This past weekend I went and saw the new live action Beauty and the Beast movie, which I really enjoyed seeing – it was sweet, well-acted, and overall a great time. However, I want to get in on this Beauty and the Beast SEO about two weeks late. So I pulled up Netflix, and there it was, Beauty and the Briefcase, a then ABC Family original movie (from before they rebranded to Freeform).
When googling this movie I immediately saw this on Google:
69%? How could this movie get any decent reviews? However, aveter looking on Rotten Tomatoes itself, there are only four reviews of the movie, with the three positive ones actually being about a South African movie called Beauty and the only rotten one being about Beauty and the Briefcase.
Plot Summary (Netflix): She’s only pretending to look for love to cash in on a hot story for her magazine. But her heart didn’t get the memo. (If only this covered even half of the movie!)
Hilary Duff plays Lane Daniels, who is basically the worst.
She’s an aspiring fashion writer living in New York City. And by living in New York she is clearly living on Manhattan while making zero money, getting in a few small publications and one freelance article. She justifies this by saying her friend got her cheap rent, but it doesn’t look like she’s hurting for cash, with the outfits she wears and the lifestyle she seems to have.
At the beginning of the movie she seems super judgmental – she classifies all the men in New York under six categories as the reason she can’t get a date, but then proceeds to judge every man and woman she meets in a way that’s not pleasant at all. You’d think that this is the setup for her to learn that there’s more than meets the eye with people and to maybe be a decent person, but that doesn’t seem to be the case – the only lesson she seems to learn is about dating.
Oh, did I mention dating? Because fashion (in a very vague “I’m into fashion”) and dating are the only two things that she’s interested in. She’s faking her way into a job, but can barely pretend to care about anything but “there are so many men in here!”
She’s manipulative, self-centered, and basically a less-sympathetic Cher Horowitz with less of an arc. Even comparing her to Cher is unfortunate because Cher seems mostly naive and selfish in a more innocent way – Lane is selfish in the “Ok, you’re clearly in your mid-twenties, this isn’t appealing anymore” way.
Who are we supposed to be attracted to?:
See, that’s the question. There are three main love interests and none of them really work, for different reasons.
There’s Tom, see above, who you may know from tiny role on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He’s the boss, who’s quirk is that he just likes to be efficient! He wears the same shirt that he bought six times every day! He eats the same absurdly healthy lunch (chicken breast, nuts and plain yogurt) because it’s efficient! He uses hand signals to talk to her even though it’s 2010 and office messaging software must have existed at that time, and he can literally shout over to her! Efficient! Have you heard he’s efficient?? For being the main love interest he has a remarkably small role.
There’s Seth, who she seems pretty interested in until she’s definitely not. He helps her fix the copier once. That is the extent of his character. He seems perfectly nice but she’s the one Lane’s editor wants her to date. For some reason. I don’t know why he’s here.
And there’s Liam, who she’s REALLY into, and fits exactly on her list, but is there just to show you that having an arbitrary list of things your ideal partner fits into is maybe not the best way of going about things, especially when “Not lying about his identity” isn’t number 1 on the list. And yet, we spend the most time with him because reasons.
Watching the movie:
This is basically watching the most convoluted thing over and over – the suspension of disbelief watching this movie was incredible. First you have to believe that Lane can survive in New York City with zero income (living on $42,000 a year is living like a queen for her, even though she lives in Manhattan). Then that her fashion photographer best friend somehow got her an interview at Cosmo for the most generic sounding article (“Fashion trends for the elite”). Then, when complaining about relationship issues while being shown the door, she gets hired to be a freelance undercover reporter about dating in the business world. Then she immediately finds a job, etc.
This movie felt like a 7-year old playing with Barbie doll’s knowledge of business, like a kid who’s heard a few things overhearing their parents’ business conversations. It also goes weird places with this lack of knowledge, too – for example, after her job interview, Lane has to do a test on the different systems they use, just to be an assistant for Tom? Later in the movie she gets assigned to help work on the visuals for a big presentation (which is a word they keep using, visuals), but knowing fashion and being skilled at graphic design are two totally different fields. Also, she keeps calling her desk a cubicle, when it’s just a desk with a weird waist-high partition surrounding it for zero reason.
Beyond this, though, the main issues are that Lane is not exactly the most appealing main character and the fact that there are three love interests. This movie is just about 90 minutes long, and wants to balance three love interests in addition to all the fashion / business stuff. Which means she only has a few scenes near the end where she actually bonds with her main love interest, which makes the end love confession so bizarre. They love each other? But they’ve only barely started being friendly with each other 2/3 of the way into the movie! Which would be fine if the movie even remotely cared about their relationship before that, but he’s just the weird boss until that point. When Lane’s editor at Cosmo insists that Lane and Tom are meant to be together I’m utterly confused.
Every element of this is so generic and bizarre that it feels like a 50-year-old man was like “this is what women like, right?” This feels like the epitome of What Men Think Women Want. This goes from the whole premise down to small details, like Lane and her two friends playing Go Fish with pictures of male body parts. What woman thinks that’s even remotely attractive? Or relateable? Or enjoyable?
Problem Elements: Oh boy stereotypical gender roles. It’s not as terrible as it could be, but there are multiple instances where Lane insists that every man in the fashion industry must be gay, so it’s not great either. Also, when she meets Liam he is weirdly pushy, in a “I’m not going to leave until you agree to a date” kind of way.
How convoluted is the plot?: 100%. And it doesn’t even really pay off – most of the stuff about her job doesn’t really go anywhere. At one point they find out she lied on her resume to get the job. Does this get her fired? No, just a stern talking to. At one point her fashion magazine editor tells her she can’t date a guy she didn’t meet on the job because of her article. Which makes no sense. And when Lane ends up submitting an article that’s essentially “I needed to be true to myself” the editor is suddenly cool with it. Every single contrivance feels made up to make this remotely interesting.
Who deserves better?: Nobody’s great. Amanda Walsh, who plays Lane’s best friend and resident pushover, is fine but I don’t know if that’s because she’s the only person who comes even close to being the voice of reason here.
Memorable Quotes: “I never understood the phrase ‘kid in the candy store’ until today” (How??)
“My editor is so cool – she’s forcing me to flirt with Seth!” (There is nothing good about this sentence)
Could it be fixed? This is just a crummy version of Never Been Kissed, let’s be real. Never Been Kissed isn’t the height of cinema but I have a soft spot for it and it’s a thousand times more charming than this. But, if they wanted a half-decent romantic comedy, they could have cut one of the guys (sorry Seth), focused more on the relationship with the actual main love interest, and then added a little more tension with her job – finances, maybe? I don’t know if any good could come from this movie, but if they took the plot of Never Been Kissed but added the self-discovery of Cher from Clueless it might be a decent knock-off.
Is this fun to watch?
Not really – I had a good time watching it before with one of my friends, but that is the only good time to watch this movie – if you’re down to make fun of a terrible movie with a friend.