Genre: Romance, Television Movie, Adaptation
Starring: Cindy Busby, Ryan Paevey, and Frances Fisher
Director: David Winning
Screenplay: Teena Booth
Based on the novel of the same name
Anyone who knows me knows I love Hallmark movies. They are comforting, easy to follow, and feature Happily Ever After romances. During Christmastime, my television stays on Hallmark Channel, my sister’s stays on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel (she likes more drama than I), and we DVR and recommend for each other throughout the season. Then in 2011 Hallmark Channel tested the waters and created Countdown to Valentine’s Day for people like me who love all holiday themed movies. This success lead to an expansion with “Fall Harvest” in fall 2015 and “Winterfest” at the beginning of this year.
Because of how much I enjoy this channel, I kind of wish this was not my first Hallmark review on my blog, but this was the first Hallmark film I watched this year and was super excited for it. Not only do I love Hallmark, but I love Jane Austen and adaptations/remakes in general. When I was younger, I was a book-to-film, stage-to-screen, you name it purist, but one day that turned into an obsession with comparing and contrasting and becoming fascinated with different ways in which the same story can work and relate to various audiences.
Since Pride and Prejudice, the Jane Austen novel on which this story is based, is a classic, I won’t go into detail about the basic plot (though if you really need some background, here’s the Wikipedia page). Elizabeth “Lizzy” Scott is extremely down on her luck after being unjustly fired from her job as a teacher due to private school board politics (as a former private schooler, this unfortunately is not as melodramatic as it sounds). Her friend hires Lizzy as her dog sitter and dog show handler. Donovan Darcy is the rich judge who rubs Lizzy the wrong way, and thus the tale as old as time (or at least 1813) unfolds.
I tried so hard to love this movie, but it just did not sit well with me. It’s probably for the best that I watched this film by myself because whenever I watch anything bad with my mother and sister, the house erupts with our shouting at the television as if we were watching a football game. The truth that is three strong women in one house. Sympathy abound for my poor father. Anyway, the actors were very talented. I had no issue with the casting whatsoever. The biggest issue is the script. Good actors can only do so much. I get that Lizzy is supposed to be confident and sassy, but that is not synonymous with being rude. She decides she hates Darcy before even speaking to him essentially because he looks so serious, but he is judging these dogs. Competitions are serious. He has reverence for what he does and maintains a professional decorum while working; I don’t see why that means we have to hate the man. When she has her first real conversation with him, I can see how she thinks he is stuck up and would not like him then, but it was just super premature and honestly immature. Despite Lizzy being rude to him, the Georgiana equivalent referring to her as the rude girl upon meeting her (which means Darcy acknowledged Lizzy’s lack of home training), Darcy is infatuated with her almost immediately, which is beyond me. And interestingly, Darcy is not featured in the film as much as one would think. I guess it kind of keeps in line with the original Pride and Prejudice, but since this is a two hour retelling, I felt he needed to be on screen more so that their falling in love was more believable. Once Lizzy stopped slinging unnecessarily catty insults at him at every opportunity, Lizzy and Darcy’s courtship finally became cute. Unfortunately, that was not until the latter quarter of the film. Also, [highlight to see spoiler] the love confession happens in the last twenty five minutes of the film, commercials included. Some of the order of course was rearranged with Lizzy and Darcy becoming closer friends before said love confession, but that left for an absurdly rushed ending. The realization of their faults and their reconciliation evolving into love is such an important part of Pride and Prejudice, and it is a shame the creative film of this team did not seem to realize that. My final beef with the script is that I wish Henry and Jenna (aka Bingley and Jane) got a more screen time as well because I love their sweet, minimally complicated sub-story romance in the midst of the Darcy and Elizabeth’s whirlwind one. To be fair, I never realized how important that balance was for me until I did not have it. Also, those actors were just adorable together, so they would been lovely to see more of no matter what.
The film was not a total bust. As I said before, when Lizzy and Darcy got along, though that was rare, it was pretty charming. What I appreciated so much were the costumes during the ball scene. They are breathtaking. I was so glad that they were because costuming is so important in Pride and Prejudice film adaptations, and accomplishing beautiful and interesting ones in a modern adaptation I imagine is not easy.
There is a shirtless pool scene that pays homage to Colin Firth and that lake in the 1995 BBC mini series (spoiler, I know, but you know you all were wondering), but it’s a little out of place because the whole film looks like it takes place during a cold time of year, which makes sense because this is supposed to be a Winterfest film. But one does not cast Ryan Paevey without featuring him shirtless, so we’ll count this as one of the film’s better aspects.
When it’s all said and done, I will say this; I loved the premise of this movie. I thought that a dog show was a delightfully creative replacement for the old London Season because it is a very specific world with its own set of rules and regulations and opportunity for snobbery and gossip. Literally my only issue with this film is the script itself, so it actually piqued my interest in the book of the same title on which it is based.
Since film adaptations will never be identical (and honestly, they are two totally different mediums and therefore do not need to be), I am excited to give the book a chance and see if its text works better for me. When I do read it, I will definitely make sure that I write a review for that as well.