Marisa is a maid at a classy Manhattan hotel. While trying on the clothes of a wealthy woman, she meets famous American political hotshot Christopher Marshall, who assumes she's a guest. Attracted to him, she keeps up the deception until other events interfere.
As far as romances go, this one from director Wayne Wang is about as old as the hills: pretty but poor woman falls for rich, important older guy who can give her the world ù or at least an expensive makeover. But will her lowly background cause him to back off?
Well of course not, because, like Pretty Woman and My Fair Lady before it, this is a fairy tale. But don't go mistaking it for a romantic comedy - there are precious few laughs here, and, frankly, the casting does little to help.
Despite her vocal protests on the subject, Lopez simply lacks the down-to-earth charisma of rom-com successes like Roberts, Bullock and Ryan. Looking as immaculate in her maid's uniform as her (obligatory darker) Latino friend looks slutty, she pouts her way through early 'pity me' scenes without eliciting the slightest bit of sympathy.
Fiennes seems as uncomfortable with her as the rest of us feel. And without his upper-crust English accent, one wonders what his appeal is meant to be, at least to the younger members of the audience at whom this seems to be unabashedly pitched.
Thus the film constantly falls back on its staple fairy-tale plotline, which is so resolutely traditional it should succeed in charming its target audience.
The idea of a rich, kind bachelor landing in your lap without the indignity of having to go out and actually find one has long been a successful movie scenario, and Maid In Manhattan does everything it can to let our heroine off the hook.
She's persuaded to try on the outfit by the friend; her cute little son and Christopher's cute big dog literally bring the man to her; and sheÆs actually ordered to go to the ball with her prince by her superior (Bob Hoskins).
Any potential for a real dilemma is undermined, as is Christopher's credibility when he stops caring what the press think. Never mind the maid pretending to be a socialite - someone here is a highly unconvincing politician.
The rags-to-riches plot should keep hopeless romantics happy, but you just can't help wondering what Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock and a team of decent joke writers might have achieved with this one.