Maid in Manhattan review by Matt FuerstAll right, stick with me on this one.
What do these two scenes from two completely different movies have in common:
Scene #1 - Maid in Manhattan Marisa Ventura (JLo), a Maid in a 4 star motel in Manhattan, gets invited to a $2500 a plate political dinner by future Senate candidate Chris Marshall. All of her fellow Maids and some key members of the hotel staff are elated, and take her on a shopping spree (more like a borrowing spree). The go to a high class dress shop and in a series of quick cuts we see Miss Ventura try on a series of 6 or 8 dresses. Another quick cut to Ventura's son Ty borrowing a Harry Winston rope necklace. Another quick cut to the loveable security guard picking out a wonderful pair of open toed heels for Ventura for her dream date. More than once an adoring onlooker mentions "This is just like Cinderella!" Ventura goes and gets a haircut, nails, the works. Finally we are presented with an image of JLo all dolled up. Cinderella is ready for her ball.
Scene #2 - Cobra Sly Stallone is Marion Cobretti (get it? Cobra! Cobretti! Ahh never mind. Fine cinema is lost on people like you) a cop that of course bucks the rules and doesn't shave much. Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen) is being harassed by a crazy cult led by the Night Slasher. Cobra and Ingrid are holed up in a motel "safe" room but Cobra knows there is a mole inside the department. The Night Slasher and his crew are coming for the both of them. Cobra must prepare. Cobra goes out to the trunk of his bad ass lead sled and pulls out a big, black bag. All the action fans in the house know this is the "bag o' death". He proceeds to throw the bag onto a bed, and remove the contents. Submachine guns, pistols, semi-automatics, pump shotgun, ammunition. Cobra loads up clips for his machine gun. As we all know, you've got to tape two clips upside down from each other. That way you can reload quicker. Cobra loads up his hand cannon, and loads up some clips for the semi-auto pistol, especially for his .45 with a picture of an actual Cobra inlaid on the grip. Load some shells into the shotgun. Rack the action. The camera pans over Cobra, head to foot. Dark sunglasses, long black jacket. Loaded to the gills with hardware. Let the Slasher come. Cobra is ready.
On the surface, not many direct comparisons can be made here, but when I was sitting in the theatre last night, the only thought in my head during the JLo dolling-up scene was Marion Cobretti getting ready for battle. These are nearly identical scenes in their intent and execution, just aimed for different sexes. Maid in Manhattan has a cute adorable Cinderella getting ready for the ball scene because that is what a woman in the audience dreams of. Her mother probably read her the Cinderella story as a kid, and that has some permanent real estate in her heart and mind. Similarly, while I don't personally want to load up for a battle with the Night Slasher, my inner badass Marine-lovin' commando knows that I want to rack a shotgun, save the girl, and wipe out the Night Slasher. These glory scenes, both montages of quick bursts of activity, feed into this inner desire. Wanting to don a long black jacket, not shave for a week, load myself up with a couple heaters and take on a faceless evil entity isn't something I verbalize much, and on the other hand I haven't heard many women talk like "Gee, I hope today my life is just like Cinderella at the ball!" Just because we never verbalize these things amongst the sexes doesn't mean they aren't there.
And this is the reason why Main in Manhattan accomplishes what it sets out to do, much like Cobra accomplishes it's goals. We are successfully transported into the like of Marisa. In spite of a large number of complaints about JLo's abilities, I thought she did a great job in Maid. She plays a more everyday, down to earth character, and I believe her when she says "I'm still Jenny from around the block". She ain't joking. She comes across realistically. There won't be many surprises for you in this one, and I've already given away enough of the movie for you to determine if you'd be interested in checking this one out, no need for any more backstory really.
The only movie that director Wayne Wang has done previously that you've probably heard of is Anywhere But Here which was not very tolerable, but he comes through on his duties here. With a story as straightforward as Maid in Manhattan I would demand a very straightforward directing job. I want clean colors, clean lighting and nothing tricky. An occasional long shot of the city, closeups during dialogue, and appropriate framing of Chris and Marisa kissing with her adorable little son Ty still in the frame. No making out without the child visible! Everything is done by the numbers here and you won't have a complaint. The cinematography of New York seems accurate and well done. If you've read some of my previous reviews you may think I am crazy over soundtracks, but for some reason I have been paying particular note to them as of late. It can really make a movie. Maid features a score that at times I found irritating but does have some nice songs woven throughout the story. Several ditties I made mental notes that I wanted to explore more after the movie was over, namely Come Away With Me from Norah Jones. Beware, I'm Coming Out is featured not once, but twice within Maid. Wow. Thankfully we are spared of any JLo contributions.
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