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Wayback Wednesday: Maid in Manhattan (2002)

Worth watching for the fabulousness of her gala look alone! 

With the release of her newest (and ridiculously bizarre-looking) romantic-comedy Marry Me (2022) right around the corner, I decided to watch a classic Jennifer Lopez love story to remind me of the good ol’ days. The days when rom-coms ran rampant and blatantly indulged in the whimsy and loveliness that come hand in hand with the genre. Why don’t they make just straight-up lovable, truly romantic rom-coms anymore? I feel like we’re in a rom-com drought. Hell, I’m pretty sure the last rom-com J.Lo , a queen of the genre, starred in was Second Act (2018) and that was a whopping four years ago! By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. Pretty much any J.Lo movie (regardless of the quality) is inherently enjoyable but Maid in Manhattan (2002) is especially lovely and pleasant. Trust in my sincerity when I say that if you want to have a movie-watching experience that is very chill vibes only, throw on a Jennifer Lopez rom-com.

Credit: / Sony Pictures Releasing

Maid in Manhattan tells the story of Marisa Ventura, a hardworking single mother who works as a maid at the upscale Beresford Hotel. When a case of mistaken identity leads her to meet Christopher Marshall, the heir to a political dynasty, he believes her to be a wealthy guest of the hotel. Though in reality their lives are worlds apart, when they’re thrown together Marisa and Christopher discover that they can’t help but be drawn to each other.

Would you believe that Maid in Manhattan is based on a story by prolific filmmaker JOHN HUGHES? That’s right! The same man behind iconic 1980s movies such as The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), is responsible for the basis of this early 2000s rom-com. Isn’t that kind of wild? I mean, Hughes has obviously crafted his fair share of romances before but it just boggles my mind to know that his work extended into the early 2000s. It’s paradoxical to me. Speaking of the story, why does Hollywood insist on repeatedly remaking and updating the story of Cinderella when the perfect modern adaptation with a twist is right here? If you ever catch yourself wondering, “should I watch Another Cinderella Story (2008) or Cinderella (2021)?” – check out my review, here – take my word for it and just watch Maid in Manhattan instead. Like I said, it’s the perfectly modern adaptation that still retains the key elements of the classic story! The love interests are from two different social standings, she has a cute sidekick, she gets a seemingly magical once-in-a-lifetime makeover, attends a ball and then flees from it! I mean, duh, it’s Cinderella, but this movie would work really well as a Broadway musical. Maid in Manhattan succeeds at being romantic, adorable and full of fun characters that are super endearing. 

This cast, like the best romantic-comedies, is stacked not only with a pair of charming leads but a supporting cast that is overflowing with talent and personality. Lopez does a phenomenal job of showcasing her considerable acting talent in great movies like Selena (1997) and Hustlers (2019) – check out my review, here – but it’s really in her memorable romantic-comedies that her undeniable charisma and charm are on full display. In so many ways, no matter what kind of woman she’s playing, she always ends up playing a powerhouse rom-com lead. The exact type you love to watch in these kinds of movies. As Marisa, she has an easygoing and believably cute chemistry with everyone from her friends, Tyler Posey who plays her son Ty (kudos to a chid actor turning in a performance that isn’t annoying!), and Ralph Fiennes who plays Christopher.

I really enjoy Fiennes as Christopher but OOF, it is so weird to see him in a movie like this. Only because his performance as Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies (2001 – 2011) is so iconic and frightening that it’s odd to see him in a romantic-comedy. Especially when you consider his terrifying role as Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon (2002) only two months prior to Maid in Manhattan. Similarly, it’s odd seeing Natasha Richardson, as the mom everyone wants in The Parent Trap (1998) to seeing her as rich bitch Caroline Lane. She plays it fabulously though! Fiennes is a talented actor in the previously mentioned roles and other more dramatic roles like Skyfall (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) but to do this, to make us fall in love with him and be romantic and dreamy is a testament to his talent. He can do anything. Including having an enjoyable back and forth with Stanley Tucci. Ugh, when Tucci plays uptight, sassy or fussy he’s at his absolute best! I love him in roles like this. It’s always a great demonstration of his comedic timing and wit and I love it. 

For obvious reasons, Maid in Manhattan reminds me a lot of While You Were Sleeping (1995) – check out my review, here – another lovable rom-com in which the lead falls into a ruse by believable accident. I mean, While You Were Sleeping is more charming but this is a fun companion piece if you will. That being said, I would have liked if there were more shenanigans in Marisa and friends trying to keep up the ruse that she’s a wealthy hotel guest. That’s a missed opportunity on the movie’s part and really could have upped the enjoyment of this movie a few notches for me. Additionally, I think it needed a few more scenes of Christopher and Marisa getting to know each other. There needed to be a stronger argument made for why they were right for each other besides that they’re hot and not like pre-conceived notions of rich / working-class people. At times the movie becomes more preoccupied with Marisa being the voice of the working-class more than the central love story. That’s a great sentiment to include but at times it comes off a tad forced. A healthy balance between that message and the ongoing love story would have taken this movie from a B to an A in my eyes. 

There’s simply no way you can go wrong with a Jennifer Lopez romantic-comedy. That’s the hill I’m choosing to die on. Shall We Dance? (2004), Monster-in-Law (2005), The Wedding Planner (2001)…all cinematic gold! I think I’m going to have to see Marry Me. No matter how bewildering it appears. In fact, it’s something I’m really looking froward to seeing. That’s right. The Oscar nominations for the most acclaimed movies of the last year just came out and I’m not interested in seeing a single one. Gimme the movie where J.Lo plays a pop star who decides to marry a random man at her concert and Maluma sings sexily in the background. That’s the movie for me.

Have you seen Maid in Manhattan? What are your favourite Jennifer Lopez movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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