Lopez is Marisa Ventura, a divorced mom forced to raise her young son Ty (Tyler Posey) on her salary as a maid for a ritzy Manhattan hotel. Each day, she drops Ty off at school and travels by subway from the Bronx to work where she arrives just in time for the morning briefing on the glamorous guests the maids will serve that day. These guests include the newly single socialite Caroline Sincaire (Natasha Richardson), who has come to the hotel to sulk, and New York Assemblyman Chris Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) who is there to prepare for his upcoming campaign for Senator.
When Ty clams up on a speech to his classmates on the U.S. Presidents, Marisa pulls him from school and takes him to work with her. While bumming around the hotel, he runs into Chris and his rigid campaign manager, Jerry (Stanley Tucci), as they walk Chris's dog. The Assemblyman is impressed with Ty's knowledge of politics and invites the young boy to go with them on their walk. Here's where the fantasy comes in: I ask you, when does a politician have time for a non-voter? Ty returns to the suite Marisa is cleaning to ask permission to go for a walk with the men and finds her trying on Caroline's expensive clothing. Chris, whose recent celebrity breakup is all over the tabloids, instantly falls in love with the disguised Marisa.
The remainder of what follows in Maid in Manhattan finds the two mismatched lovebirds dodging obstacles that could interfere with their budding romance. Marisa must conceal her real identity from Chris because she feels he wouldn't want to be with a Latina maid. She must also hide her feelings for the Assemblyman from her employer, which could jeopardize her chances at a management position. Chris must evade the paparazzi looking for a story on his new romance; in addition, he has to fend off the advances of Caroline who thinks Chris's affection is actually for her.
Maid in Manhattan has many faults. First, it raises issues of class divisions between Latinos and Anglos as one would expect, but none of these ideas lead to a significant message or meaning. Second, the conditions necessary for Chris and Marisa to meet are manipulated beyond comprehension. After all, had Ty gone to school the day after his speech, instead of going with her to work, there would have been no chance meeting with Chris. Finally, there is little chemistry between the two actors, which makes their obligatory sex scene seem forced and completely unnecessary. Is this what intelligent audiences expect?
Notwithstanding its predictability, necessary contrivances, and other faults, it's the smaller touches that make Maid in Manhattan feel all warm and fuzzy. For starters, despite any stereotypes on housecleaners, and to my surprise, Lopez is quite endearing as Marisa. Her scenes with Ty have genuine warmth as she comforts him after his speech, checks over his homework, or helps him get ready for school. Like Lopez, Fiennes is an excellent match as the stoic politician who walks a tight balancing act between what is right for his career and what he feels in his heart. And, as Ty, Posey steals every scene he is in with his quick wit, book smarts, and mischievous smile.
Maid in Manhattan is the kind of cute, heartwarming holiday entertainment we have come to expect this time of year. While it's not perfect, the faults are easily overlooked by the spirited performances of its cast. Like all holiday fables told before it, this film will find a soft spot in the hearts of festive moviegoers.
Do not disturb, do not disturb!
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th December 2002
Box Office USA: $93.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $154.9M
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Hughes Entertainment, Revolution Studios, Shoelace Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Fresh: 57 Rotten: 88
IMDB: 4.9 / 10
Director: Wayne Wang
Screenwriter: Kevin Wade
Starring: Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura, Ralph Fiennes as Christopher Marshall, Natasha Richardson as Caroline Lane, Stanley Tucci as Jerry Siegel, Tyler Posey as Ty Ventura, Bob Hoskins as Lionel Bloch, Di Quon as Lily Kim, Lisa Roberts Gillan as Cora, Chris Eigeman as John Bextrum, Frances Conroy as Paula Burns