Now… I am not trying to be mean but when I looked through my last few recorded films I wanted to get this one, with Haylie Duff in it, out of the way quicker than the others… Nothing against the woman, other than the fact she can’t spell our name properly, but ya knooooooow…. Lizzie Mcquire…
Who knows, she might pleasantly surprise me. Let’s see.
Ooh, this time we get a Christmas tree decorating, present wrapping, tag writing opening credits montage! The very first of it’s kind! Not quickly followed by an aerial shot of the city either. Instead we get Belle, walking down the street with some roses, hailing down work men on rooves, being handed a free wreath and giving to charity. Ain’t she just delightful?
She has only just gotten into the art…. gallery? and put her roses in a vase when Tony waltzes in with more roses and claims great minds should definitely go to dinner together. Belle’s father pops around the corner to basically give props to Tony for trying to date his daughter again before disappearing. Worst. Father. Ever. Tony decides to wage actual warfare and claims if she wants to be freed from the worst pick-up lines in history then she’s just going to have to go to dinner with him.
Belle: “Look, you are smart and good-looking and charming… Any girl would be crazy to not want to go out with you but…”
Me: “I have to brain cells to rub together and I’d rather not. And no, Tony, before you say it I am not a lesbian.”
Belle: “… we’re friends.”
Me: “You’re friends with this!?”
Belle fears she may just be a challenge for Tony to overcome but legitimately can’t go to dinner because her dad is sending her off somewhere to meet with a new client. Oh christ…. her name is Belle, the estate has a library, she loves books, she’s being sent away over Christmas, it’s called A Fairytale Christmas… It’s been 6 minutes, 3 of that was ads before the film even started and I’m already wondering if I can do this. At least we can depend on the owner wanting to auction off all of the contents of his house before selling it and wants all of this done before Christmas. Tight and unreasonable deadlines are what we know around here.
Prediction #1 – Belle is going to regret agreeing to that date with Tony for when she gets back because he’s going to turn into a jealous little prick
Or maybe whoever Katie is, who he has phoned to take Belle’s place, will keep him occupied instead. I don’t think Belle’s dad should be left alone for any period of time because he stopped listening to her in order to laugh at the concept of Garfield hating Monday’s when he’s a cat. I can see why he sends his daughter out to meet the clients and deal with the finances. Her dad thinks the problem of a guy who isn’t her type but just won’t leave her alone is to simply… go out with him! Give him hope! End up with a stalker when you realise you can’t stand him! We haven’t had too many terrible parents this year but this guy has already shot to the top of the list.
We do get some aerial shots of a vineyard though, where some guy is wondering around and frowning at his grapes. Not a euphemism. I am not entirely sure whether Belle has found herself in the correct place because she is still wearing the same clothes, it’s still the day and she’s casually stepping out of a tiny car. If it was that easy to get to why were they making such a big deal about shipping her out there for Christmas?
At Vic’s Cafe we meet, presumably Vic, who is studying to be ordained online as a second job. Yeah, I see what they did there. Apparently it’s very common for people to double up on jobs around there which is an interesting theory when some towns we have already visited seem to have about 50 residents. Like that time Teddy Jr. was the local mechanic, Dr and musician
Vic is happy to assure Belle that everything is homemade and take her order but not so happy when she asks about the Lowell estate and warns her not to go there. Fortunately Angie, the estate manager, is eavesdropping from the end of the counter and pops over to introduce herself. She works for Mr Lowell and is still alive to tell the tale, which is apparently something to be admired.
Vic: “How long you in town for?”
Belle: “I guess however long it takes me to catalogue all the items in his home.”
Angie: “That is gonna be a while.”
Vic: “Yeah, hey, perfect! You know, you’ll be here for the Christmas party. Now that is quite something! Look, I can’t promise to take you as my date but I’ll save a couple of spots for you on my dance card.”
Me: “Good Christ, no.”
Hopefully Angie is willing to take us under her wing because I severely distrust everybody else right now. Belle looks to be rocking up to the estate at around midnight and I hope the guy greets her at the door with a shotgun or something. He should be suitably paranoid and alone, this time of year. Unfortunately the client is not impressed to see a woman on his porch and would much rather deal with her dad. Clearly the man hasn’t spoken to her dad at any great length and I very much suggest he gives up and takes Belle’s help.
