Despite my harried and limited time on this earth, despite my life hurtling towards its end like a meteor en route to the fiery surface of a not-so-distant star, I decided to spend my evening watching the ABC Family original film Beauty and the Briefcase, “a movie so impressingly, almost endearingly bad that it’s worth celebrating.”
This is how Mary Grace Garis of Bustle summarizes the plot:
“Lane Daniels ([Hillary] Duff) is a freelance journalist with a penchant for tacky hoop earrings and a list of qualities she desires in a ‘magic man,’ her dream guy. Somehow she gets an assignment [from] Cosmopolitan, which has her go undercover into the business world to find a boyfriend. That’s it. That’s literally it.”
Some highlights of this film, starting from the beginning (but you truly must watch this film to grasp the spectacular failure of writing, acting and production value):
1. The very first line in the film is “Nine million guys in New York City – you’d think there’d be one for me to date.” There are only eight million people in New York, total.
2. She grabs a magazine from a newsstand and just walks away without paying for it.
3. The set design in this film has been executed with so much nuance and thoughtfulness.
4. Lane’s first pitch to the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo: “How about wearing boyfriend jeans when you don’t have a boyfriend.” She somehow still wins her over in a conversation about how there are no dateable men in the fashion world and how each year the editor knocks an item off her “checklist,” which is the subject of an actual article from The Onion:
5. “Once you have a job undercover in the business world, you are going to find a man that has every item on that list…you’ll be like Woodward and Bernstein.”
Honey, no you will not.
6. The black lady who is her headhunter is the only fucking sane human in this movie: Lane’s like “as long as it’s a business-y type job where the guys wear suits” and the lady stares at her briefly and then cackles and says “For a second, I thought you were serious, girl, you had me going!”
7. She somehow lives in Times Square but thinks that $42,000 is a massive salary.
8. “You look nice!” The first thing her new boss says to her on her first day. Not to mention every guy in the office asks her out and she goes out with all of them – just an HR nightmare.
9. This movie is basically a screenplay version of the response that basic dudes have when you complain about being a woman in a male-dominated work-place – some dude at my office was like “Seems like that would be a good thing” when I complained about it one time. It’s a fantasy in which women love being objectified and surrounded by men ogling them. It intrinsically dismisses the idea that being surrounded by men, especially leering men, makes many women uncomfortable. Am I reading too far into this film?
10. She and her roommates somehow play Go Fish with these playing cards:
This was the moment when I realized I was about to spend another precious hour of my life watching this movie, and there was nothing I could do about it.
11. “Life at the investment bank is fun! I get to make my cubicle beautiful and creative, and I get to date! A bunch.”
-A Real Line, In This Movie
13. Lane is thoroughly impressed by the fact that her boss can play the harmonica.
14. “I enjoy long walks on the beach, kissing under the moonlight, and the world of fashion.”
-An Actual Line, Spoken Earnestly, In This Film
15. Inner monologue after hearing about her crush’s heartbreak: “There is so much pain in the world. I declare my one mission in life: if it’s the last thing I do, I will heal Liam’s wounded heart.”
16. Lane continuously interrupts the photo shoots of her actually competent photographer roommate, who for some reason has her photo studio in the apartment that they share???? And the roommate just like stops the photo shoot each time to have a conversation about how hard it is to find a man in the business world. Oh, and also the only model she shoots is their black best friend, who only has one-liners.
17. She literally apologizes for walking into a meeting in the conference room and distracting the creepy old guy on the video call, who can’t help but stare down her shirt as she passes them documents they need. And this is her fault in the narrative of this film.
18. Homegirl lives in a giant apartment in Midtown, drinks martinis all day, and takes cabs everywhere, but doesn’t have a job and has written one article for one magazine. This is the least believable part of the movie, tbh.
19. She professes her love for the predictable love interest in the conference room of their office as he is leading a meeting, and he says he loves her back, and then he carries her out of the conference room, like during the meeting, idk y’all
20. The Editor-in-Chief surprises Lane by putting her picture on the cover of the magazine. No, she didn’t have a photo shoot earlier in the movie. There is no explanation for how they got a cover photo of her.
21. And my absolute favorite: