Maid in Manhattan Review

Marisa (J Lo) daily busts her ample backside trying to keep the snooty customers of her NY hotel happy (any resemblance between J Lo and the customers are purely coincidental). Meanwhile, her son, Ty, has become stuck in a 70s time warp, wasting his time listening to the Nixon tapes and Bread whilst her husband has decamped and offers little moral or financial support to either of them. By an extraordinary chain of events, she becomes involved with a Republican senatorial candidate (Ralph Fiennes) but feels ashamed of her modest background and pretends she's a hotel guest...

Considering that Wang directed Smoke, a personal favourite, I was hoping he would manage to instill enough chutzpah into this film to make it worthwhile spending my time watching. Sadly the script is a major letdown - there's nothing in the slightest bit unexpected or fresh about it, nothing to make it any different from your run-of-the-mill rom-com that gets churned out daily. Granted the choice of actors is rather interesting with a strong British contingent (Hoskins, Fiennes, Richardson) but they just seem there to either confirm stereotypes (eg. all butlers must be English) or give the film a veneer of respectability (Fiennes). Unfortunately, Fiennes seems to just be going through the motions and comes through as chronically wooden and uncomfortable having to utter his lines. His character is also far too nice - if only Wang could have conjured up the sexual anger that Fiennes used terrifically in The End of the Affair and we'd have a great movie (though probably not of the romantic variety)... As for J Lo, she's neither great nor absolutely dire but the absence of her singing makes for a pleasant surprise. The script seems to have been written with solely her in mind so apart from strut her stuff (fret not, she doesn't spend the entire movie wearing a maid's attire), she's got little to do.

The cinematography is good enough but, despite an unusually wide aspect ratio, makes little use of its potential and resorts to pedestrian shots without ever pushing the envelope in the slightest. Quite why the studio felt they needed as good a director as Wang to be at the helm of this production is rather bizarre as there's probably hundreds of directors out there much more comfortable in this genre than him. Still the film has little pretension of being anything more than an average rom-com and, thankfully, doesn't try to be too funny. It will definitely find an appeal in the teenage crowd but may not manage to garner much support beyond that (bar the J Lo fanclub). Not an essential purchase but hardly the worst film out there.

The DVD:

The Image:
The film is given a nice anamorphic transfer with the original aspect ratio being respected. The image is clear and quite sharp throughout with only the occasional speck appearing on the print. The colours come through well and, globally, this is a very good transfer.

The Sound:
Although we do get treated to a 5.1 mix, it seems to be mostly limited to the three frontal speakers with the surrounds being used just for music and some extraneous sounds. The sound levels are well mixed together and come through clearly (though Fiennes voice seems to be rather nasal - but I think that was his attempt at emulating an American accent!).

The Menus:
These are rather good and segue well into each other with animations. They are also easy to use and should not be a problem even for children.

The Extras:
Nothing more than the original theatrical trailer. There was supposed to be a blooper reel according to some online vendors but if it is there, I wasn't able to find it!

Though the film is most definitely a matter of taste, the DVD is slightly disappointing in its bare-bones nature. The sound is closer to stereo than surround, but the image is very good and to that extent this is a good release of the film.

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