After exuding clever charm and dodging most of the cheap Cinderella contrivances that linger around every corner of its plot, the ostensibly crisp romantic comedy "Maid in Manhattan" turns so unforgivably trite in its last 10 minutes that any moviegoer without a fortified sweet tooth will likely be sent into sugar shock.
Provided with more depth than most genre heroines, star Jennifer Lopez shines brightly as Marisa Ventura, a single mom from the Bronx who works as a maid at one of New York's most posh hotels. Mistaken for a ritzy guest while trying on a $5,000 Dolce & Gabbana suit in someone's luggage, she catches the eye of Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), the flirtatious and good-looking heir to a political dynasty, and quickly becomes the object of his affection -- and of much speculation in the New York tabloids during Marshall's run for congress.
Trapped into maintaining the illusion for the time being, Marisa ends up risking her shot for a management position as real life starts catching up with her. But in the hands of discriminating director Wayne Wang (who brings emotional authenticity to both independent films like "Center of the World," and studio pictures like "Anywhere But Here"), this fairy tale is refreshingly substantial fare with quality, character-building and considerably less predictability than recent dumbed-down hits like "Sweet Home Alabama." Or so it seems for a while.
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