This is not a rom-com: Why the Four Weddings and a Funeral series is such a disappointment to fans of the film

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Edit: the below is based at the first four episodes, which at the time of writing I was under the impression was the whole miniseries. There’s now 5 episodes out and according to iMDB there’ll 10 all up (miniseries?). Although it’s clear I’m not really enjoying the show, I’m happy to catch up when it’s finished to see if my comments about pacing and character development still stand. I’m really glad ‘the end’ was not the end.

Well, look at the image above. We have to give them some points for vastly improving the diversity.

But was anything else an improvement? Four Weddings And A Funeral is probably not in my top 5 rom coms (if you’re wondering at the top 2 spots, it’s When Harry Met Sally and Bridget Jones’s Diary) but it’s certainly in the top 10. I love spending time with the characters, but the execrable acting from Andie MacDowell puts me off a little.

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*head explodes*

I’m just saying this movie put me off Andie MacDowell until she popped up in the greatest film of the last ten years, Magic Mike XXL, and I was given no choice but to stan.

Spoilers abound for the series below, btw.

So it turns out that Andie MacDowell provides our extremely tenuous link to the original film, as the mother of Rebecca Rittenhouse’s Ainsley.  We don’t discover this until episode 3, when she turns up to cut Ainsley off from the family money. This is all terrifically mysterious as quite recently in the diegesis Ainsley had a failed wedding, crossing over episode 1 in to episode 2, which apparently her parents decided….not to attend? It was quite a large wedding. It makes no sense. But nonetheless, there’s your connection.
(Note: Andie’s character is credited as “Mrs Howard” and not Carrie so….who knows, tbh. Given Carrie and Charles’s daughter is somewhat-canonically Lily James…)(also yes that clip confirms Carrie and Charles never got married so let’s just say it’s only a cameo and this entire thing is unlinked and they should have just named the whole show something else that would not invite comparison)

It turns out that, particularly when you only insert easily the most charm-less part of the film, it is incredibly difficult to recreate the charm of the first film. Yes, the movie is filled with toffs who we should probably not feel a lot of sympathy for because they’re pretty much all rich. However, they somehow manage to exude warmth, a genuine bond, and they all (Kristin Scott Thomas and Andie MacDowell – a literal model – excepted) sort of *look* like ordinary people – helped along by the fact that 1994 was simply not an extremely attractive time in our history as a people.

The show doesn’t help itself a long a whole bunch by centring around a bunch of beautiful Americans – going so far as to cast the wonderful…British… Nathalie Emmanuel as a Yank – who inexplicably all met in the UK for university and most of them ended up moving there. Leaving the show to be set in London, with a British supporting cast, but unavoidably American. The main cast can’t seem to nail the dry, self-deprecating humour that seems innately part of a British rom com (particularly one penned by Richard Curtis).

Nathalie particularly suffers, I believe, by the Four Weddings and Funeral project sharing a lot of key staff from The Mindy Project – most prominently Mindy herself but also producers, writers and directors. In the end, it feels like they’ve made Nathalie’s character Maya – in many ways, the main character of the series, the catalyst whose return to London sparks much of the plot – in to a Mindy-esque protagonist. Fast-talking, flawed, funny. But it isn’t until you notice it that you realise a lot of Mindy Kaling’s charm is extremely specific to herself.

It’s not helped that our first impression of Maya is her waking up in the bed of a married man. It’s hard to engender sympathy in me personally for a woman who’s either 30 or closing in to it, who definitely knows better and definitely knows he’s married, who is carrying out an affair. Nora Ephron just managed it in When Harry Met Sally, but….a) no-one on this writing staff is Nora Ephron and b) Marie was not one of the very main characters of When Harry Met Sally. It’s there in the name.

The miniseries format seems to have presented a challenge to these writers, very few of whom seem to have worked outside the weekly series format. They seem to want to have characters who are somewhat unlikeable to start out with (intense and jealous neighbour Gemma, rude and conducting-an-affair Maya, pining and insufferable writer Duffy) and bring us around to loving them. In a rom com film, you pretty much have to start out with having the characters you want the audience to like being likeable. In a series, you have the luxury of time to develop and endear. The pacing of this miniseries is off. Very few characters have coherent journeys, nor make the trip for unlikeable to likeable.

Let’s talk about Maya’s love life. Over the course of about 3 hours, she pines after her married boyfriend, dumps him when she realises he’s having an affair, sort of observes her best friend’s fiance Kash from afar while having the occasional flirty conversation about Mamma Mia! (which the show’s trailers want you to think is endgame, even though it would be messy), then suddenly at the end she’s kissing Duffy in the rain. Duffy spends the first bit of the series pining after Maya (who he’s had feelings for since uni), picks up with a fellow teacher at his school, and all of a sudden the end he’s dumped the teacher and is professing his love to Maya on her doorstep. Why did he dump her? We’ll never know, apart from the fact that she’s not Maya, which he’s always known. Apart from a few conversations about the death of her mother, there is almost no build-up on Maya’s side towards deciding she wants Duffy.

This is not a rom-com.

Do not buy that this show is a rom-com.

