Reviewed by: Megan Basham
1. The stories we tell, including the Cinderella story, creates the categories through which we view ourselves and our world. Consider the other tales we tell our children and how they reinforce or provide solutions to our prejudices, fears and dysfunctions. What does “The Three Little Pigs” do? The “Three Bears?” “Little Red Riding Hood?”
2.Contrast and compare the biblical history with the children’s stories you know. Which stories would be best told to reinforce the biblical worldview? What aspects of a tale are most damaging in final analysis?
3. Consider the modern morality of “Maid in Manhattan” in that they were intimate after their night “at the ball.” How is this different from the original Cinderella story where the prince marries her and they “live happily ever after?” Why is this change in the story being made?
—Denny and Hal, CinemaInFocus.com
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Di Quon, Kevin Wade | Directed by: Wayne Wang | Produced by: John Hughes, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Joe Roth, Julia Roberts | Written by: John Hughes | Distributor: Columbia Pictures
I think its safe to say that everyone going to see J.Lo’s latest release, “Maid in Manhattan”, pretty much knows what to expect: Single, working-class mom from the Bronx gets mixed up in Cinderella circumstances with charming (even prince-like) politician. Dressed up in someone else’s wardrobe, at first he takes her for a princess, but loves her anyway when the time comes to rescue her from her drudgery.
As fluffy and formulaic as it is, sometimes this is all we ladies want—a romantic little fairy-tale to share with our girlfriends or the husband who owes us for sitting through the latest Steven Segal debacle. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to enjoy this movie under said criteria, the story line was just too 1950s for me to take seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that a good Cinderella story, ala “Working Girl” and “Pretty Woman” (both of which this film is being compared to), can always be updated for a new audience. But the operative word here is update, something screenwriter Kevin Wade doesn’t bother with at all.
Jennifer Lopez plays Marisa Ventura, a maid in a ritzy New York hotel who dreams of management, but fears her ethnic background will keep her from ever realizing her ambitions. Ralph Fiennes is the Republican Senatorial candidate who must overcome the prejudices of his campaign manager (Stanley Tucci) to win his blue-collar dream girl. Honestly, this reliance on ethnicity as both a professional and personal obstacle for Marisa comes off not only as lazy, but also inappropriate for today’s political and romantic world.
It seems to me that if a woman as smart as Marisa were passed over simply because of her race or housekeeping status, she would certainly know who to contact in the HR department to file a complaint. Similarly, if Fiennes’s campaign manager really can’t see what a political boon it would be for a Republican to fall for a struggling, single mom, then he needs to be fired and immediately sent back to whatever publicity playpen he toddled out of. Anyone with even the least bit of political savvy would surely know how to spin such a situation into a PR goldmine. These may not be issues that would trouble everyone, but for me, this silly, outdated plot translated to an hour and a half of almost straight boredom (pretty clothes and Harry Winston jewels not withstanding).
Also, while both Lopez and Fiennes turn in adequate performances, very few sparks build between them, so, of course, the obligatory sex scene is thrown in to convince us they really are falling in love. It goes without saying this is not the kind of lie our teenagers once again need reinforced to them. So moms, if you do take a Christmas shopping break with your daughters to see this one, I would make sure to point out how drastically this worldly version of love differs from our Christian one.
For a far more entertaining afternoon out, you might consider “Sweet Home Alabama”. It too has some moral problems with its endorsement of homosexuality, but the main characters’ relationship relies on a much deeper foundation, and Reese Witherspoon experiences some growing pains that could provide good lessons for young women. Overall, “Maid in Manhattan” is simply your average, run of the mill romantic comedy, with very little to make it more than a renter on a slow Saturday night.