Directed by Wayne Wang and starring Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Stanley Tucci and Bob Hoskins.
The production notes for 'Maid in Manhattan' reveal that the original concept was drawn up for Julia Roberts' consideration. It comes as no surprise that Roberts passed - she'd been there and done that with different class in 'Pretty Woman', the original modern-day Cinderella. 'Maid in Manhattan' sticks more rigidly to the fairytale (with wicked Ugly Sisters of sorts, a fairygodmother, and a ball), but this proves to be its biggest downfall. 'Pretty Woman' was based on an fresh idea, but 'Maid in Manhattan' reverts to stereotype, and the old-fashioned upstairs-downstairs divide to get its message across.
Jennifer Lopez plays Marisa Ventura, a hard-working single mother who is a housekeeper at a glitzy Manhattan Hotel. All she wants is to provide a good life for her 10-year-old son Ty (Tyler Garcia Posey) and prove her mother wrong by earning a place on the hotel's management programme. But everything changes one weekend when she brings Ty along to the hotel and gets another staff member to keep an eye on him.
Wandering off (as children are wont to do), Ty bumps into rising politician and one of New York's most eligible bachelors, Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) whom he impresses with his knowledge of politics. Ty goes to find Marisa to ask her permission to walk around Central Park with Christopher and his dog Rufus. Meanwhile, Marisa has been persuaded by workmate Stephanie (Marissa Matrone) to try on the clothes of one of the hotel's wealthy socialite guests (Natasha Richardson). So when Christopher and Ty walk in to the Park Suite, he mistakenly takes Marisa for a hotel guest and, surprise surprise, it's love at first sight.
And so the Cinderella story begins as Marisa inadvertently catches a glimpse of what it's like to live on 'the other side' and - although there are plenty of twists and turns - it won't ruin it to reveal that in the end they live happily ever after. It is a fairytale after all…
Although Lopez is said to have been very passionate about the project, it's difficult to take the reputed diva seriously here. Lopez may see herself as a real life Cinderella but it doesn't come across in her portrayal of Marisa. 'Maid in Manhattan' is simply another vehicle for 'Jenny from the Block' to play dress-up and remind us all (yet again) that she does remember where she came from. It's a great shame that after promising so much alongside George Clooney in thriller 'Out of Sight', Lopez's film career has stalled with efforts like this and the truly awful 'Wedding Planner'.
The real question is why someone of the calibre of Fiennes would waste his time on such whimsical nonsense. Admittedly, he manages to bring some charisma and talent to a movie that is seriously lacking both but he fails to convince of his passion for the role and, for an actor like Fiennes, that's a real shame. Let's hope the swimming pool was worth it.
Posey steals the show as the cute-as-a-button Ty but even his character is hard to accept. A 10-year-old boy from a single-parent home in the Bronx who loves politics, is wise beyond his years and gives absolutely no trouble to his loving mother despite the fact that his father has no interest in him? Too good to be true, but hey, we don't want to revert to stereotypes ourselves so we'll overlook this one.
Unfortunately, the most positive thing that can be said is hats off to whoever decided to use a few Norah Jones' songs in the soundtrack. New York City itself should also be given a name check in the credits because, as with Bullock and Grant in 'Two Weeks Notice', it almost steals the limelight from its illustrious co-stars. With a better script and a bit more talent, 'Maid in Manhattan' could have been a 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' for a new generation, but its 40-year-old counterpart displays more sexiness, edge and romance in one single scene than is on offer throughout this entire movie. Do yourself a favour and take another look at Audrey Hepburn's masterful performance instead.