Apparently the man inherited the house from his grandparents and simply believes its a house with way too much stuff in it.
Belle: “There’s no Christmas decorations.”
Me: “Why, you wanna catalogue those, too?”
Guy: “I plan to be out of here by Christmas.”
Belle: “Huh, that’s too bad.”
Me: “………. YOU KNEW THIS.”
I am honestly counting the minutes until this film is over but at least I get some entertainment from the guy watching Belle struggle to carry her luggage up the stairs. This guy is just a barrel of fucking laughs as he miserably informs us he doesn’t sleep in the house for personal reasons so Belle can have the master suite, he has a dog called Beast, his fiance named him and he’s not engaged anymore, thank you and goodnight. Belle has put her gloves on in order to check out all the books in the library but it’s not a fun library I mean… there’s a bible in it, for a start.
I’m not sure if we have actually heard the client’s name yet, I have not been paying attention, but the guy seems mildly surprised that books could be worth so much. Just so long as Belle knows he doesn’t need her advice and won’t be waiting on her then they should get along just grand. I’m never sure why, out of these situations, women stick around and fall in love with these men after the first meeting. Sure, maybe in real life you might miss out on talking to a guy again because you met him when he was having a bad day but I would be on the phone to my friend telling her about how this guy was a massive prick, I was going to do a shit job, steal his dog and did she wanna get cocktails when I got back?
At least Beast is happy to break into the woman’s room and spend the night with her, instead. For some reason, finding his dog gone in the night, really upsets out client which gives him reason to wonder around the house without a top on and pay a visit to Belle. Avoiding looking at the man’s abs and receiving a lecture about working until 1:30 in the morning on other work, Emily has won the battle of who Beast loves more. This should make it easier to kidnap him.
This guy adores being topless. He just loves it. Now he’s going for a jog around the vineyard because he can and waltzing into the kitchen so Emily can ask why the fuck he hates shirts so much. I don’t know why she bothered to make enough breakfast for him too, he clearly wasn’t going to eat it and everyone is very shocked by how much Beast loves the woman. Even Angie, who is here to give Belle the grand tour and amaze her with their grapes.
We finally learn our client’s name, Hunter, and that he was raised by his grandparents who converted the barn to throw parties in every other week. She says barn conversion but I am seeing a very poorly built barn that has not been converted and they’ve just cleared it out so they can fit tables and chairs in it occasionally… I don’t know what lies those grandparents were telling people…
Ah, fuck, Angie mentions an annual Christmas dance that his nan used to hold in the barn and we know where this is heading. Hunter hasn’t been back to the place much and recently quit his job in San Francisco so he can go and travel the world instead.
Prediction #2 – Belle demands that the annual Christmas dance be held in the barn again
Prediction #3 – Hunter is avoiding his fiance and the rest of his life to jog shirtless in Thailand instead
Hunter even has a solarium with a vase of roses in the middle. Apparently it’s strictly off limits but as his grandmother’s favourite room she planted the roses and Angie comes in to water them occasionally. I wonder if he believes they’re magical roses or just has no concept of what plants require to live. But no, really, this couldn’t be much worse.
Oh, no! It could! Tony has dropped in to speak to Belle’s dad about his date with another woman last night! I am very surprised when, asking her dad for his blessing to marry his daughter, her dad confirms she is not a deal sign off on. I doubt that mindset will last for long, though, especially when Tony mentions nudging her in the right direction. If her dad had been listening to her the other day and not laughing about Garfield in the paper, he might have heard that Tony isn’t even her type.
Back at the vineyard, Hunter is being suitably creepy by staring at the woman from about 10 feet away until she notices him and then walking off without a sound. Despite this she has left him a note to say there is some meatloaf in the fridge if he gets hungry and her handwriting can only bring me great joy. Man eats meatloaf, man probably falls in love, man has to jog it off again in the morning. I don’t know how many calories were in that thing but he’s jogged right off the estate…
Hunter is far too busy being shirtless to check out the portfolio Belle is working on and she thinks it would be a wonderful idea to clean up the solarium and pruning the roses while he is out running errands.
