Judge David Johnson doesn't carry around a briefcase because he's sick of the wolf whistles.
Falling in love is a full-time job.
From ABC Family (and in case you forget, numerous visual aids referring to ABC Family original shows pop up throughout), a romantic comedy that hammers home the following moral: if you're a vapid liar who messes around with every man in the workplace there's an excellent chance you can end up saving a Fortune 500 company, landing on the cover of Cosmopolitan and hooking up with the man of your dreams.
Facts of the Case
Lane (Hillary Duff) is a young writer whose dream is to write for Cosmo. She gets her chance when the editor (Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl) gives her a shot at a cover story. All she has to do is lie her ass off and act like a whore!
The assignment: go get a job in the corporate world and score some dates with the guys, looking for true love. Wide-eyed romantic that she is—and desperate to crack the magazine world—Lane agrees and promptly lands a job with an investment firm. From that point on, it's a smorgasbord of broken hearts and lovemaking and hard lessons and epiphanies and product placement.
At some point, romantic comedies have to be grounded in at least a molecule of reality, right? Characters should be relatively believable, the situations they're placed in not entirely ridiculous and the relationships that result feel organic, not contrived from the mind of a daydreaming middle schooler or a bored housewife mainlining Hershey's Ice Cream.
Or perhaps I'm being too hard on the genre, when it's easy to look past full detachment from reality in the action genre. If Bruce Willis can surf around on a fighter jet, then surely Hillary Duff can act like a sociopath and still end up in a dream relationship with no negative repercussions.
Nah. Beauty and the Briefcase is still terrible and for all of those reasons: 1) the scenarios stretch believability, 2) no one acts like a real human being and 3) the character who we're supposed to sympathize with is completely unlikable.
Let's take these one at a time:
1) The editor at Cosmo is willing to assign a cover story to an unproven writer. Fine, maybe she believes in giving young talent a shot. But she's forcing this kid to get a job and date all of her coworkers? And she's not allowed to date anyone else? That's either brilliant editing work or being a pimp. Also, Lane snags this sweet job that pays $40K a year to research her article; in this economy and with print journalism in its death knells, wouldn't it behoove her to stick with the job and its medical benefits and maybe do some writing on the side?
2) The men of the office are oblivious to the goings-on, though it's amazing word doesn't go around about the new secretary who apparently wants to bang anything in a suit. And it's no big deal. Even when the big boss catches wind of this, he's mad briefly, but doesn't fire her (even though this is the second time Lane has messed up in a big way) and somehow allows Lane to twist the truth-telling moment into a pity party. Yes, the woman who nearly screwed up your department, endangered countless jobs, toyed with the emotions of all of the men and lied to your face repeatedly—give her a raise!
3) Here's the straight dope: Lane is a rotten person, aggravating enough for me to aggressively root against her in matters of the heart. She kicks things off by lying on her resume (thus preventing a truly qualified applicant from getting the job), then immediately launches into messing with all the guys in her workplace. They evidently find her too cute and delightful to care, so no harm, no foul, but I noticed. And even when she gets nailed for her Teachable Moment, she worms out of it, making her boss feel guilty about being angry and eventually solving the corporation's budget crisis by convincing the CEO to adopt green initiatives (of course). In the end Lane lands the story, gets the guy and inexplicably ends up on the cover of Cosmopolitan even though, well, she is just a freelance writer, right?
Image serves up a nice Blu-ray, featuring a clean 1.78:1, 1080p widescreen transfer that is bright and bubbly and airbrushed, just as the subject matter. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a solid performer, belting out Hillary Duff squealing like a pro. No extras.
For an ABC Family TV movie you wouldn't expect Hamlet, but Beauty and the Briefcase is nevertheless painful.
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