She may not have achieved the status of “America’s
Sweetheart” like Julia Roberts or the name
recognition of Reese Witherspoon yet Julia Stiles has had her share of
“sweetheart” roles. Her popularity has fallen off since a handful of characters
from some teen movies of the 1990’s, and still she has an impressive list of
credits. Now this adorable romantic-comedy can be added to her résumé.
Coming in close to her competitor in a race for congress,
Hannah Higgins (Stiles) concedes her candidacy and along with business partner
Colleen (Camryn Manheim), she goes back to her educational consulting work. An
impeccable dresser, and armed with a speech she thinks every person should envy,
Hannah abhors how the English language is being butchered.
Some months later, fate hands Hannah a second chance at a
special election run but campaign
consultants have some stipulations: Hannah needs to change. Unable to stand the
thought of adopting a posture that is less than perfect or changing her look by
filling her closet with sweater sets, a new opportunity presents itself in the
common worker, Elliot (David Walton).
minutes flat, it’s quite obvious what writer’s set out to do and the original
story this teleplay took its cues from isn’t hard to pick out. The only
difference in this Pygmalian-esque
film is the roles of Higgins and Eliza Doolittle being reversed in Hannah and
Elliot whose surname is very appropriately, Doolittle. It’s a clever
script believe it or not, adding enough familiarity to make the story’s
inspiration evident but keeping true to its own traditions and “twists” – the
results of which are usually quite humorous; it’s the little things that hold
it together! Whether it be Hannah’s unwillingness to try things she deems
“improper” or Elliot’s patience with a girl who infuriates him and infatuates
him in a single swoop, there is a quality to this which many in its genre try
for though rarely achieve.
Set in Boston, many situations feel a bit nostalgic
only because of Hannah’s fabulous characterization. Or perhaps it would be
more accurate to say her impeccable manners considering she is in desperate need
of a serious overhaul on her people skills and connecting with people on a
deeper emotional platform (that part of her does get on one’s nerves). Her
dialect was a large part of what shaped Hannah into who she was as a character, which feels like “two parts.” One part an Austen heroine (because
of her old-fashioned, proper English) and then fitting the bill of a stuffy
“professor” felt like second nature to her. Two
minutes before the end, we are particularly struck with just how readily Hannah
is to judge and treat people as “experiments” by her own admission.
is Elliot. It may seem petty to say this but it is a delicate business in
movies like this to “makeover” a main protagonist. Here it was remarkably well
managed as so often is the case, he wasn’t painfully overplayed as a crass,
bachelor male who had no manners save for those more appropriate for a barn
yard. Instead, true he’s a slightly unkempt working Bostonian (accent fully intact) who was a
kind-hearted guy underneath. It made him a compelling character that we didn’t
mind – and in fact rooted for, watching change into someone else because where
it counted, he remained the same.
others (which will remain unnamed) that are more a waste of good time. Fortunately, producer Brent Shields and everyone
involved pulled together a scenario in this story that is classy and really,
quite fun. Early on, there were a couple of especially campy moments
(particularly when considering how the special election comes about) that made
me question how seriously I would be able to take the film.
elements are quickly dispensed with and in its place is a delightful little
gem. The acting is fabulous and the writer is no stranger to some great comedy.
It was pleasant not to watch some of the usual clichés play out (two examples
come to mind) while the ending banter is quite cute even if the movie doesn’t
end cementing the future exactly as some viewers would wish for.