Prediction #4 – Hunter is eventually going to find her in there and he’s gonna be beyond pissed and want her to leave before for some reason he thought he could sell the house without her ever going in there
It very much appears as though that moment may be now as Hunter searches around the house for her and ooh! There she is! The woman has hilariously pruned the roses so much they are now just a tiny bunch and bought new flowers in which sparks of an argument where Hunter seems to think a new buyer would not care about the fact they had just purchased a solarium and just chance upon it one day like… the fuck is this? That or he just cuts it straight off the side of the building and takes it with him because he seems to think it’s not even part of the house.
The man gets so angry about the fact women don’t like being shouted at that he knocks the roses clean off their tiny table and can’t believe Belle thinks it would be OK to quit. She can’t even muster the amount of fucks it would take to kidnap the dog and so she slowly wheels her luggage away, down the garden path. I’m not sure what Angie’s actual job is because she’s always hanging around in Vic’s Cafe and… I think the owners name is Barney! I’m getting very mixed messages from everyone, even when Angie nips out to her car to shout at Hunter over the phone.
Angie: “How dare you shout at Belle! This is not how you were raised!”
Hunter: “Angie have you seen her? Is she OK?”
Me: “………. OH! That’s actual concern! I thought that was like…. but seriously, is she OK ’cause….”
I don’t know how impressed the woman is going to be to see the man arrive over her cobb salad but off he rushes, anyway. Even Beast knows how likely it is that his owner will fuck this up so is gonna wing man him. When Hunter asks Belle if they can talk outside both Angie and Barney pull faces that suggest they would rather they stay right where they are so they can hear this conversation and gossip about it later. The man apologises but notably leaves his dog out in the car… should probably… not do that if you’re gonna sit down and have lunch with these people. Oh, OK, never mind, down he goes.
The man agreed to be nicer, more civil and polite when they got back but opening Belle’s car door for her and taking her luggage is going way too fast, too soon. The man hopes that by showing Belle a picture of his dead fiance, Helen, that he was hiding behind a dresser in her room that it might explain a lot of things. I am also confused by the solarium: Hunter claims it was Helen’s favourite room and Angie claims it was his grandmother’s. Was he… dating his grandmother? They were one and the same person? Helen was a reincarnation? I don’t….
The man is now wondering around the place smiling and staring at the side of Belle’s head in a very strange, sudden and not a little creepy change of heart. When her dad calls her later that day she shouldn’t be too surprised to find Tony is having lunch with him and bribing him with wine. Apparently, if you can’t eat with the woman you love then her father is the next best thing?
Belle: “I thought you had a meeting today?”
Dad: “Well… since as it was originally your meeting I’m going to let you call them up, apologise and reschedule.”
Belle: “I think my hands are full here!”
Dad: “Listen, Belle, I have earned my leisure time.”
Belle: “Yes, Dad, I think you have but not if it’s going to interfere with business!”
Dad: “Listen, if you don’t want to call them then I’ll fire off an email and let them know that you’re out of town and it slipped your mind!”
Belle: “No! Don’t do that, I’ll… handle it.”
Dad: “Good girl. How are those e-cards coming?”
Belle: “Fine. I’ll finish them tonight.”
Dad: “You, my love! enjoy that library.”
Me: “You know what? Between your dad and Tony, Hunter is a good choice.”
It can only improve his standing when he brings her wine from their private reserve that she can drink while strolling around the vineyard. She also gets the chance to whinge about her dad and how the art gallery and auction business was originally his dream but now he’s bored of it all it’s mostly up to her to run what appears to be a very successful business. Belle’s dream is to deal in rare books. One day. Maybe when she’s killed off her father and claimed his insurance.
Hunter’s grandma loved books too, which means she can only approve of Belle from beyond the grave and is probably very opposed to her grandson trying to sell off her entire damn library. Apparently the pair realise they have been out, talking for hours, but their quarter full wine glasses beg to differ. More like 30 minutes. Tops.
