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A woman (Lopez) takes a job as a chambermaid at a luxury hotel in New York. She meets and falls in love with a debonair heir to an America political dynasty (Fiennes), who mistakes her for a society woman. When her real identity is revealed, the truth sets in about the disparity of their lives.

Wayne Wang
Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Tyler Posey, Marissa Matrone, Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci, Bob Hoskins
Writing Credits:
Kevin Wade

Box Office:
Budget $55 million.
Opening weekend $18.711 million on 2838 screens.
Domestic gross $93.133 million.
Rated PG-13 for some language/sexual references.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $27.94
Release Date: 3/25/2003

• Trailers

Music soundtrack
Double-sided poster

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Maid in Manhattan (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March, 11 2003)

Will Jennifer Lopez ever make a movie that earns enough money to justify her “A”-list stature? To date, she’s not appeared in a single bona fide hit flick, but she’s become a massive celebrity. Actually, her fame as a singer has started to outshine her acting career, and her notoriety as one of the world’s fussiest divas has become a big factor in her image as well.

As of early 2003, 2002’s Maid In Manhattan represents Lopez’s highest-grossing film. With a take of only $93 million, though, that’s not saying much. Maid finds Lopez back I the romantic comedy territory she first explored with 2001’s The Wedding Planner. Lopez plays single mother Marisa Ventura. She works as a maid at the ritzy Beresford Hotel as she raises her gifted but somewhat introverted 10-year-old son Ty (Tyler Garcia Posey). Ty’s dad maintains a relationship with the boy, but the father often lets down the son.

Early in the film, Marisa learns of an opening at the hotel as an assistant manager, and though maids virtually never make the leap into higher levels, her co-worker and friend Steph (Marissa Matrone) urges her to go for it. Eventually, we see that the hotel management will give Marisa a shot, but she’ll have to prove her worth during a test period.

In the meantime, assemblyman Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) comes to stay at the Beresford and use it as the headquarters for a senate run. Along with his advisor Jerry Siegel (Stanley Tucci), the group hunkers down in a pricey suite. Chris and Marisa first meet when he goes to use the bathroom and she’s still in there cleaning, but she makes no impression on him at that time.

That changes later, however. As Marisa and Steph make up the suite for fashion bigwig Caroline Lane (Natasha Richardson), they examine a cache of outfits Caroline needs them to press before she returns them. At Steph’s urging, Marisa tries on a snazzy suit. In the meantime, Ty meets Chris and his dog Rufus in an elevator. The precocious boy impresses Chris, and he invites the kid to go with him and the dog for a walk. When Ty and Chris go to ask Marisa’s permission, they encounter her dressed in Caroline’s clothes. Chris immediately becomes smitten, and he persuades Marisa to come with them for the walk.

She does so, and the pair hit it off nicely. When he asks about her, she states that her name’s Caroline and she’s staying in the Beresford’s Park Suite. Eventually, this leads to confusion as Chris mistakenly invites the real Caroline to lunch. From there, the movie follows Chris’ attempts to snag Marisa, her efforts to gain her promotion, and the conniving Caroline’s stabs at snaring the exceedingly eligible Chris for herself.

When you boil it down, Maid offers little more than another rehash of Cinderella. No, it doesn’t retell the story in a perfectly literal sense, but the connections remain. Not that I mind variations on classic themes, but Maid tries a little too hard to turn itself into a fairy tale.

Objectively, not much about Maid works. The story lacks any inspiration, as it does little to embellish the underlying Cinderella plot. It takes the film far too long to really get anywhere, and the ball comes too early; the final act really peters out as the flick moves toward its inevitable conclusion. The flick relies on stock elements like the predictable musical montage make-over scene, and it tosses out some really lame sexually-oriented gags. For example, Marisa uses a magazine with Chris’ face on the cover to protect her derriere from a park bench. When she notices the image, she stops and says, “I almost sat on your face”. Ugh! Maid also wastes some fine talent, especially in the way it underutilizes Bob Hoskins. He barely registers in his largely unnecessary role as one of the hotel’s butlers. Alan Silvestri’s score comes across as frightfully wimpy, and it makes the already-bland movie appear even less robust.

