She’s the best-looking maid working at any posh
Lopez is Marisa, a plucky single mom with a gifted 10-year-old. She’s supporting the two of them as a housekeeper at the chic Beresford Hotel and though she’s cleaning bathrooms and making beds now, she has dreams of becoming a housekeeping manager there. Fiennes is Chris, the scion of a political dynasty and well-known playboy about town. Yeah, I know, we’re all thinking JFK, Jr, though with a few more miles on him.
One day the always reliable Marisa, egged on by a gal pal, tries on a designer outfit that belongs to one of the swankiest guests at the hotel. And, because it’s that kind of flick, once she all dressed up in borrowed finery, that’s when her son bursts in with Chris in tow. Chris takes one look and before you can say Cinderella, they’re connecting during a walk in
The film’s good points include the fact that Lopez tries to look like a working class hero. No fancy manicures, no spiffy wardrobe for her. And she does have a natural charm that the camera loves almost as much as it loves her good looks. Her kid, played by Tyler Posey with a saccharine quotient that grows geometrically as the film progresses, nonetheless makes a good start with such quirks as an obsession with the 70s that includes listening to the best of Bread and reading biographies of Kissinger. Stanley Tucci pretty much steals the show, though, as Chris’ chief of staff with a strict agenda and a riposte for every occasion.
The bad points, alas, do pile up. Most flagrant is Marisa’s entirely illogical reaction to finding out that she could well be in line for the management position she’s been dreaming of. Instead of applying, she blows it off and then throws a tantrum at the friend who turned in an application for her. Then there’s Ralph Fiennes, who looks pained even when smiling broadly. You can almost see the black cloud over his head, so broody is he even when his character is supposed to be in seventh heaven. And then there’s Natasha Richardson as the flighty cliché of a designer name-dropping socialite who sets her sights on an anything but delighted Chris. I think we’re supposed to laugh at her, but she was way too grating to provoke that kind of mirth. Any kind of mirth actually. Mildly irritating, but necessary from a fashion point of view, is the premise that in order for Marisa to get her management position, she must break off her budding romance with Chris and she must do it at a black-tie ball. This affords Lopez the chance to dazzle us in chiffon and diamonds, but little else.
MAID IN AMERICA does have a few things to say about the dignity of the working class, and so merits a bit of respect there. Still, it’s strictly for the hopeless romantic who wants the social issues of the day presented with a spoonful of sugar and a large dollop of schmaltz.