She may not have achieved the status of “America’s Sweetheart” or name recognition of Reese Witherspoon yet Julia Stiles has had her share of “sweetheart” roles. Her popularity has fallen off since some teen movies of the 1990’s, and still she has impressive credits. Now this adorable romantic-comedy can be added to her résumé.
The Makeover (2013) Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Review
Coming in close to her competitor in a race for congress, Hannah Higgins (Stiles) concedes her candidacy. Along with business partner Colleen (Camryn Manheim), she goes back to her educational consulting work. Armed with perfect speech, Hannah has a think about butchering the English language.
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 to change her look, a new opportunity presents itself. She meets, the common worker, Elliot (David Walton), and a new strategy develops.
Even if you don’t have a working knowledge of The Makeover going in, in ten minutes flat, it’s quite obvious what writer’s plan to do. The only difference in this Pygmalian-esque film is the role reversal of Higgins and Eliza 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.
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Set in Boston, many situations feel a bit nostalgic only because of Hannah’s fabulous characterization. Despite a perfect dialect, she is in need of some people skills. Her dialect is a large part of what shapes Hannah into who she is as a character, which feels like “two parts.” One part an Austen heroine (because of her old-fashion, proper English) and then also the stuffy professor. 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.
Then there is Elliot. It may seem petty to say this but it’s a delicate business in movies to “make over” a main protagonist. The Makeover manages it well; he isn’t painfully overplayed as a crass, bachelor male with no manners. Instead, true he’s a slightly unkempt working Bostonian (accent fully intact) who is a kind-hearted guy. It makes him a compelling character that we don’t mind; and in fact root for, watching change into someone else because where it counts, he remains the same.
Stories that remake a character physically isn’t a new idea. Some do this premise with pizzazz and class, then there are others that are more a waste of good time. Fortunately, producer Brent Shields pulls together a scenario that’s classy and really, quite fun. Early on, there’s a couple of especially campy moments (particularly when considering how the special election comes about) that make me question how seriously to take the film.
Fortunately, these 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’s pleasant to see some of the usual clichés not playing out (two examples come to mind). Then the ending banter is quite cute even if the movie doesn’t end cementing the future exactly as some viewers wish for.
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