By admin | January 5, 2003

With a romantic comedy plotline straight from the ages, this Cinderella story doesn’t have a single surprise up its sleeve. But it does somehow manage to get you under its spell. Marisa (Lopez) is a maid at a posh Manhattan hotel; she’s also a single mother with a precocious and very smart 10-year-old son (Posey). Anyway, at work one day, a brash coworker (Matrone) talks her into trying on the clothes of a rich guest (Richardson). And while dressed in all this finery, she accidentally meets a city assemblyman (Fiennes) who falls for her without knowing her true identity. The rich guest of course has a crush on the assemblyman, so when he tries to get back in touch with this mysterious young woman, hilarious antics ensue. Meanwhile, Marisa is worried he might spot her in a maid’s uniform and spoil her chances at getting a big promotion–no, not to assemblyman’s wife, silly! To hotel management, of course!
This is by the books in every way, funny and undemanding … and also rather sweet and heartwarming, directed by Wang in that sunny, anyone-could’ve-made-this-film sort of way. Every character is so nice it almost hurts; even Tucci as Fiennes’ grouchy assistant is only grouchy in a comedy-sidekick sort of way. And Hoskins is even on hand to play the loyal English butler. Lopez holds the film together nicely, and even adds a bit of grit when it’s badly needed. Fiennes is rather wooden as usual, never quite relaxing into the role and making us wonder where he’s hiding the charisma he’d need to become a candidate for the US Senate in New York City. But never mind; we sit happily ticking off the plot points one by one, right on schedule, grimacing as the filmmakers try to insert a lame statement about servants and dignity (whatever!). And when we catch ourselves sighing at the end, we get mad that we’ve fallen for this same old formula all over again. But mad in a nice way.

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