One of the biggest problems with romantic comedies is their predictability. The formula just gets so worn over time that there seem to be no new ideas when it comes to a man-meets-woman-and-falls-head-over-heels storyline. 'Maid in Manhattan' is no different.
Lopez plays a maid who works at a very upscale Manhattan hotel. The film goes out of its way to let us know that because she's a maid she's very poor and down-trodden. Nothing comes easy for Marisa the maid. She wants to become something more than a maid, which is commendable, but she won't apply to become a manager because she feels she doesn't belong there. There's a heavy-handed social class system message going on here (As with so many John Hughes stories before this. Here he is credited under his nom de plume: Edmond Dantès), here it's about as subtle as a sledge hammer smashing a watermelon. Even her mother discourages her from making something of herself, because she is and will always be a maid.
Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes), is running for political office. Jerry (Stanley Tucci) is his right-hand man. Marshall is staying at the ritzy hotel where Marisa works. As Marisa and her friend are cleaning the room of a wealthy socialite they try on some of her expensive clothes. At just that very moment, Mr. Marshall walks in, sees Marisa dressed like a trophy wife from the Hamptons and falls madly in love with her.
Marisa tells Mr. Marshall her name is Caroline, which is the name of the lady staying in the room. The entire movie from then on stems from this one meeting. It turns into one of those films where everything could be clarified by one simple explanation, but instead nothing is resolved because we've still got another sixty minutes of movie to go.
Although Marisa could clear things up easily, we are treated to her moping around, wishing life wasn't so hard down at the bottom of the social ladder. What's even sadder is that we're pretty sure Marisa and Mr. Marshall will end up together, that's the genre shtick. That's what we've come to expect from movies like this. If that doesn't happen for some reason we'll feel robbed of our happy ending. So, since we know what will happen, what's the point in watching this the first place? 'Maid in Manhattan' would like you to think that it's some sort of deep sociological look at the unwritten social class system. It's not. There's never an actual threat that Marisa might not be able to achieve anything because of her social status, just a perceived one. Now if Mr. Marshall would have completely shunned her once he found out who she really was, that might make for a more interesting argument.
Marisa soon finds herself in one predicament after another dressed as a maid, and trying to hide from Marshall. After he's seen her dressed in such expensive clothing, he'd truly be disgusted if he saw her in maid rags right? Mr. Marshall is a nice man. He's honest, fun-loving, and apparently stress free. Yes, I did mention earlier that he's running for political office. No, I don't know any politician actually like him, but I digress. We know that if Marisa came right out and said "Hey, I'm actually the maid." He would say, "That's ok, I still find you attractive and funny," and that would be that. Instead such stories don't provide for the sappy drama that is so prevalent in these types of films. Sure it's got some lively acting performances from Ralph Fiennes, Jennifer Lopez, and Stanley Tucci, but the story is so bogged down in the trenches of Hollywood love that it's hard to take any of it seriously.
Without much to love about the plot of 'Maid in Manhattan' it's a good thing the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer gives us many reasons to adore it. For an older catalogue title ('Maid in Manhattan' came out in 2002) the image is surprisingly clean, and clear. Fine detail shines as facial features, textures, and patterns are all pristinely visible. The filmic look of 'Maid in Manhattan' isn't marred by overly generous helpings of DNR either. Original noise specks, while almost non-existent, do pop up infrequently. Colors and skin tones are rendered naturally and never overblown. Whites are right on, while blacks are deep and fairly consistent throughout. Overall this is a fine presentation by Sony for a lackluster film. Even though 'Maid in Manhattan' isn't a shining piece of cinematic history, Sony seems to have taken its time with this transfer and it shows.
Another surprising aspect of this Blu-ray is its lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio presentation. This isn't a film you would expect to rumble your entertainment room, but it does do very well with the source material it's been given. The upbeat and sometimes Salsa-inspired soundtrack is given a perfect soapbox from which to project clearly defined music with some resonant bass. Ambient sound frequently makes use of the surround channels, whether it be the crowded basement room of a hotel or a well-populated Central Park, the ambient noise never sounds forced. The dialogue is also presented clean and clear through the front and center channels. Directionality is spot on placing voices exactly where they should be when they're sources are slightly off-screen. Like the video presentation, the audio for 'Maid in Manhattan' goes above what Sony could have passed off as just a reasonable presentation for a middle-of-the-road catalogue title.
Well, the time and care that went into the audio and video didn't quite transfer over to the special features.
'Maid in Manhattan' is a perfect example of the mediocrity that so often passes for romantic comedy. It isn't dreadfully bad, but it isn't all that entertaining either. The seasoned actors involved, and their performances, are about the only reason to finish this film. The above average audio and video presentations will be a nice excuse for fans to purchase this Blu-ray. For everyone else, I would give a light rental recommendation on this, nothing more.