One of the best things the movie gave us was absolutely no romantic development between Fiona and Charles. Fiona wanted Charles, and we felt for her, but Charles didn’t see her that way. Even if we, as the audience, kind of thought they would be a great match, sometimes love is simply unrequited. Fiona let him know her feelings, and he treated her with honesty and kindness. It’s a more realistic portrayal of what sometimes happens between friends than grand gestures that first go unnoticed and then are suddenly reciprocated from nowhere.

Suffice to say, I did not ship it.

The only character who has a semi-sensible journey emotionally and takes the turn from unlikeable to likeable is Gemma, the extremely posh neighbour who has developed a (deeply possessive) friendship with Ainsley. Her jealousy is off the charts when Maya makes her return. I think we’re supposed to side with Maya, but all in all the female cattiness just comes off as distasteful all round, and Gemma presents as a caricature despite being part of the core cast. She barely develops in to a rounded character – with an emotional life outside the scope of her friendship with Ainsley – until her husband passes late in episode 3, with some of the best work in the series being her send-off to her husband and handling her son’s grief.

By the end of the series, we are left with a broken engagement, a death, a break-up, a secret child and an out-of-nowhere coupling which is only telegraphed by a seemingly unrequited pining. As such, it’s a struggle for such a show to recreate the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you finish a rom com. In fact, I finished it by yelling ‘WHERE THE FUCK DID THAT COME FROM’ at the telly.

Which might mean that the closest analogue is not a rom com, but a horror movie making a play for a sequel.

 

 

 

An Incomplete Guide To Terrible Netflix Christmas Romances Pt 3

Look, if Netflix is going to persist with this, I’m going to keep hate-watching. Like, hate-watching while low-key loving. You can find the 2017 editions with gems like the o.g A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance here and here. I’ve watched a few of the newbies over the last few weeks, and there might still be time for another edition before Christmas. Spoilers embraced this time.

Hope you like single Dads because Netflix is betting on them this year.

The Holiday Calendar
I watched this one right when it came out – at the start of November. Early November is too early for Christmas movies y’all. Particularly really bad ones. Let’s lay this one out – Kat Graham can sell you a lot of highly unlikely shit. Although her character Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries wasn’t wildly…joyful, she is super charming and all those years of basically shrugging off vampire/witch/werewolf shenanigans really did a lot for her ability to sell some wild concepts.

And you know what? She sold me on an Advent calendar that can somehow predict two versions of reality with one toy item a day. But she couldn’t sell me on a girl not choosing Ethan Peck. It’s pretty easy to see he’s The Wrong Man, given how late in the game he’s introduced (a full 20 minutes in to the movie) compared to all the time we’ve invested in loving stares from her male bestie who quite clearly wants to join her family to ensure continued access to her Mum’s cookies (not a euphemism).

But. Come on. That voice. I thought maybe it was just me but even my many friends who have not had the pleasure of watched Ethan play sexy broody fuckboy with a heart of gold Patrick Verona in the 10 Things I Hate About You show were convinced she’d made the wrong choice.

Never mind that the reason they break up was that he didn’t put a lot of faith in the rather out-there idea of a sentient Advent calendar, meanwhile the guy she ends up with not only loses her job for her, he also reacted to her Advent calendar theory by accusing her of being an alcoholic. So.

One last point of Sorry, I Can’t Buy This: as if any millennial who had a shot at it with absolutely no fucking training wouldn’t take a creatively unfulfilling office job where she had absolutely no chance of being fired, as opposed to a creatively unfulfilling casual job taking Christmas photos of pukey kids, while wearing an elf costume. SPARE ME KAT GRAHAM, go somewhere that’ll give you insurance.

Rating: 3/10, The ending was kinda cute but I can’t get over the terrible life choices.

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The Princess Switch

Ethan Peck given you a taste for hot single Dads? Well do I have the hot single baker Dad for you:

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Shockingly, Olivia is not played by Vanessa Hudgens.

Welcome, also, if you’re a Nashville viewer, to the uncanny valley of Sam Palladio speaking in his natural accent, which somehow sounds super fake?

What a great mash-up of genres this one is. A Parent Trap-style life swap and a royal romance? What more could you ask for, really? Oh yeah. CHRISTMAS. It’s got it all. Super-organised Chicago baker discovers the only person in the world with a bigger stick up their arse is the Prince of a small, probably European country (important question from Twitter: do you think Princess Switch‘s Belgravia and A Christmas Prince’s Aldovia have a voting bloc in Eurovision? I bet they both hate Montsaurai of Once Upon A Holiday, with its Dirtbag Princess Katie). He must learn the spiritual fulfilment of carriage rides and visiting orphanages which hang up mistletoe, a very normal thing to do in a workplace based on childcare. Meanwhile, a Duchess learns the pleasure of making out with a really hot single Dad who knows how to make cakes, and who only has one annoying family member (his cloying daughter) rather than an entire small country paying attention to him.

Anyway, my main problem with this movie is that it’s G-rated, and therefore when Kevin turns up in Margaret’s bedroom looking like THIS:

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She does not play any form of hide and seek with him.

A big ups to Netflix for refusing to buy any jewellery for these royal movies that doesn’t look like it comes from Lovisa (Americans: think Claire’s). This movie includes a corker:

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How many hot glue guns died in the making of that thing?

All in all, this movie is extremely silly and manages to pack in every cliche you could want, plus a baking competition. I can only imagine the environment in which it was written. I’m picturing a lot of eggnog and six seasons of GBBO on in the background.

