Have you heard about the royal wedding? The invitations went out – it was all over that 3rd hour of the Today show last week. Anyway, in honor of the upcoming nuptials, I’m delving into a Hallmark film starring the future Mrs. Prince Harry, Megan Markle. I don’t watch Suits, so this will be a first for me to see the acting talents that the world will be losing when she gets married. I have that Anglophile interest in the royal family that is not on the fanatic side, but on the side of, ooh, I wonder what monstrosity Princess Eugenie will wear on her head, and I hope they will be super happy together, as Prince Harry always seems like a cool guy. So – with all that said, onward to Dater’s Handbook.
Our first close up of Megan is clearly greenscreened to make it look like she’s in a mountain, but all the wide shots ARE of her on a mountain, so I don’t get the issue with the greenscreen. Maybe it was a camera issue? Who knows. She plays Cassandra Brand, owner of a tchotchke marketing firm – the kind that puts your logo on things. Nothing against this type of marketing – it’s valid – but her office is WAY much nicer than I have experience in seeing with this type of business model. This movie is set in Denver, and there are a lot of mountains in the distance. The central conceit is Dr. Susie, (never trust a doctor who goes by their first name) has made the talk show circuit for her new book, Dater’s Handbook, which posits that the reason you can’t find a good man, single girl, is because of You. The problem is You. How will this play out with our heroine?
Cass has a boyfriend named Pete who runs a bar, who doesn’t remember she’s allergic to things, refuses to go to family functions with her, refuses to flex to her needs in any way, shape, or form, and flat out refuses to be her plus one at an upcoming wedding. No one likes this guy, including Cass’s pregnant sister and her husband. There’s really no reason to believe that Cass would be dating this guy for two years, unless the sex is unbelievable. But since this is a Hallmark movie, we don’t talk about that.
So the wedding she has to attend is for for assistant is getting married that weekend, and her married name is Mrs. Schmoitz. I’m guessing on the spelling, but it sounds like “Sh-moy-itz.” Yup. That’s the name they went with. And since Cass’s boyfriend flaked, she’s at the unattached Table 5 – which is full of 8 kids, and one guy named Robert Zappia. They are delightful together, bonding about how much they like to dance the Horah, and how much they like cake. You guys, she loves cake so much that she takes a bite of his cake before he can. WHO DOES THAT? Robert ends the wedding by dancing with one of the kids who tells him a) he and Cass should go on a date and b) he better get on that before she gets married to someone else. She’s a Sassy Friend in Training!
Next we get the classic intervention scene with Cass, sister, and mom. Mom almost has a heart attack when she has the briefest of thoughts that maybe, oh goodness, maybe Cass doesn’t want to get married? How will she face the bridge club? But then sister and mom sit her down with pastry and tell her that she picks the wrong guys. The Problem is You, Cass.
At work, there’s a creeper client (George) of hers that stands too close while she tries to figure out where his logo-laden umbrellas are – he’s in insurance. He’s the other guy in the poster, and he’s way too old for her. (And the picture makes him look like Howdy Doody met Ted Bundy).
While she’s reeling from her intervention, she goes on a date with Pete, which is basically watching him in a batting cage. He thinks that’s fine. She can’t bring herself to say, “Hey, Pete, it’s not working, I’m gonna go.” She just ghosts him at the batting cages, and while you’d be tempted to think, oh, he’ll have the sad times now, he’s written so one-dimensionally, that I don’t think sadness is in his programming. He’ll just have another beer. Her sister, fully supportive of the dumping of Pete, takes Cass to see Dr. Susie who again reiterates that the Problem is You. You need to change your way of looking at things, and you’ll find better guys. So she gets both the hardcover and the Audiobook, which to me is overkill, and takes her dog, Duke, to the park to listen to Dr. Susie.
And who does she meet at the park but Robert Zappia, who also has a dog, named Daisy. It’s like they’re.made.for.each.other! They go out on a date, and they are delightfully cute together, even if he wears a hoodie (dress it up, dude!). They play miniature golf and pool and it’s cute in a sugar shock kind of way.
