularly misjudged from the start.

First off, we have 'Jenny from the Block' once again harking on about her roots, delivering speech after tireless speech about life in the projects and what it means to live there. Such misplaced sentiment might not seem so hypocritical if she avoided the diva indulgences that have become something of a hallmark.

And then we have the object of her affections, Ralph Fiennes, a dashing British actor hopelessly miscast in a film which sets out to repeat the winning formula of classic romances such as Roman Holiday or Pretty Woman, only to fall flat on its face at all times.

Lopez stars as feisty hotel maid, Marisa Ventura, a single mother with an eye on promotion, who uses her Bronx know-how to winning effect with her colleagues in Manhattan, until a misunderstanding prompts her to take a stroll with Fiennes' Republican candidate, Christopher Marshall, a VIP guest of the hotel and playboy charmer, with whom she becomes smitten.

Only trouble is, Marshall believes Marisa to be a guest of the hotel (not the maid) and sets about wooing her, while trying to play down the attentions of the media and launch a winning campaign for the US Senate. Cue all manner of cat-and-mouse games, romantic 'time-outs' and the inevitable slushy finale.

Played correctly, such mainstream romantic fare can sweep audiences along like a Prince Charming whisking Cinderella off to the ball, yet Maid in Manhattan possesses neither the panache nor the pairing to seduce its viewers.

The movie certainly follows the correct formula, but feels staged and too false to carry it off throughout, while principle among the problems is the central pairing, with both Fiennes and Lopez failing to generate any chemistry whatsoever, or even seeming the slightest bit believable.

Lopez, especially, presents a tired romantic lead, one who conforms to every cliche, in between delivering the aforementioned life lessons to anyone who cares to listen, while Fiennes' love-struck charmer seems content merely to play second fiddle, which is a shame, given that he is the more interesting of the characters.

Yet the movie consistently squanders the talents of a fairly impressive cast (including Bob Hoskins, Stanley Tucci and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy), and comes across as little more than a star-vehicle for the self-obsessed Lopez.

Director, Wayne Wang (of The Joy Luck Club and The Centre of the World fame), does a fairly good job of making New York look good, but even his direction feels heavily-reliant on following Hollywood convention, offering nothing new along the way to its obvious finale.

This is, in the final analysis, a one-star hotel of a movie masquerading as a five-star showpiece. But don't be fooled by its service, for this is ultimately soulless.

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