Rating 9/10, deducting one point for not getting Kevin’s pyjamas pants off.

Christmas Wedding Planner

I’ve got two words for you: Charisma. Void.

That’s the only way I can describe the romantic hero in this movie, an extremely low-budget version of Michael Weatherly from NCIS. And he just kinda comes off like an arsehat? I read plenty of romance novel heroes with his personality type, but to translate it to the screen you really need to cast for charisma and chemistry with the heroine, because we have a lot of gaps to fill without the written word. And while the heroine does a bit of narration, she mostly uses it to yell “I am a fierce warrior”, a quirk disturbingly reminiscent of Anastasia Steele’s inner goddess. I’m not particularly surprised to find out this one is based on a Harlequin novel.

So, what’s Kelsey’s job? You may think it’s to plan Christmas Weddings, an extremely niche market if I ever saw one. Bloody millennials. In fact, she’s never planned a damn wedding before her cousin’s, and yikes. She needs to….make some interventions.

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Girl if you don’t think that’s gonna date your wedding, think about how it’s already dated this movie.

This is an extremely dumb movie with a heroine who on first appearance seems kinda charming but eventually just becomes so quirky it’s annoying. You know. The Zooey Deschanel effect. I’ve got a theory though. She’s so odd because she’s dealing with the fact that a ribbon is keeping her head on.

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Aesthetically, it’s a fascinating movie. Kelly Rutherford (what are you doing here? There’s actually good soaps out there to pay your bills!) is a sort of generically-rich aunt, and it’s just close enough to Lily Van Der Woodsen that it really shows that this movie….does not know how wealthy people dress. For example, not a lot of grown-ass women sitting around their homes in tiny lid fascinators and diamanté headbands, Lovisa strikes again.

The worst accessorising choice of all happens when Emily rips the ribbon from her cousin Kelsey’s neck for her wedding bouquet. A truly tragic end.

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Jk the biggest tragedy of this movie is (SPOILER ALERT), Kelsey decides to marry a Charisma Void she’s known for about a week on the spot.

Rating: 4/10, added one point for the heroine’s fabulous lipstick game.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

I, known A Christmas Prince hater, am back on my bullshit.

Because I hated this one too. It’s the only one of this bunch I abandoned so frequently that I was able to plan a trip to Sri Lanka and become obsessed with Ariana Grande in the three hours it took to watch it (I’m not joking, my screencaps have timestamps). If you can’t even sustain me on sheer bonkers trash, then that’s a sad indictment of your trash movie. There were some highlights, however.

Amber continues to be a truly atrocious note-taker and also journalist:

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Her Undercover Outfit? Literally Sunglasses At Night and the outfit she was heavily photographed entering the country in like, a week ago.

I really didn’t expect this movie to have a prominent plotline about The Power of Unions. I was truly disappointed that it turned out to be some good old-fashioned corruption and the end of the movie didn’t end with Aldovia turning in to a Socialist Republic. Maybe next time?

The plotline about press freedom didn’t hold a lot of water either. Did Amber end up keeping her blog that should have absolutely been killed about twelve months before the events of this movie?

We learned that the royal family attached Go Pros to the end of their toboggans:

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And that Amber, one of the most awkward people on the whole planet, was raised by one of Life’s Huggers:

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Amber cannot be trusted with a Hot Glue Gun:

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Great question, I thought I’d managed to travel in to this fictional universe to burn it.

Wisely, someone ripped off the Gryffindor ribbons before Emily made it to stage. Everyone on this stage is a scab btw, as the concert had been cancelled due to worker’s strikes.

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The workers! United! Will never be defeated!

We learned Richard can’t decorate for shit and Amber is a ginormous liar.

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Richard has also taken to referring to himself in the third person, so it’s kinda hard to be Team Richard in this movie. Read some Karl Marx, dickhead.

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This kid….has a boner. I’m sorry but he does. Blame Netflix.

50 Shades of School Play

Clearly, the greatest job on this production was to create the outlandish initial sketch for Amber’s wedding dress. I was very disappointed not to see the Cone of Shame at her first fitting.

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Everyone involved in this movie should have to wear one tbh.

And finally, Lovisa have got their claws in to another one:

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Golly, Aldovia’s budget really is in crisis.

Rating: 3/10, same as the first one.

Netflix, you did it. I’m so proud of you.

Netflix has proved to be really good at some things. Shows about lady wrestlers. Shows about The Upside-Down. Making you cry about makeovers. Making you cry in a different way over terrible cakes.

They’ve not really nailed the rom-com before.

I watch basically every Netflix Original rom-com that goes on there, but I’ve only seen fit to write about A Christmas Prince and Christmas Inheritance because they were really cheesy and ’twas the season etc. And yes I did actually enjoy Christmas Inheritance but that is because the standard for holiday romances is so, so low. However, I’m not going to pretend I’m not counting down the months until The Princess Switch with Vanessa Hudgens.

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I watch the rest of the nonsense they add. I watched Ibiza, which I felt vastly overestimated the appeal of watching people who are drug-fucked and vastly underused Richard Madden’s natural Scottish accent. Happy Anniversary made me want to never be in a relationship lest I have to talk that much. They do okay with teen rom coms….sometimes? Candy Jar was charming. The Kissing Booth was one of the most problematic things I’ve seen in a long time, GIRL RUN AWAY. I did not watch When We First Met because I hate Adam Devine with the fire of a thousand suns.