At work, she has a millennial snowflake working for her who screwed up (got 1000 footballs printed, instead of 1000 futbols printed) and after she has to tell him how to fix it, because snowflake didn’t know, he says, “Wow, that’s a lot of work.” Yup. Ugh. This is so real, you know. I would seriously fire that guy, Cass, or at least put him on a performance plan.
So now that Cass is committed to having her dating life be run by her sister and Dr. Susie, she tells her family while they are helping the sister ice cupcakes for school or something. These are decidedly gourmet iced cupcakes, and I see no piping bag, so shout out go to the prop person for this movie: you forgot something! Plus, Cass licks the icing spoon while they are still not finished, and that’s just unsanitary.
Creeper George is back at her office to say thank you for fixing whatever issue there was with his umbrellas, and he asks her out. I don’t think it’s ethical to date a client, but then, way back when, I did go on a date with a client…and was SUPER pissed when he asked for the receipt. So what do I know.
Dr. Susie says that ‘Chivalry is not dead’ and that you need to ‘hold out for a gentleman.’ So the next scene is at a very fancy French restaurant, where Creeper George orders for her IN FRENCH so she doesn’t know what she’s eating (steak tartar and duck a l’orange and do those two things go together because I don’t really think so). Dr. Susie also says not to pay too much attention to ‘sparks’ because you want something more stable, that will last. I don’t really see why you can’t have sparks AND something stable, but I guess it’s because we are comparing and contrasting Creeper George with Robert, with whom Cass has amazing sparkage.
Speaking of Robert, he takes her for a ‘running date’ for their second date. But because of the weather, they are at a gym and running on a treadmill. Who IS this person, because that is TORTURE. (Well, maybe not if you’re a runner, but still, yuck.) She has a very old iPod with an earbud splitter so they can listen to the same thing together, and it’s REO Speedwagon, her mom’s favorite band. (CHEKOV’s GUN – you don’t name drop a band like that without it coming back to bite you in the ass). Robert is super into “Keep On Loving You” until he falls off the treadmill and breaks her iPod. She totally makes fun of him, and they are adorbs.
3rd Date with Robert – they are in the middle of nowhere, having a picnic on the back of his car. He asks her, “What don’t I know about you?” which is very nice, but why doesn’t she ask him what doesn’t she know about him? Do you think that she does but it’s off camera? Is it because Dr. Suzy said not to? Lazy writing? She confides that her dad died after college, and that Robert reminds her of him, all kooky and adventurous. He goes in for the kiss and she eats the croissant he’s got in his hand. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS GIRL?
Because Dr. Susie says to keep all her options open, Cass is off on another date with Creeper George. At an art gallery, where he spouts all sorts of pretentious crap about art, and she tries to make him laugh but he doesn’t get it. Nothing wrong with an art gallery, but when you ask questions like, “What does it say to you?” You know that you are with a seriously anal-retentive douche.
4th date with Robert – is with her mom, and in a limo, as they are on their way to…yes, you guessed it…an REO Speedwagon concert!!! (They still have those?) Mom is totally heart-eyes for Robert, and honestly, even though this is a Hallmark movie and everything is totally scripted out, I think Robert is a cute character and I would be happy to have a friend of mine date him. I already have my Mr. Darcy, (or my fave, Mr. Tilney) so I’m off the market. But you could do worse than fictional Robert Zappia.
On her birthday, Cass is up at 6:30 am, on her treadmill, where the wallpaper behind her is a full scenic view of the mountains. Like they don’t have enough of those living in Denver? Her dog ALSO has a treadmill. That’s just way too much. And it’s her birthday and she’s exercising like a crazy person. But, given how much she has confessed to liking cake, I guess this is what she has to do.
