"So what do you want to see?" Josie asked me, as we stood in line.
"You pick," I replied. She chose "Maid In Manhattan."
Now all theater, of course, stems from my ancient ancestors, the Greeks. (Don't argue with me. Just accept it. God, I feel like the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Where's my Windex?) And of course, the classic structure for tragedy--yes, we can thank the Greeks for this, involves a person in a high position crashing to the depths through the whims of the Gods (think Oedipus, a guy who "loved his mother"...God, I can still hear Tom Lehrer in my head to this day...) Conversely, the classic comedic structure entails just the opposite--a lowly servant, say, rising to heights they never imagined, through a set of comic twists and turns.
Okay, why is it that Hollywood can NEVER get this classic structure right?
Perhaps it too difficult. But "Maid In Manhattan" certainly possesses all the elements--lowly maid is mistaken for wealthy hotel patron, falls in love with handsome man in a position of power, they fall in love, but he doesn't know the "awful" truth, and...well, you know how it ends. We've all seen it played out on the silver screen time and again.
To be honest, there were some very nice moments. The interaction between Jennifer Lopez and her son was terrific. In fact, the son was the best actor in the entire movie. Very natural kid. Reminded me of TJ. Brought tears to my eyes each time they shared the screen together.
But the movie just seemed...well, I think the best word to describe it would be "overenthusiastic." As if the director was so intent on trying to insert "realism" (whatever that is--oh, where's Pirandello when you need him?) into a blatantly synthetic structure (it's a romantic comedy, for Chrissake!)that the end result is exactly what he was NOT looking for.
Or...thinking about it another way...perhaps the ironic flaw with this movie is that its problems precisely mirror the "problem" it was trying to address: which is, the class distinctions between the haves and have nots. That the have nots are treated decidedly differently, as if they're sub par, as if they're not worth the effort, since they're not "important."
And yet, that's precisely what the director has done with his film. He lavished great effort in making certain that the "haves" (Lopez, the boy, her love interest) appeared "real", while at the same time allowing the "have nots" (all the other actors) to wither on the vine. So everyone else is essentially a caricature, especially the three maids who follow Lopez around like a (there's that word again) Greek chorus. Because they're not worth the effort needed to flesh out their character, make them fit with the rest the puzzle. Hey, who has time when J-Lo's booty needs to be properly shot?
There was one moment involving the main actors that neither actor nor director bothered to think through. At the tail end, Lopez is confronting her senator wanna-be boyfriend, and she reveals for the first time that the two had met before she was all Barbied up--in his bathroom, where she was scrubbing his tub (or some such nonsense) when he walked in to take a leak, and he hadn't given her a second glance. Without missing a beat, he replies, "It was hard to react with my pants around my ankles."
Wait. Either you knew all along that "Marisa" was not who she was pretending to be, or you didn't. If you did, then the entire plot doesn't make any sense--and at the very least, that warrants a reaction from Lopez. But if you weren't aware of it, then the scene needs/requires/demands a moment of realization--wait, that was YOU? The actor in this scene shrugged off this tidbit as though it were entirely inconsequential--as if he had lost a point in his debating club.
Sorry. Don't buy it.
Hey, it's just a film, I know it. A silly flick. But why is it that the thing that REALLY bugged me is that those people who were supposed to be us "working stiffs" all had perfectly straight, brilliantly white teeth? I don't know, it just got to me.
I really shouldn't be allowed to attend these things...