Beauty & The Briefcase
As far as guilty pleasure goes one at the top of the list has to be the romantic comedy. Men may denounce them as ‘chick flicks’ and the only reason a guy would go to see one was to get close to a member of the opposite sex. The fact is I know a sizable number of guys that enjoy these films. I freely admit that I have been known to see through some films of this genre not only for review purposes but just for the fun of it. After a string of truly awful horror flicks or a series of deep, meaningful movies a solid romantic comedy can act like a portion of sherbet in a multi-course meal; it cleanse the palette. Even though most have the substance of cotton candy a movie of this type can provide a couple of hour’s respite from the tedium and aggravation we encounter in our daily lives. Consider it a vacation from thinking. Guys, if you can learn to enjoy the experience on this level it will improve your next date night at the movies earning you points in ‘romantic comedy: the home game’. The latest example I’ve come across arrived just in time after a few torture flicks and several dramatic Oscar contenders. The film that helped to brighten my day was ‘Beauty and the Briefcase’. It is a very well constructed movie of this sort and while not the best such movie made it does its job hitting all the genre requirements with some style. A rom-com like this one is designed to induce some laughs and a few sentimental moments specifically targeted to the ladies. Beauty and the Briefcase’, like most of its peers, is built along the three act play formula; girl finds boy, boy acts like a jerk, couple reunite. This is not to say that following a strict format so closely is a negative factor. It is like buying your favorite carton of ice cream; you don’t want a surprise when you sit down and open; you want to experience what you expect. This film had its premiere as an original movie for the ABC Family Network and now has found its way to the home theater market with DVD and Blu-ray releases from Image Entertainment.
Lane Daniels (Hilary Duff) is a promising writer working on getting published in the fashion magazine industry. As difficult as that is the effort pales in comparison to Lane’s other quest; finding a man. It’s not as if New York City has a shortage it’s just that Lane has a check list of mandatory qualities that must be met before she would seriously consider a relationship, or for that matter even a simple date. Her best friend Joanne (Amanda Walsh), whose list is significantly less discriminating; Breathing and cute. Joanne is an established fashion photographer and in many ways acts more like a big sister to Lane than just a BFF. It is this habit of Joanne looking out for Lane that sets the story in motion. Joanne arranges for Lane to pitch an article idea to the Holy Grail of fashion magazines: Cosmopolitan. The editor, Kate White (Jaime Pressly) is intrigued by Lane’s quest for her ‘Magic Man’ and decides to give her the opportunity to write the piece for publication. The concept as rearranged by the editor id to find the ever illusive ‘Magic man’ in the business world populated by men in suites. This necessitates Lane going undercover working in an office to track her prey and apply her trusty check list.
If you have seen more than three rom-coms in your life you can pretty much finish the story based solely on the data provided thus far. The thing is while you were watching Michael Horowitz was occupied transferring the novel ‘Diary of a Working Girl’ by Daniella Brodsk, into the teleplay used to bring this story to television. At this point you send a memo to central casting for a few frogs Lane can go through on her way to the Magic man in question, Liam (Chris Carmack) but naturally the course of true love is humorously bumpy. Then again if it was smoothly done there wouldn’t be a movie. Typical for the genre you are required to set you suspension of belief gauge to maximum. This is the modern day equivalent of a fairy tale with the princess out in the world looking for love. The first of the unbelievable circumstances occurs in her all important pitch meeting. Lane has bombed big time but a casual remark about her inability to find a boyfriend strikes a chord with the editor. Horowitz does well in crafting scenes like this to optimize believability which considering his prior work on an action TV show, ‘Burn Notice’ it comes as a pleasant surprise. Lane than moves on to something that borders on science fiction in this economic environment. Armed with a broad smile and a completely unrealistically fabricated resume Lane scores a job as an executive’s assistant in her first interview. Watching her easily bluff her way through the interview to get a $42,000 a year job it’s a wonder that the unemployment level is so high. She even managers to bluff her way through the software proficiency test.
The next Monday clad in designer outfit, blue alligator briefcase and impeccable make-up she enters the office; a candy land of attractive men in the required suits. One provision of the assignment is she has to restrict dating efforts to men in suits. Her immediate boss is the prototypical business nerd, Tom, played by Michael McMillian, ABC Family alumni from ‘What I Like About You’. Of course by this point you should be able to predict the man who catches her eye isn’t a suit and therefore outside the mission parameters. You need a believable rival filled by Matt Dallas, formerly the lead of another ABC Family series, ‘Kyle XY’. The director, Gil Junger, is also from the network having directed ‘Greek’ and ‘Things I hate About You’. His background in half hour comedies is helpful here allowing him to pace each of the three required segments into approximately minutes. Right on schedule Lane meets Liam and, naturally he is not in the required business attire. Duff has been in these movies for a considerable amount of time despite her young age and is quite expert at being adorable and cute, she is all grown up now but the only noticeable change from her younger versions of this genre is now she has a cocktail in almost every scene. On all it is a harmless movie suitable for teens and above.