So I am extremely pleased to say, they’ve done it. They’ve made a good rom-com. Meet Set It Up: 

The basic structure is barely even trying. Two over-worked and under-appreciated assistants who work in the same building set up their bosses to get some free time: “When they’re boning, we’re free, right?”. In the meantime they hardly realise that they themselves are being drawn closer together. So no, you’re not here for the plot. You’re here for the charm.

This whole movie is like some sort of twisted charisma factory. We start with the most important role, the heroine. I haven’t seen Zoey Deutch in a lot, but I knew something very important going in: she made the dire, horrific mess that is the Vampire Academy movie legitimately enjoyable, purely through charm and excellent line deliveries. There was a moment there where even pashing her PE teacher seemed like a good idea. So yes, I was more than happy to be carried along by Harper’s crazy schemes in Set It Up, even if she made fun of Charlie for being horrifically old. At age 28.

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I’ve mostly seen Glen Powell be kind of blandly handsome and pleasant, as Juliet’s poor old American Not-Michiel-Huisman fiancé in Guernsey, and pleasingly not-racist John Glenn in Hidden Figures. He gets to lean in to his asshole (so to speak) a bit more as Charlie. He gets some amusing and cutting lines, although we’re probably meant to think his deeply terrible boss Taye Diggs has rubbed off on him bit. Look, even Mr Darcy has to learn how to soften up a bit before he’s a worthy romantic hero.

I was pleased to see Lucy Liu given credit as the goddess she is in the movie:

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She’s a badass sports writer with her own publication, and while she has a touch of the Miranda Priestlys to her, you never question Harper’s admiration for her.

There’s a great support cast, a brilliantly old-school soundtrack (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking that cue from Nora Ephron)… I’ll stop talking. Go watch it. The world is fucking awful, go escape for an hour and 45 minutes.

I’m absolutely delighted that Netflix has managed to produce a movie that balances rom and com so adeptly. I’d love to see writer Katie Silberman do more, but I have some bad news. Her next movie. Such a promising concept:

A young woman disenchanted with love mysteriously finds herself trapped inside a romantic comedy.

It stars Adam Devine.

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‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’: The Victorian Values Review

It’s a mouthful. I’ve been shortening it to Guernsey – because a lot of this film is about Guernsey, and its experiences during WWII – but I was delighted when the girl at the box office told me that some people have been asking for tickets to ‘The Potato Movie’. Come on guys, Peter Dutton’s a long way off getting a biopic.

First up, as always, a trailer:

This particular film is a difficult one to talk about without spoilers, but golly there’s a few of them in the trailer, anyway. Part of the issue, of course, on basing your movie on a bestselling book (in this case, the 2008 novel of the same name) is that you want book fans to know that the key scenes and lines they love are in there. Nonetheless, the trailer could have dropped a little of the content and still been effective.

The movie starts thusly: Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is a successful writer in London, shortly after the end of WWII. She’s starting to become slightly disillusioned with the explosion of partying that has taken over London society, but is having a damn good time with her American diplomat beau, Mark. Her publisher Sidney (my boyfriend Matthew Goode) would be pretty darn happy if she’d just start her next book. Unexpectedly she received a letter from a pig farmer from the island of Guernsey named Dawsey Adams, asking for a book hookup for a group he’s part of – the titular Society. The story of the group’s origin (and let me reassure you – the name’s a gag) draws Juliet in to a correspondence, with her eventual decision to travel to Guernsey to meet this infamous group. Once she arrives, she becomes drawn in to their lives and the tales of what happened when Guernsey was under German occupation during the war.

I was lucky enough to be recommended the book by a friend many years ago, and was very excited when rumours broke in 2013 (yes, five years ago) that Michelle Dockery had been offered the lead, as I thought she would be perfect. To make it clear how long this movie has been in development hell – it was apparently initially intended to be a vehicle for Kate Winslet, and in 2013, Simon Curtis was attached to direct. Although Mike Newell ended up tapped to direct, the movie ended up maintaining the Downton Abbey connection from Dockery and Curtis (who is married to Elizabeth McGovern who played Cora), with a star turn for James (Rose), and support from Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley), Jessica-Brown Findlay (Sybil) and Goode (Henry Talbot). Taken together you’ve got a whole lotta people who are incredibly comfortable in period costume. Part of me can’t help but mourn for the idea of Dockery in the lead role, however – in the book, Juliet is 32 years old, and James, who has just turned 29, reads a bit young for a successful writer. She is bloody lovely to look at, though, and is less ‘mannered’ than I’ve seen her in other roles, allowing Juliet a bit of goofiness. The cast is mostly rounded out by people you’ve seen on the telly – like Katherine Parkinson from The IT crowd – and a man I shall henceforth know as The Extremely Handsome Michiel Huisman. Look, I’ve seen The Age of Adaline, I’ve seen Game of Thrones, and he has NEVER done it for me more than in his pig farmer get-up. I don’t understand it and I don’t particularly care to. He is extremely swoon-worthy – noble and caring and just a smidge sarcastic – in this movie.

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Sexy men aside, there are so many factors at play that will determine whether you like this movie. I enjoy it, as I did the book, because I’m intrigued by the lives of ordinary people during WWII. I gobble up books and movies set in the period, even though I know they make me cry every fucking time (this one wasn’t too bad). However, if that bores you….this movie will probably bore you too. I will say that the period details are absolutely stunning, from Juliet’s fancy London get-ups, the phones, the recycled and repaired clothes from the folks on Guernsey, to the old-school ships and planes. There is a lot of attention to detail at work here, and I always want to give props to the people behind the scenes that hunt these pieces down and create props. While the story itself could easily be told in a TV movie, the budget that comes along with a studio feature has allowed some gorgeous work to be given a starring role. Also, a word of warning for the ladies: you will want to buy hats after this. Juliet wears an abundance of wonderful 1940s hats, and it’s no bloody coincidence that I saw this movie yesterday and went and bought a knit beret today.

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Not as nice as this one though.

It’s also a love letter to Guernsey, with lush scenery (although it was predominantly filmed in Devon, unfortunately, due to the logistical issues of filming on the island). And what an extraordinary tale the locals had – the book was well-researched, but the movie also does an excellent job of showing just the kind of difficult position they were put in, forced to live alongside their enemy in such a small space for five years. Whilst the Blitz was a horrifying experience for any Londoner, Juliet quickly learns how different the Guernsey experience was to her own. The Society itself grew from an act of resistance, and she learns the complex interrelation between this small group and the occupying forces, and the legacy it has left behind.

The cast bring a lot of warmth, wit, and heart, to what is at its essence a drama. This is a movie that is hugely at risk of being being trod on by genre pics, coming out right in between A Quiet Place (which I also saw yesterday, and really should have seen first to give my heart an opportunity to recover) and Avengers: Infinity War, and as always, I try to review movies that are at risk of being ignored. However, I think just from the trailer, most people know if they want to see this movie or not. If you’re not interested because you don’t like romance…I’m not sure why you’re reading a Victorian Values review, but sure, skip it. If you’re interested but on the fence, I can assure you that the movie is unlikely to disappoint. It’s not a thrill-ride, but it’s stunning to look at, the leads are charming, and the ending is happy.  And Michiel Huisman is very, very handsome.

An Incomplete Guide To Terrible Netflix Christmas Romances Pt 1

I start this blog post knowing it will probably necessitate a Part 2. But I’m just one girl, and there are just so many shit Christmas romances on Netflix (Australia). On a recent rainy weekend, I managed to knock out four of the suckers. By the rules of these movies, if I’d been hanging out with a stranger for that amount of time, I should be ready to get engaged to that bland white dude by the time the sun set. Anyway this is kinda like my movie reviews, but in this case I only want you to watch them so we can talk about how bad they are. Know my ratings scale bears no relationship to movies that aren’t crappy made-for-TV romances. Titles link to trailers.

A Christmas Prince
The only actual Netflix production from what I can tell (the rest are from the Hallmark/Lifetime school of schmaltz). And if you think this might be reflected in say….production values, a decent script, believable accents? You’re in for a surprise. I guess all the budget went in to procuring the charming Rose McIver from iZombie (although she’s not allergic to made-for-TV-trash…I bring to you, Petals on the Wind). Amber (McIver) is a copy editor at an implausible magazine, somehow sent on the even more implausible mission to attend a press conference in the tiny European nation of Aldovia. Something something the prince has a deadline to accept the crown and he is on permanent walkabout. He turns up just in time to meet our plucky heroine, luckily.
What do you think the accent of every single person in this snowy, mountainous European country is? If you answered ‘vaguely British, I guess’ (romantic lead Ben Lamb is actually English, but still managed to make it sound fake) then you’ve probably seen one of these movies before.
There’s a lot of mysteries in this movie. Why is this royal family’s security so lax that they just merrily accept that any old American who turns up two weeks early is clearly Princess Emily’s tutor? Why are the royalty in these movies so unwilling to do their fucking jobs, which is really just turn up places, smile and shake hands? (this is gonna come up again, sorry). Does Emily actually end up doing any school work over the course of this entire movie? I don’t think they give out degrees in mischievous matchmaking. Also she’s smarter than Amber at maths, and yet Amber’s going to get to be the fuckin’ queen because of some dumb female succession rules (spoilers, I guess? Come on now).  And why does Prince Richard look so much like this guy?

The Christmas Prince actually received my lowest rating, but it was also the first one I watched. I guess I had some warming up to do before I surrendered all attachment to logic (I watched The Room before The Spirit of Christmas, so I was fully off the deep end by that time).

3/10 for so much additional implausibility (wait til you get to the result of Richard’s evil cousin’s schemes, y’all) that I can’t share without spoilers.

Once Upon a Holiday
More dirtbag royalty, oh my god. They didn’t look far for the fucking names in this one, either. Princess Katherine of Montsaurai (Mont Sore Eye) has an aunt named Margaret, an old family friend named George, and meets an old bloke named Harry who may or may not be Santa, or a wizard, I’m not really sure but he can make people disappear and there’s not really any comment on it.  Anyway, Princess Katie is also not a big fan of her minimal responsibilities, or her aunt. Said aunt probably should be a Princess too, given she seems to have been the sister of the king, but it’s all extremely unclear, and in the end Margaret seems to act as a personal assistant and excuse-for-Katie-maker.
Dirtbag Katie sees her opportunity to piss off on a trip to ‘New York’ (I don’t remember any establishing shots that suggested this couldn’t be literally any city in America), so she steals some clothes that were being donated to charity. She runs in to Jack while being completely unable to function in a big city, because apparently sending her to the best universities in the world did not involve her handling money, or  learning how not to casually leave your possessions where they can be stolen. What it DID get her is an inexplicable American accent.
Jack is another classic bland white man, who had some hot shot career and then wanted to work with his hands as a carpenter or some shit. His ex-wife dumped him because ‘she didn’t sign on for a guy who works with power tools’, but I wonder if it was maybe because he’s a gullible idiot. Well, he’s found his perfect match in this terrible liar, who pauses while searching for a fake surname at a holiday party (she settles on ‘Holiday’), and instead of implying she’s ever travelled internationally, tells him she saw an art piece (exhibited in Milan) in a book. It’s a good thing they’re such a perfect match, because at the end he suggests they ‘spend all of their Christmases together’ after legitimately three days of acting like fugitives from justice.

4/10 I was going to leave it at A Christmas Prince but I had to find out what the ‘joys of a normal life’ were that Katie would discover, because to me normal life is taking out the bins and paying the bills, and I’d much prefer to be a princess. Nothing that happened in this movie resembled normal life, anywhere, especially not in ‘New York’. Apart from maybe getting robbed.

A Holiday Engagement
Okay I can’t believe I have to do this but warning: that trailer is basically the whole movie.
Have I mentioned that I read quite a lot of romance novels? It has occurred to me that part of my warm feeling towards this movie is just because it uses one of my favourite tropes – the fake relationship. Made slightly more complicated in this scenario because David is pretending to be a real person – Hillary’s now-ex fiance Jason. So much room for shenanigans!
This is a slightly older one, a special little slice of 2011 which you can date pretty exactly due to the presence of Haylie Duff as the social-climbing sister of Hillary (ha). Golly. Haylie Duff. They really did spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to make fetch happen with that one (she got her very own Terrible Christmas Romance two years later!).
I will say that this one is exactly what you expect, whether you watched the spoileriffic trailer or not, with Hillary’s overbearing Mom (Shelley Long) eventually learning maybe she can quit being terrifying enough for her daughter to think it’s an okay idea to invite a stranger in to their home, and everyone realising Real Jason is garbage, but it really gets by on its leads. I have a bizarre affection for Bonnie Somerville, despite my main association with her being Rachel, Sandy’s co-worker on The OC who tries to seduce him. She can actually fucking act, which is bloody rare for these things, and has some nice chemistry with Jordan Bridges who plays David.

7/10 But I need to deduct a point because this movie is mostly set at Thanksgiving. Luckily Shelley Long starts setting up for Christmas straight-up the day after Thanksgiving, doesn’t she know it’s bad luck not to wait til December? Are you a shopping mall, Shelley Long?
(The internet tells me this is an Australian thing? I will say none of the Americans on my Instagram feed seemed to put them up before we hit December).

The Spirit of Christmas
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You
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Kidding
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Me?
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10/10 for this guy’s fucking face, let’s all go home.

On the narrative side, my new crush up there is a corporeal not-ghost (for 12 days of the year, we don’t really know what he does the rest of the time but presumably it’s mostly ghost-y) who can also disappear and re-appear at will. This movie really doesn’t give a fuck about the rules of ghosts, any more than the others cared about the rules of royalty, getting to know a person for an adequate amount of time, or basic common sense. He took a blow to the head that killed him in 1920 and comes back every year acting like Christian Grey. Except with no BDSM, just with really proper speech and a cranky attitude. The movie only finds one excuse for him to take his shirt off, which is a bit half-arsed. The fact that he likes to be alone in his old house (rather than having to deal with our ‘heroine’, who’s mostly insufferable) is the movie’s reason for him not knowing anything about mobile phones and referring to them as ‘communications devices’.
The spooky mystery element – basically, who dun killed him, and is it stopping him from passing on – is a nice little bonus on top of what would be a pretty ordinary ‘oh you want to bone a ghost? Well that’s fine because he has a body’ story.
I think the best part of this movie is even though it wants us to think all lawyers and the general profession of lawyering is a bit evil and shit (so much time pressure!), she doesn’t stop being a lawyer at the end. I’ll let you guess about the boning.

My rating as above stands.

Bumbling along with Bumble: The Tinder Trends Sequel

….that no-one asked for.

You’ve heard of Bumble, right? It’s kinda like Feminist Tinder, in that ladies have to make the first move to make contact when they get a match, or that match damn well disappears. The whole thing kinda freaks me out, because I already spend 100% of the time thinking I come off as too thirsty, but nevermind, I wasn’t there to make matches! I was there to collect some of that sweet sweet data.

This post is intended as a sequel to my Tinder Trends series, but particularly the epilogue where I examined age-related data. Unlike The Big Study, I only collected data on 100 profiles (as I was hoping to have it done around PAX, but then I came down with an almighty case of PAX pox and did not want to think about men or romance or having a body). I set the parameters the same as The Big Study, however, searching for men between ages 25-40 within a 50km radius. I  also collected a few extra data points that were of interest to me.