It’s amazing how quickly Belle has forgotten about this man screaming at her and breaking vases this morning. Take the man’s wine and manual labour by all means but don’t forgive him that easily! Unless…. he is going to abandon his morning jog halfway through to come back to the house and cook you an inedible breakfast. Then you just leave before he can give you food poisoning in time for the holidays.
At some point they decided they would decorate the house for Christmas after all, which really is pointless seeing as this man’s plan, as far as anyone is concerned, is to leave before Christmas. No doubt this has changed but let’s just behave logically here for a moment. Heading out to cut down their own Christmas tree – because Nan and Grandad foresaw this and planted their own fir tree row – we get to witness the worst falling on the floor with the other person on top of you scene, ever. The man practically lunges at her the moment he realises she is going down. These scenes need banning. Those and the ones where women are incapable of understanding how a ladder works so simply throw themselves off the top instead.
Thank god Beast was there to break it up.
Angie: “How was your time in the woods?”
Belle: “It was… perfect.”
Angie: “That’s… an interesting choice of words.”
Me: “It is, isn’t it? I would have to believe the woman had never seen a tree in it’s natural habitat before if she came back and said that to me. Wait… where is the tree? Where’s the dog!?”
Angie tries to very unsubtly convince Hunter to hold the annual Christmas dance in the barn because they have nowhere to host it this year and it will need to be cancelled. At least the Christmas Festival hasn’t been cancelled but how could Belle possibly go when she’s so busy? I’ll tell you how, Hunter is going to readjust the deadline Belle needs to be done by, despite literally 6 seconds ago saying he couldn’t host the dance because he wants to be gone before Christmas. Go figure that one out.
Dad manages to phone from another lunch with Tony and I’m just gonna skip right ahead to the part where Tony decides to buy the estate for her because she said she loves it so much. Like legit he’s gonna buy the house for her. I…. At least elsewhere Belle and Hunter are accosted by a Santa in the street, telling them to write their letters to him and Hunter has to ruin it by wishing for Isabella. Who, ya know, Belle.
At least he tells the woman she needs to set some serious boundaries with her father after he sends her a bunch of invoices to look over. Belle is saved by the giant ‘Christmas Dance Cancelled’ sign so they can change the subject and Hunter can whinge some more about how it shouldn’t be his responsibility to be a decent human being once in a while.
Hunter: “You heard Angie’s hints…”
Belle: “Yes, she’s very subtle. I think she gets it, ya know? She knows you’ve got a lot going on.”
Hunter: “I do! You know, I don’t have time to host a Christmas party.”
Me: “Mate! You’ve been jogging around without a shirt on for 50% of this film, I think you’ve got plenty of time.”
Hunter does a complete 180 on the idea because Belle was totally cool with being mistaken for his date for the night. Can they just agree to get married and live forever in that damn house so this film can end already? Back at the house, Hunter is liquoring Belle up some more in the library but she asks for 30 minutes before he heads on in. 30 minutes so she can decorate an entire fucking tree and the room. Not only is this woman a pro but, if the montage leads us to believe anything, it’s that she somehow makes decorating very sexy so that we all get the point. It’s the equivalent of the library slipping into something more comfortable. Which is jogging bottoms and a jumper you’ve had for 6 years.
When Belle shows the man some pictures she has already taken of the library he can barely recognise the place. That might be a problem when any prospective buyers that aren’t Tony rock up to view the place. Belle has been a bit heavy-handed with the editing suite, it seems. She also found a terribly constructed version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’, courtesy of Hunter, age 7, so they decide to read it together which is nothing if not painful and I don’t know how many times Hunter has repeated this book but the woman has fallen a-damn-sleep.
I am very sure the man throws an upholstered curtain over her and just leaves her to wake up with the absolute worst neck in the morning. The next morning there are many people walking around the estate with Santa hats on, so you can distinguish them as people working on the barn, and getting the entire estate ready.
Hunter: “You know, if you wanted to take the next couple of days off, I’d be fine with that.”
Belle: “Are you considering staying through Christmas?”
Me: “That’s… not how time works.”
Belle: “Well, if you need me for a couple of extra days I’m happy to make the time.”
Hunter: “Anything to prolong your time in this library, huh?”
Belle: “It’s…. not just the library….”
Me: “It’s your dog.”
For some god forsaken reason, Belle calls up her dad and invites him to the dance and Hunter was right, we need some serious boundaries in place here – Dad and Tony are only going to fuck things up for at least 10 minutes of film time and I really don’t know whether I can sit through sulking and people losing their shit over nothing.
Well, since these two have decided to start kissing and open the floodgates they apparently can’t stop, which is why it’s the perfect time for Tony to walk in. Theeeeere we go. Hunter refuses to listen to Belle telling Tony they’re not even dating, Tony is completely unphased by the fact she was kissing this other bloke, Hunter looks like he might take Tony’s offer on the house and for some reason Belle decides to go with Tony to dinner, where her Dad is waiting, instead of telling him to fuck off and go hang out with the dog some more.
Dad: “OK! Who’s hungry!?”
Belle: “I’m not going to dinner with you, Dad. Can you please give us a minute?”
Dad: “Oooooh somebody’s on edge.”
Belle: “You really don’t get it do you?”
Dad: “I am clueless!”
Me: “…. I have nothing to add here.”
Dad, having all the grace of a teenager with hearing difficulties, does not want to hear about all of his flaws and would rather just sulk and tell the woman she needs a vacation, instead. After realising her dad is possibly the worst human being on earth she returns to the house so she can go to bed and cry on the poor dog. Honestly, the entire thing is just tragic. Like… the entire film.
I am quite amazed that Hunter is still willing to help with decorating the barn after the fallout of the previous evening but there he is, anyway! Talking to Belle is a step too far, apparently, which is only made worse when her dad and Tony rock up to help out. I think I would rather set the barn on fire with them in it… I’m unsure why her dad asks to speak with her for a moment because he moves her approximately 4 feet away and starts explaining, loudly, about how much of a prick he’s been. I assume that Hunter leaves the barn at the moment the man says ‘I’m going to change’ because he can’t possibly believe any of this shit is taking place on his property.
Angie: “Are you OK, love?”
Belle: “No. No, I don’t think so.”
Angie: “I think I have just the thing to cheer you up.”
Me: “Tequila! Which… you keep in the boot of your car… Oh, no, dresses. You don’t know me at all.”
I miss another smaller and inconsequential montage because Angie asks what the deal with Belle’s Dad is and I just can’t even begin to think of the words which would express how quickly she needs to just forget that thought and leave the country.
I assume everyone else at this dance has shown up early and dressed to do yoga so it makes our assortment of main characters even more overdressed when they pop up in the barn, one by one, like the Noah’s arc we never heard about that was full of failures and quickly shipped off to hell. Poor Hunter is trying to give the woman a corsage when Tony comes over and demands he speaks to her because he paid good petrol money to get there. I don’t know why the woman can’t let the man down as harshly as possible and really has to explain to her dad that she doesn’t want to live with Tony and why would he try and sell her like livestock to her future husband?
Saving the woman from a complete meltdown, Hunter takes her for a dance as far away from the barn as it is humanly possible to get. The next state. No, I’m kidding, they just dance around in a circle on a bridge and talk about how Hunter is dead inside. When Tony comes marching over, again, and Belle is, again, far too nice to the man and tries to explain to him that she doesn’t love him we witness one of the greatest examples of mansplaining I have ever seen in a film.
The man forcibly kisses Belle, Hunter is blind and presumes she was totally into it and he is also deaf and doesn’t hear her shouting at the man. Unfortunately, by the time Belle has turned around, Hunter has completely disappeared. I’m surprised she didn’t turn around to find his shirt, tie and jacket on the floor while he ran freely across his estate, topless, again. Tony cannot read a fucking room to save his life and turns up to discuss matters with Hunter – Christ knows how he knew where to find the man when he was last seen walking in the opposite direction. Still completely oblivious, Hunter just wants Belle to be happy and so Tony capitalises on the situation whilst drinking all of the man’s fine whiskey.
Tony: “You know, me and Belle are meant to be together. She never loved you. In fact, she never in liked you.”
Hunter: “Then why pretend?”
Tony: “The library. All she ever wanted was a library. Hate to be the one to break it to you.”
Hunter: “Of course.”
Me: “Oh, yeah, that explains it all! Women are totally fickle that way, aren’t they? Hey, high five, bro.”
When Hunter agrees to whatever deal Tony was willing to make on the house Tony turns and around and bids the man farewell with the strangest fucking noise I have ever heard. I’m very sure he calls the guy Derek, I mean… he was drinking that whiskey pretty quick, he may have done.
Belle enlists Angie’s help to find Hunter and honest to god I have not laughed so hard for an entire wrap up of a film. I… someone had to sit and edit this shit, ya know. They edited it and then were like yeah, seems legit, let’s put that out into the world! That happened and it can never be taken back.
Tony appears once more, Hunter also appears to scream at the woman and say he never wants to see her again, Tony leads Belle away and probably straight into a shotgun wedding he has set up in the back of his Jeep and then both Angie and Belle’s dad pop out the house to tell Hunter he’s a bellend. It would, of course, have helped if a) Hunter had paid any attention to Belle telling him Tony was not her boyfriend and just obsessed with her and b) if Belle had bothered to tell Hunter she loved him and not just various, surrounding people.
I believe we are actually seeing a kidnapping taking place so it’s a good job Hunter can run quickly. He’d probably run quicker if he took his shirt off but whatever, let him look around for a while. Belle stops to shout at Tony and poke him in the chest some, trying to inform the man that she doesn’t love him, before he blocks her from getting back over the bridge. Then comes the single greatest moment in cinema history.
When she can’t get around him…. she simply goes around the bridge and Tony stands there completely flummoxed by it. His face tells me he cannot believe she has just left him like she wasn’t trying to get around the man two seconds ago. This has turned into the most fascinating thing I have ever watched. We are operating on 3 Day Christmas levels of sheer wonder right now! What I find more wonderful is that when Hunter runs across the bridge to Tony he would technically have ran straight past Belle, heading in the other direction, at the same time.
Hunter: “Where is she!?”
Tony: “She’s gone.”
Hunter: “Gone? Where?”
Tony: “Back to the house.”
Hunter: “I don’t understand! She loves me!”
Tony: “I know… she went back to the house for you. It’s over, you won, she loves you.”
Hunter: “I’m going back to the house!”
Me: “I can’t breathe!”
The man then promptly runs back to the barn. I’m fucking dying here.
Hunter proposes in the middle of the barn and Belle decides to enter in the most turbulent contract she will ever face in her life. A year later they are getting married on Christmas Eve, Barney is officiating, Beast brings over the rings and WE ARE FREE!
I’m exhausted. Lose the will to live here, in even worse quality than I experienced it in.
Prediction board – 3/4
- Prediction #1 – Belle is going to regret agreeing to that date with Tony for when she gets back because he’s going to turn into a jealous little prick – So very CORRECT!
- Prediction #2 – Belle demands that the annual Christmas dance be held in the barn again – It was more like Angie but Belle helped so… CORRECT!
- Prediction #3 – Hunter is avoiding his fiance and the rest of his life to jog shirtless in Thailand instead – Unfortunately he never got there but he wasn’t avoiding his fiance… considering she was dead, she was more avoiding him, than anything. INCORRECT!
- Prediction #4 – Hunter is eventually going to find Belle in the solarium and will be illogically pissed – Oh, very CORRECT
- Horse and Sleigh: This film was so terrible I don’t think I’d have batted an eyelid to see a sleigh out in the desert
- Piano: There was zero time for piano in this film
- Carolling: No, thank the lord
- Christmas Montage: Yeah… I mean I’m scarred for life from that one decorating montage but sure! CHECK!
- Fire Hazards: Other than natural fires because… desert…. not really!
- Relative(s) died a tragic death during a past Christmas: I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t listen hard enough to figure out when dead relatives actually died
- Snowing on cue: Again, film so terrible I wouldn’t have questioned it, but no
That was…. that was something. I thought we had had some awful films this year but… I’m going to have to do a Christmas wrap up because I really think this might have been the worst yet. Ever.
I don’t normally like to wish my life away – unless it’s the morning and I’m waiting for a suitable hour to drink – but I can’t wait for tomorrow and to forget this film ever took place. See you then!