At the office, Creeper George brings her stargazer lilies, which are her favorite but to me remind me of funerals. Robert also shows up at her office and brings her a new iPod (George and Robert don’t realize the significance of each other yet). Sister is very judgy about these gifts – approves of the flowers because they are thoughtful and nice, but thinks that an iPod is something you give your nephew. Mom thinks flowers die, but she needed the iPod, so that’s a better gift. And since Cass still doesn’t know what to do even though it’s clear from the get-go who she needs to end up with, they all agree she’ll date them both for one more week and then use Dr. Susie’s dating checklist to jettison one to the wilds of dating in Colorado. Because it’s not fair to them, you know. Whatever.
So – she has her dates with the two of them, and with the checklist, this is what happens:
- Did he make adequate plans? George took her to a string quartet concert that played movie themes. Creative? I guess. Sister loves this crap. Robert took her to a diner. Sister HATES this. Point for George.
- Was he Genuine? Both get a point.
- Was it Romantic? George gives her champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Robert plans beer, wings, and chocolate cake. She orders a steak salad, but steals his wings, and then has an allergic reaction to the honey in the wings and has to go to the hospital. And seriously, THIS IS ON HER. She didn’t order it, she stole the food, this is her fault. Sister thinks it’s Robert’s fault because sister is a miserable person who hates her life.
- Did he respect boundaries? George says goodnight and gives her a hug. Robert takes her home after the emergency room and insists on staying on her couch because he was worried about her. Points in my book to Robert for being so responsible. Sister thinks he’s pushy. He writes her a note when he leaves, but it gets lost, so both Cass and Sister are sad.
Cass breaks up with someone on the phone against a mountain backdrop but who??? Since the movie still has 20 minutes, I think we can all guess, right?
Cass brings George to her nephew’s birthday party. Sister is Thrilled and Mom is Not. And George is a dick – he actually has a problem with the fact that the 3 year olds at the party are not using a blindfold to hit a pinata. I have a problem that they are swinging a pinata stick inside a house full of breakable things, but also because George sucks.
He also comes over to help her with her kitchen sink and it is established that her dog hates him, and that he has no sense of humor. After an exchange about snow tires, Cass heads to the mechanic, where Robert is getting his car fixed. She gives him the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech, which is lame, but he still offers to take her bowling “as friends,” so you know he still is all about her. They are super adorbs in the bowling alley, and he kisses her and she runs away because she can’t have these Robert feelings if she’s dating George! She’s totally in love with Robert and is denying it to herself. She can’t handle the truth. We can’t handle that this movie still isn’t over.
She and George have dinner with Cass’s mom, who HATES him with a capital H. Like SUPER HATES Him. He won’t let Cass share his dessert, “he brought enough for everyone” and he makes fun of mom’s Facebook habit. Dirty pool, old man. Plus, have we forgotten that his name is Creeper George? Mom astutely points out that Cass is not being genuine with him, and she has another moral dilemma, which she resolves by taking him miniature golfing. George HATES miniature golfing so much he actually eye-rolls. But he says that he’ll put up with what she likes because he likes her. Dude, that sucks.
She kisses him and it’s gross. So she dumps him, and she cries about it, and seriously, he’s not worth the tears.
Cass heads to the mountain for more soul searching, and when she gets home, streaming things on her laptop because I guess she doesn’t own a TV, she finds out that Dr. Susie, love guru, is getting a public and bitter divorce and has written a new book, where It’s not You, Ladies, It’s Him. And Dater’s Handbook heads to the trash can with a big F-You Dr. Susie!
Final scene – at a Chinese Lantern Ceremony that Robert organized. It’s very much out of the movie Tangled, starring my favorite Disney Hero, Flynn Ryder. Her family is all there and I am struck by how weirdly co-dependent they are. But Cass knows what she wants when she sees Robert and before you can say Princess, she’s run after him, begs for a second chance, gets some serious lip action, and the REO Speedwagon is back up and running over the credits. The End.
So many things in this movie. To start, Mrs. Prince Harry’s acting is actually pretty good, so yay, I’m glad. The character of Robert is delightful and everyone should have one of those. And the local news in Denver must be really light, since Dr. Susie gets on the show multiple times. Other than that, a solid outing. Glad to have taken this one on, you know, just so you don’t have to.