First things first! Bumble did not want me to be a cougar. Well, not so much…

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This is good, because I have spent enough time with men in their twenties to last two lifetimes! More than 50% of the men Tinder showed me were in the 25-29 age bracket, whereas 41% is a much more manageable number of men I almost certainly wouldn’t date unless I started to have some sort of emotional crisis. Thanks, Bumble. There is always the chance that Bumble’s user base just skews a little older, or that the men on there set their age preferences a little closer to their own actual age.

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What ho, 30-35 year old men. Why is is that you’re 12% more likely to mention your height (my old bugbear), than, say, what you’re looking for? Once again, the older cohort were WAY better at expressing this than the young dudes. One of the biggest changes is the drop in the youngest age groups even having a bio at all. On Tinder, over 70% of guys in the 25-29 age group had something – anything – in their bio. Even if it was rubbish. Even if it was a bunch of emojis (seriously, some of these dudes really need to reconsider the picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words thing). But in this set it was only 59%. And I gotta say – 41% not having anything to say? It’s not good enough.  In the current environment where women are having to think about sexual harassment and assault literally every day, men should consider themselves lucky that a woman might even consider going on a date with them without a full police check. If they’re not going to offer any information about themselves, then they shouldn’t be surprised when the inevitable future comes about:

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In this dataset I also picked out what is actually a photo feature, but it it got thrown in there because it’s a Y/N rather than a numbers thing. If you put another person in your first photo….
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Don’t make it a magical mystery tour to find out which one you are! I came across a guy and ALL of his photos were group photos. No-one is matching with a dude just because he has a wide variety of friends who drink in a vast array of foreign locations.

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Across the board, Bumble men actually slipped in to my cliches more firmly than Tinder men. There was a higher average number of travel pictures, of animal photos, SO many more gym selfies (HELLO older dudes who want to show off those gainz), and and a heck of a lot more bar photos. But additional cliches emerged quickly too, cliches that only emerged about halfway through my Tinder research so I didn’t have an opportunity to factor them in to my data. I live in Melbourne, so no great surprises that apart from weddings, there’s a lot of photo ops when you suit up to get wasted at the races.
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Don’t put that photo on your dating profile you idiots

Guys also really want you to know they ride a motorbike. I don’t know. Judging by the age data it doesn’t seem to be linked with mid-life crises, motorbike dudes in my unfortunately vast experience just really. want you. to know. about their motorbike.

My new bugbear is the small child accessory! This is frequently accompanied by a vehement disclaimer that it’s not their child, but a niece or nephew. I’ve got a new idea! If you’re a parent, just disclose it. You don’t need a photo. It’ll make some nice content for your sparse bio. If you’re not a parent, don’t put a child in your online dating profile, unless you can also provide proof that their parents permit you using their kid in the pursuit of sex. And even then, probably don’t do it?

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However, it’s not too prevalent. About ten per cent of profiles pulled out the small child accessory. About the same percentage of profiles that did not feature a single photo of the subject’s face in full.
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So what are the overall takeaways from this Bumble vs. Tinder exploration? Well, just putting the power in women’s hands to initiate communication might be a slight improvement on Tinder, stemming the onslaught of dicks that can be experienced on such a platform (I mean, I presume that happens. My experience on Tinder is generally of matches that never go anywhere, but when I was on there I also explicitly stated I didn’t want to see anyone’s penis in my bio). But it doesn’t follow that the pickings are all that much better. The data actually tracked very closely with Tinder, when it came to how many people had something to say for themselves, how many were annoying cliches, and how there was a lot of content that didn’t quite fit in to easy categorisation. Is it nice to know that this app was showing me people a little closer to my age? Yes, but that can be controlled with preferences.

Want to know what the main difference is? You can switch off horndog mode (which I did when PAX rolled around) and switch to Bumble BFF. It’s just intended for making friends. As someone who’s still finding her feet in a new city, and has travelled solo, this idea appeals to me way more than talking to strange men on the internet. But unless you think it’s okay to choose friends on appearance alone…

You need to have a goddamn bio.

The Bachelorette Australia Weeks 3 and 4: Taking Out The Garbage

Back at the start of the season I shared my impressions of some of the contestants. There’s so much filler in the early parts of the season that I only picked a select few to discuss – Ryan, The Interrupter, Jarrod, The Keenest Bean That Ever Lived, and Sam, Who Calls Them Cans.

Oh boy, did the turn out some peaches. Sam decided to make best buddies with fellow dillweed Blake, who I would feel comfortable in referring to as ‘this season’s Jen’, except with more floral urination (I’ll return to that one). Sophie wasn’t afraid to call out Sam on the incident when his verbal diarrhoea led to him repeatedly let Sophie know he was looking down her dress. He excused this as an attempt to use humour to connect with her even though it wasn’t, y’know, at all funny. Despite his many attempts, the only thing funny about Sam is his delusional hairdo. Nonetheless, our Queen, who can be a bit awkies herself, seemed happy to move on from this. After all, Sam was owed two single dates after his first night Double Delight rose triumph (still never got any word on whether this meant he was safe from elimination until he got them both). I suspect she was just biding her time, however.  Because when Single Date #2 came around in Episode 8, it was nothing more than an opportunity to insert his foot directly in to his mouth. The guy tried to mansplain the music industry to Sophie Effin’ Monk. Boy you better stop, better run away.

