MAID IN MANHATTAN ***
This is a relatively pleasant, though eminently forgettable, once-upon- a-time romantic comedy. Not even its excellent supporting cast can make this tepid movie better than it should be. Ralph Fiennes, with his sometimes British, sometimes American accent, and Jennifer Lopez, with her beauty marred the minute she opens her mouth, are the would be mis-matched lovers.
Fiennes plays Chris Marshall, a wealthy, to the manor born, silver spoon, political candidate. Lopez plays Marissa Ventura, a working class woman and single parent with an adorable, precocious, ten year old son named Ty (Tyler Garcia Posey). Marissa works as a maid in the posh hotel in which Marshall is a guest. When her son accompanies her to work one day, he runs into Chris Marshall and recognizes him. They start up a conversation and before you know it they are going to go off for a walk together, only Ty has to ask his mom. They go to the suite in which she is cleaning, only thing is that she has tried one of the haute couture outfits belonging to a wealthy businesswoman named Caroline who is staying in the suite.
Naturally, Marissa looks gorgeous in this outfit and is wearing it when Ty and Chris enter the suite. Chris is smitten, and all three go for a walk in the park. Chris does not know, and Marissa does not disclose, that she is one of the maids in the hotel. Don't ask. Don't tell.
When Chris, thinking that his dream woman's name is Caroline, forwards an invitation for lunch to her ostensible suite, the real Caroline (Natasha Richardson) responds. Let the games begin! Marissa spends quite a bit if time avoiding running into Chris in her work clothes. When she finally runs into him in the street, Chris instructs his aide to find her and invite her to a glittering soiree. She gets the invitation via the hotel butler (Bob Hoskins), along with some advice, and decides to go for the gold. With her fellow employees at the hotel acting as collective fairy godmothers, she gets the proverbial ball gown, diamonds, makeover, and emerges a princess, making a dramatic entrance at the ball, further entrancing Chris. When she runs off before the ball is over, he pursues her, and what then follows is a night to remember.
Of course, Natasha, who is also at the ball, sees Marissa and Chris together and realizes that she looks familiar. Consumed by the green eyed monster, she contacts the hotel authorities when the morning after the ball she sees Marissa, exiting the suite occupied by Chris and still wearing the diamond necklace she wore at the ball. A review of security tapes leads to her identification of Marissa and a host of other things. Chris is now faced with a choice, as is Marissa.
The film is pretty formulaic in that it is filmed as a fairy tale. Of course it has the proverbial happy ending. The film is saved by the very funny performance of Natasha Richardson and her pre-menopausal, obnoxious friend played with relish and delicious abandon by Amy Sedaris. Stanley Tucci is excellent as Jerry, Chris Marshall's campaign manager. Bob Hoskins is very good as the prim and proper hotel butler, though the film strikes a false note towards the end when he gives Marissa a final speech that is ridiculous. Tyler Garcia Posey is a totally adorable child actor who gives a very natural and engaging performance.
Ralph Fiennes gives a decent performance but has difficulty maintaining an American accent. Jennifer Lopez gives a better performance than she usually does but that is not saying a lot. It is unfortunate that to date she has been unable to replicate the level of performance that she gave in "Selena", the film that propelled her into stardom. She is, however, totally drop dead gorgeous when she is all gussied up, looking every inch the princess.
Still, if one's expectations are not too high, one should find this to be a mildly entertaining, romantic comedy. Rent it rather than buy it.
FOOLS RUSH IN ****
This is a delightful romantic comedy. Matthew Perry is a charming, self-effacing leading man. Salma Hayek is a most fetching and winsome leading lady. Strong performances by the supporting cast help make this a most enjoyable movie.
Alex Whitman (Matthew Perry) lives in New York and has a high powered job as a field agent for a builder that specializes in the construction of night clubs. He is sent to Las Vegas to supervise new construction. While there, he meets a fiery, latin beaty, Isabel Fuentes (Salma Hayek), with whom he has a very memorable one night stand. This is totally out of character for both of them. In fact, she is so embarrassed by what happened, that she sneaks out of his house first thing in the morning. Before he even knows it, she is gone, never to be heard from again, until she shows up on his door step three months later to announce that she is pregnant with his baby.
Alex tells her that he supports her right to choose. Isabel chooses to have the baby. She asks nothing from him other than he meet her family, so that it is not such a shock when she announces that she is pregnant. He agrees to do so. He meets her traditional, Mexican-American family and is taken by their warmth, a quality that is sorely lacking in his family. He rarely sees his own family, except for the obligatory holidays, while Isabel meets hers once a week for dinner.
Alex and Isabel fall in love and have a quickie marriage ceremony performed in Las Vegas. Naturally, as they are now husband and wife. they move in together. Then reality sets in. They contend with cultural difference, with pain in the you know what in-laws, and with the every day adjustments necessary, when living with someone one does not, as yet, know. Then, the trust that had developed is violated, and they each go their own separate ways.
What happens with the baby? Does the marriage survive? Watch the movie and find out. The experience will be an enjoyable one.