Wayne Wang, the Chinese-American indie director who eased into Hollywood, has made the first big movie about America's service economy. That it stars Jennifer Lopez and also works as a Cinderella narcotic for young women is just more evidence of Hollywood's practised forked tongue.
Lopez plays Marisa, a maid at a high-end Manhattan hotel, the sort with Central Park suites and in-house butlers (Bob Hoskins). Maid In Manhattan goes to great lengths to paint a picture of Marisa's workplace -- a vibrant mix of people, mostly immigrants, who offset their invisibility by taking advantage of their access to wealth and generally having more fun than their masters.
But when Marisa tries on a guest's Dolce & Gabbana outfit, she's spied by a senatorial candidate (Ralph Fiennes), and the two are promptly smitten. But she's the maid!
Audrey Hepburn once made this movie, and Julia Roberts, and probably some royal scribe in ancient Egypt. A commoner masquerading above her station for love is always irresistible.
And it now counts as radical for a studio film to acknowledge that many Americans are born into service to other Americans and live their entire lives there.
But this is still a J.Lo movie, and even when she's not wearing Dolce she's cloaked in glamour. So when she actually gets on a city bus with her son early in the movie, it's as startling as any special effect.
Maid In Manhattan works far better than it should. Lopez hasn't been this charming since Out Of Sight, and she and Fiennes somehow survive all the gloopy romachinations.
The only real threat to this movie is Fiennes's mouth -- it makes him look like a ghoul.
MAID IN MANHATTAN directed by Wayne Wang, written by Kevin Wade, produced by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Deborah Schindler and Paul Schiff, with Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, Natasha Richardson and Bob Hoskins. 105 minutes. Opens Friday (December 13). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 85. Rating: NNN