Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

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Maid in Manhattan

Seen: 2002.12.13   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.01.19

We had a superspecial guest tonight – MC May Techno Dance Remix of the Web Accessibility Initiative!

Now, Matt C. May was in town from Seattle for some accessibility meeting. He gamely offered to run with a bad crowd and take me out to dinner. We got shitfaced on sushi at Shogun, and afterward I hustled out to the Eagle to find myself stood up by some youngster with tattoos and a gut-punching fetish. When will I learn?

At any rate, mcmay is his true userID, and he truly is one, because in his home office sit two turntables. We had long discussions about the relative cost savings of traveling to Vancouver (flying to Vancouver in some cases) to buy U.K. garage compact discs rather than buying them at “street” prices in a backwater town like Seattle.

Matt’s an unassuming lad, a redhead who’s losing it who will nonetheless not shave it to a Nº 1 red suedehead look because his wife unit allegedly likes what he’s got. Cripes. Women and their poor taste in men.

All right. So, on a Friday evening, we had dinner again (got shitfaced on okra at Nataraj). He had to be at some kind of Web accessibility party (oh, and you know that’s gonna be debauched) for tenish, leaving us just enough time to hustle the fuck up to Yorkdale to see Maid in Manhattan with MoPix.

Yorkdale is one of the new installations. We get to the mall (the whole thing is a mall; it barely has a street address; subway maps merely stated “Yorkdale Shopping Centre” until the recent update) and then I had the forest-for-the-trees experience of trying to track down the gigantic cinema, all the while discussing U.K. garage.

We get there and the place is cramped and mobbed. At Guest Services, I note reflectors piled on each other behind the chairs, and ask for the gear. Then I ask for Windexed gear. There follows a ten-minute interregnum in which the manageress on duty, a buxom woman of a certain age, makes it rather clear she finds me tiresome and demanding; I also suspect she thinks I’m wasting everyone’s time because I’m obviously not deaf or blind. I’m neither of the latter, but I’m not doing the former, either. I says to her, I says “You’re really enjoying dealing with me tonight, aren’t you?”

We head in and barely wedge ourselves into two off-centre seats. I immediately espy two seats perfectly centred two rows away and begin to pine.

As it happens, MC May Techno Dance Remix has used the system before and is vastly more blasé than I’d have liked. I don’t know why I wanted him to be less blasé, but I did.

We attracted not a whole lot of attention, but it was a house packed full of multicultural suburbanite girls and the boyfriends they guilt-tripped into coming along. Not a downtown crowd, almost American in its feel. A black Muslim chick in hijab seated next to me spent several minutes on a number of occasions leaning forward and staring intently into my caption reflector. I pretended not to notice. I said multicultural: Black Muslim chicks in hijab are welcome in Toronto, as are crips, as are accessibility consultants. We’re here, we’re black Muslim chicks in hijab/crips/consultants, get used to it.

Now, because this was a rush job, I didn’t have my morally correct Moleskine notebook, so had to scribble down on the emergency notebook I retain in my purse (nominally for Redhead Cluster Phenomenon sightings). The quality of one’s notes is a tad lower than usual.

Did we see a movie? Yes. The best part was the fact that the audience laughed at inappropriate moments, not buying this turkey for one minute. Nothing says “star vehicle” than a posse of multiracial friends who spend the entire movie scheming to make things better for the hero(ine). Take one example. J-Lo gets the chance to apply for a managerial job. Why is everyone urging her to go for it rather than applying for the job themselves? Why are her happiness and success more important than theirs?

Altruism is a godly thing. Many of us have behaved altruistically. I had my entire line of work described as altruism once. It just doesn’t happen with chambermaids.

Neither would chambermaids at a New York hotel all speak English. The film plays with this subtle racism a bit: A rich bitch assumes J-Lo can’t speak English. But a real hotel would be cleaned and maintained by Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, some of whom would also be black.

Further, it appears Hollywood screenwriters have figured out that the inoffensive but stereotypical gay neighbour is actually an offensive stereotype and have replaced that schema with the fat musical black chick.

I would also like to take this opportunity, given that I have the floor, to deny the premise of the movie – that clothes don’t make the person. Oh, but they do. J-Lo is a different and better person in a designer suit than in a maid’s uniform because wearers of designer suits are different and better people than maids. Generally, anyway.

Maid in Manhattan cannot be honest about this point: It revels in detailing the vanity and shallowness of golddigging rich bitches but conveniently forgets all of that once J-Lo puts on the suit, which is, you will note, a lie about her true self. Apparently all maids are nurturing, happy, musical, English-speaking proponents of the best interests of their most favoured coworkers, but the only lovable, kind, and well-rounded rich women are those who are actually lying about being rich.

Enough about the girls. I would have preferred something vaguely resembling accuracy in Ralph Fiennes’ dealings with the press; the feel is like a 1950s caper concerning a dashing industrialist and his girl Friday, bantering with a kid-gloves press corps. Stanley Tucci’s well-tailored suits cannot camouflage the fact that he is in spectactular shape and is, in fact, portraying a structurally gay character: That kind of executive assistant could only be gay. Especially since his boss is the impossibly suave Ralph Fiennes, who has triumphantly overcome the madness caused by a hare lip and a cleft palate to run for the New York senate.

Mental illness: The invisible disability.

Caption quality

(whistling/music fading): Which is it? A comma goes here, not a slash.

A very long ID: WOMAN WITH FRENCH ACCENT:. Why not just WOMAN (French accent):?

No quotation marks on periodicals, thankfully: The London Times.

(vocally improvising): Did I in fact see this caption?

Description quality

Seemingly everyone was preidentified: “Marisa’s boss, Miss Burns.”

Somebody (rune-like notes are not clear) “sighs restlessly.” I suppose that required elucidation.

Description of the maids’ improbably joyous dancing to impromptu musical numbers was completely inadequate. “Clarice shimmies” tells us jacksquat. Then again, the whole scenes are a farce.


The preidentification in description was not propagated into captions. Miss Burns was simply WOMAN:.

The Gège sisters were written as such (but with no accent) in captions, but the descriptions pronounced it “Gedge.” The Internet Movie Database lists them as Guedj.

In a reverse-NCI-like twist, “OK” seemed to be captioned as all right at least once.

Exit interview

MC May Techno Dance Remix claimed large portions of the movie were uncaptioned. This is false.

Coming in as we were going out was this cute young fella in a relatively modern and quite massive power chair, accompanied by a very, very large black male attendant. He then spent almost as much time in the can as Matt did. I felt like a husband holding his wife’s purse waiting around outside.

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