Possibly the film’s biggest flaw comes from Fiennes’ work as Chris. The movie needs someone light and charming, but Fiennes does best in darker roles. Here he simply seems stiff and uncharismatic. I wouldn’t vote for this guy. He and Lopez display almost no chemistry either. Whatever other flaws The Wedding Planner offered, at least Lopez and Matthew McConaughey showed some sparks. That definitely never occurs between Lopez and Fiennes, as their pairing remains chilly from start to finish.

Despite its many flaws, I must admit that I didn’t mind the time I spent with Maid, largely due to Lopez herself. She displays a nicely naturalistic charm that allows her to endear herself to the audience. Given Lopez’s status as an uber-diva – the sort that the movie mocks – it seems miraculous that she could convincingly play a maid, but she does very well in the role.

Really, Maid In Manhattan works on a modest level solely due to Lopez. It never goes much of anywhere, and it tends to move slowly. But Lopez helps make it a moderately pleasant experience. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t dislike it, and given my general feelings toward this kind of “chick flick”, that says something positive in and of itself.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Maid In Manhattan appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. The movie generally looked solid, but the image wasn’t one of the best I’ve seen.

Sharpness consistently appeared positive. The movie always presented a nicely distinct and crisp piece. I noticed virtually no examples of softness in this detailed and accurate picture. I witnessed no issues related to jagged edges or moiré effects, but some light edge enhancement popped up on a few occasions. As far as print flaws went, I noticed a couple of speckles, but otherwise the movie remained clean. Unfortunately, some mild to moderate artifacting appeared at times, and they caused some small concerns.

Maid favored a warm and natural palette that the DVD displayed nicely. The hues came across as rich and inviting, and they helped make the fairy tale elements of the flick work. I noticed no issues such as noise or bleeding throughout the film, as the colors remained tight and concise. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but didn’t seem overly thick. In the end, much of Maid In Manhattan presented a very attractive image, but a few small concerns knocked it down to “B” level.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Maid In Manhattan, it earned only a “B-“ mainly due to a lack of ambition. The mix remained generally oriented toward the forward channels and it failed to display much substance. Music showed decent stereo imaging, and the audio did represent a fairly natural and involving sense of atmosphere at times. For instance, shots in the park or those that featured street traffic opened up the spectrum moderately well. The side and surround speakers helped gently display the bustle of Manhattan. However, they did virtually nothing more than that, and they remained pretty passive throughout the movie.

Most of the mix sounded good. Except for one notable exception, speech appeared concise and crisp. For reasons unknown, during the park scene, Fiennes’ lines sounded somewhat edgy and rough. The rest of the dialogue came across as fine, however; I noticed no problems with distortion or intelligibility during the rest of the movie.

None of the remainder of the track did much to impress, but the quality remained solid. Music sounded acceptably warm and lush. Effects were clean and accurate. They never played much of a role in the flick, but they showed no concerns. Bass response seemed adequate but unspectacular. Low-end didn’t make much of an impact, except possibly for the musical montage in which we heard Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”. Overall, the audio for Maid In Manhattan seemed perfectly acceptable for this kind of film, but it never rose above that level.

Despite the moderate financial success of Maid In Manhattan and the high profile of its lead actress, the DVD comes with almost no supplements. We simply find a collection of five trailers. We get ads for Maid along with Anger Management, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Daddy Day Care, and Lopez’s The Wedding Planner. All of them appear anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and that’s all she wrote in the extras department!

No one who wants to watch something exciting and original should check out Maid In Manhattan. Just another romantic fairy tale, much of the film seems uninspired and ordinary. However, a nicely warm and light performance from Jennifer Lopez helps make it more entertaining than I expected. The DVD provides positive but unexceptional picture and sound along with a surprisingly weak package of extras. The disc seems too weak for me to recommend a purchase, but it might make a nice rental for romantic comedy fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6923 Stars Number of Votes: 26
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