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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Maid in Manhattan (2002)

"What am I supposed to do? Make his bed with me in it?"
- Marisa (Jennifer Lopez)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: April 13, 2003

Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes
Other Stars: Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci, Bob Hoskins, Chris Eigeman, Amy Sedaris
Director: Wayne Wang

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language/sexual references
Run Time: 01h:45m:10s
Release Date: March 25, 2003
UPC: 043396097483
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BA-A- D

DVD Review

Even in an age informed by the ethos of feminism, the Cinderella myth still retains its appeal, and that's very much on display in Maid in Manhattan, a competent and amiable little movie in which Jennifer Lopez gets to wear the glass slipper. (It comes to her courtesy of Manolo Blahnik.) This is one of those movies where you're liable to know minutes if not hours in advance exactly what's going to happen—it puts a familiar story through his paces, and yes, it feels a little shopworn, but this old warhorse still works.

Lopez plays Marisa, a chambermaid at a high-end Manhattan hotel called the Beresford; don't hold me to it, but it looks as if the exteriors of the hotel were shot at the Waldorf-Astoria. She's got a ten-year-old son, Ty, with an unusual grade-school preoccupation with Richard Nixon, and Marisa dreams big—she doesn't want to be a maid forever, and hopes to get into management at the hotel, and start moving up the ladder.

You'll be shocked to learn that checking into the hotel is Prince Charming, aka Chris Marshall, son of a former U.S. Senator, notorious playboy, tabloid favorite, preparing to run for his father's old seat. Imagine JFK Jr. with a little more political gravitas, and you've got the idea—he's played by Ralph Fiennes, an Englishman who has the patrician American thing down (cf., Quiz Show). Of course Chris and Marisa meet cute, the expected complications ensue, and true love prevails.

The comparison was frequently drawn between this movie and Pretty Woman, but Maid in Manhattan bears an even stronger resemblance to Working Girl—Kevin Wade was the screenwriter on both, and surely that's no wacky coincidence. Each features an ambitious young woman (Lopez, Melanie Griffith) from an outer borough of New York (the Bronx, Staten Island) in a proletarian job (maid, secretary) who dreams of climbing higher; they each meet a handsome, powerful man (Fiennes, Harrison Ford), bump heads with another woman (Natasha Richardson, Sigourney Weaver) who seems a more appropriate socioeconomic match for their chosen prince, but don't have the moxie of our heroine. Yeah, it's tried and true, and yeah, sometimes this feels a little warmed over. But there's comfort in that.

The dialogue, though, sometimes makes points too overtly, and you can feel the machinery creaking, as when one of Marisa's friends says to her about her date that night with Chris: "No, honey, this is a dream, and you're living it for all of us." Chris seems equally Hallmark-y when he asks: "Are you running toward something you want, or are you running away from something you're afraid to want?" Extra bonus points to Wade, though, for working in an homage to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, when Chris asks if Marisa is playing "a little game of Get the Guests." And you know that this is a movie unhinged from reality when the paparazzi blithely ignore J. Lo as they are chasing down Fiennes.

Lopez handles the role pretty well, but surprisingly, she seems most comfortable and natural on screen as a mom—she's got a sweetness here with Ty, and an emotional intimacy, that doesn't always shine through as brightly in the romantic scenes. Lopez and Fiennes are surrounded by a capable supporting cast, most of whom don't get a whole lot to do—Richardson is a little hammy, perhaps because her material isn't better; Stanley Tucci is serviceable as Fiennes' campaign manager, but he's an actor capable of much more; and Bob Hoskins is mightily buttoned down as Lopez's mentor at the Beresford. Whit Stillman veteran Chris Eigeman doesn't get much to do but be a little snarky as a nasty boss, and particularly funny is Amy Sedaris, as the most nightmarish hotel guest imaginable.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The widescreen option is clearly the way to go, especially since director Wayne Wang's style is light on close-ups and big on two shots—the whole point of those is lost if one of the characters is lopped out of the frame. Good color saturation in the transfer, and in some of the establishing shots Manhattan positively glows, no doubt a self-conscious effort to restore some of the glamour to a post-9/11 New York.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: A very professional and clean 5.1 mix, the audio track here features little or no interference or hissing, nice balance and dynamics, and even good use of the surround speakers. It's a pretty small little story and sometimes this can sound like overkill, but I certainly don't want to give the sound engineers a hard time for doing their job too well.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Anger Management, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Daddy Day Care, The Wedding Planner
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The trailers feature the highlights of Sony's spring and summer 2003 slate; the only additional extra is a weblink to Maid in Manhattan Style, where you can buy your very own J. Lo paraphernalia.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

If you've seen the trailer for this movie—heck, if you've seen just the cover of the DVD case—you probably know exactly what you're in for. It's not a movie looking to forge great new cinematic ground, and it's unlikely to crack anybody's list of the greatest romantic comedies ever made; but it's a sweet and gentle little movie, likely to elicit lots of smiles. (Men: this is definitely a date-night special.)

 


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