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She didn’t send him home directly from the stretch Hummer, as I would have. No, this arrogant twat, who walked away from the date with no kiss and no rose, was still oozing confidence going in to the rose ceremony. Then our queen racheted up the tension, sending her Chosen Fellas (new/old bloke Stu, Jarrod, James, and Apollo My Prince) out the of the ceremony, summarily dismissing Unsung Hero AJ so she could face down Sam and Blake, who had just recently been thinking they could perhaps be numbers 1 and 2 in the finale. Briefly quizzing them both on their intentions, she sent Sam home, saying it wasn’t quite right.

You can say it, Sophie. Sam ‘isn’t quite right’.

Let’s talk about Unsung Hero AJ here for a second, because he played a very important role. This chef rolls in as one of The Old Blokes and he’s very tall but bald and  moderately fine-looking and just seems like a pretty nice dude with no chemistry with Sophie. But oh, did he provide her a service. It was under the guise of ‘not ruffling feathers in the house’, but he totally threw a spelling bee (ugh, don’t ask) in episode 6, spelling ‘cuisine’, ‘quizine’ (that sounds like a horse tranquiliser bro). What did this mean? Ryan wins and gets to spend some alone time with Sophie.

They didn’t make him go through this in his school uniform, unfortunately.

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(this is a bad screenshot but I don’t want to look at his face for longer than necessary)

So lately this fucknugget has been talking about how he doesn’t really want a woman who swears. I’ll leave my general response to that to the immortal words of True Blood.

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Sophie, much like myself and bonafide smart person Stephen Fry, enjoys a bit of a swear. She thinks truck drivers could learn a new turn of phrase from her. He’d also said last time they hung out (and, in fact, the first time they met), that he wants ‘a girl who takes care of herself’ aka a perma-hottie. Sophie just wants to dag out in her trackies tbh (god is it any wonder we love her?). So she knows, in her heart of hearts, that she’s not the right girl for Ryan and he needs to go find someone else, preferably an inanimate sex doll that he can treat like the wardrobe he destroyed in week 2’s Man Test (yeah sorry I can’t even touch that bullshit representation of gender roles, I’ll just say, if you need things fixed around the house, consider paying a professional? People do those things as a legitimate trade.  Help stimulate the economy by not entering a committed relationship only to save a few bucks).

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Yes, this is acceptable

So Sophie knows it’s time to take out the trash, but in the end she boots him because he doesn’t actually….like her? And she has a bunch of people here who do? He says that he would be willing to have a public relationship (to be clear mate you’re on a reality show right this second, and went through a whole casting process to be here) if he thinks she’s ‘worth it’. And it’s like watching that lightbulb moment go off over every woman’s head, when they realise it’s time to get rid of the fuckboy. As he doubles down on the looking good, and the swearing (even mentioning that he himself works on a construction site and ‘you can imagine what that’s like’), she tries so hard to make him see that he just wants everything that’s the opposite of her. So..she sends him off. And he has a mini tantrum, bringing his own little potty mouth out to play. Sophie’s shocked enough to break that fourth wall like it’s chipboard.

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And so Week 3 drew our time with Overly Aggressive Ryan And The One Time I Have Not Been Attracted To A Kiwi Accent to a close.

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So as of now, Sophie has recycled her two biggest pieces of trash. But we need to talk about Jarrod. And we can’t talk about Jarrod without talking about Blake.

I can’t type his name without getting this in my head by the way.

Congratulations Blake, you’ve officially brought me back around to looking on Jarrod more favourably. Like, not a lot – I’d probably still consider pissing in his pot plant if I had the imagination for such things – but bullying people is a great way to make people feel more warmly towards the victim. The plant thing? Cheesy, thirsty, and dumb, and I’d want to urinate on it after the second time it came up in conversation, third at best. But in Week 4 there was a sleepover night that made it clear that Blake is nothing more than a bog-standard schoolyard bully. Sophie asked the boys’ families to send in something from their childhood, and unfortunately there was no scandalous ballet shoes moment. However Jarrod received his childhood blanket, bringing up an emotional reaction as he remembered family members who have passed. You can only imagine how this was improved by Blake sniggering and sniping away about how it’s only a blanket. I actually wanted to give Jarrod a high five when he told him to shut up.

Guess what men? It’s not fucking cute to shame other men for having actual emotions. You are toxic masculinity embodied, Blake, and I need you to do something for me:
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Jarrod, you little thirst monster, I need you to do a few things. I need you to learn some basic mathematics. I need you to never say the words ‘pot plant’ ever again. And just chill the hell out, you’re turning in to a beetroot more and more every episode and I’m worried you’re going to have an aneurysm.

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Stop doing….all of this.

Even as the world proves to us that men as a whole are basically garbage, at least we have one thing. We have Apollo and puppies.

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I’ve decided to stop occupying the corporeal realm and live inside this post.

To finish off, a couple of updates!

  • This week I should be back to livetweeting Sophie’s adventures, unless life is completely unfair.
  • I may do a separate post for this, but next week if you’re in Melbourne you can come see me at PAX! My bestie has somehow roped me in to a panel on Bad Dating Sims, I don’t know how I allow these things to happen. I’m currently looking at a Tinder Trends follow-up to line up with that, although doing the data collection for that may depend on me not actually spending all my nights livetweeting telly.