My biggest regret is that I watched this at the worst time – pregnant and unable to drink to make it bearable.
First, we meet our poor, pathetic stand-in for a Cinderella figure as played by a woman with literally impeccable bone structure and lips made out of pillows.
Mixing up the classic story a wee bit, our orphan Angie (Emma Rigby) has a bitchy cousin, in lieu of a wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and a clueless uncle. He’s got too many small businesses to count and is planning to retire, leaving the future of the event planning company the two girls work at up for grabs…kind of.
Candace (Sarah Stouffer) is her spoiled cousin who wants nothing more than to settle down with a hot sugar daddy, so she leaves operations entirely up to Angie and takes credit for her hard work. Angie loves the job and naively tells her duplicitous cousin that she wants to use her dead parents’ money to buy Uncle Otto out of the business and take full ownership. Candace seems amenable to this, which means that at dinner the next night, Otto is thrilled to announce Candace has already spoken to him and he’s agreed to leave the business as an official 50/50 split between his niece and daughter. Angie has the spine of a worm and says nothing in protest to the knife in her back.
She tries to stand up to Candace in private, but Candace just gets her to agree to work for her and be at her beck and call until she finds and marries a rich dude. And Angie just sighs and accepts her fate. Dude, if you have the capital to buy out your uncle, just strike out alone. THIS IS CRAZY and it’s not even the crux of the plot.
It’s the day before the Karmichael Christmasquerade Ball, an event that Angie has entirely planned without Candace’s help, and she’s busy setting up. Candace is basically panting like a dog when the company’s heir, a tall dark and handsome sort by the name of Nikolaus, drops by his own kitchen to basically just flirt with her and then asks her to the ball as his guest (she’s the event planner and would already be there, Nikolaus!) whilst completely ignoring Angie. We discover that Nikolaus has been dialoguing with Angie over email, going over her sketched designs and ideas for the party, but somehow thinks he has been talking to Candace this whole time? Does she not sign her emails? Angie says absolutely nothing to set any of this straight, of course.
Moving on! Nikolaus (Peter Porte) meets with his British Fancy Mummy, who’s rejected his business proposal to hire more female employees (guys, I have no fucking clue) because she’s worried he’ll just date them all or something. He’s your standard “made of old ass money, but isn’t interested in it” character. This would be fine except that his lifestyle (tabloid bad boy, dating lots of hot women, etc) is completely supported because of it, AND he’s involved in his family’s business, so his complaints could not resound less with me. Oh, and he can only claim his dead father’s inheritance if he gets married.
It’s the day of the ball. While Nikolaus is busy doing sports with his friend Max, who’s telling him to stop dating the same women (aka beautiful/spoiled/materialistic), Angie is playing assistant to her cousin, trying to organize Candace’s pampering schedule so she can look hot as shit for her appearance at the ball. This includes a customized dress fitting with a local designer; Candace can’t make it so Angie goes to pick up the dress anyway and now we’ve met her “fairy godmother,” a purple-haired kook named Zelda who insists that the dress she has designed for Candace is actually for Angie and how she’s “noticed her around” (um) and then demands to know who she goes to see in the cemetery nearby. WHAT THE FUCK, LADY! This creep forces her into the dress, which fits perfectly because of course, and Angie is the very picture of naivete.
Later, she’s at a salon, waiting for her cousin to show (which is completely unnecessary) when the blonde she-devil calls; she’s had an allergic reaction to her diamond facial (“I’ve NEVER been allergic to diamonds!”):
She has to cancel the whole shebang, including going to the ball. The salon clerk’s like, well you’ve already paid for it, soooo…cut to Angie getting a hair and makeup whirlwind treatment, so we all know where this is headed. Unfortunately, so does Candace, who threatens Angie via phone call to not even try to take her place at the ball. Angie insists she’ll just be working at the event (as she’s all decked out in the dress and updo, driving there) so Candace tells her she better answer her phone at midnight to prove it, or else?! If I were Candace, I’d simply call sporadically throughout the night, ensuring that Angie would have to stick to her post. If you’re going to be devious and malicious, at least commit.
This whole Christmasquerade ball scene is packed to the gills with shitty writing and even shittier acting. Angie floats around the party, amazed at her own handiwork and in a state of pure bliss; the sugary sweetness of the whole thing is giving me a fucking cavity. Max announces to the party guests that it’s time for the Christmas stocking game (which was Angie’s idea, of course) to begin; every guest brought a stocking of their choice and filled it with five personal, sentimental items. The stockings get hung on branches, and each partygoer selects one. The goal is to find the owner of the stocking you’ve chosen, and if you both happened to select one another’s stockings, you get a prize at midnight. What if someone just walks off with your stocking? You just say goodbye to your priceless belongings?
Nikolaus and Angie are both masked and thus completely unrecognizable to one another, despite meeting the day before…
They realize immediately they’ve chosen each other’s stockings. Apparently, her stocking and dress match (which was Candace’s design). They are just instantly smitten with one another on a level that only happens in like, cartoons. She wonders what the winners get for a prize, and he murmurs, “I’m looking at her.” I’m writing this recap on a very peaceful Saturday afternoon – eating clementines and watching my cat sleep on a chaise – and I’m screaming inside. Save me.
They slow dance and he is just gobsmacked when she offhandedly mentions that she doesn’t care about jewelry or weddings. SHE’S NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS! He complains that he’s not taken seriously in his family business, because this fucking movie wants me to feel bad for a dude with an inheritance. Next!
He is, in a word, OBSESSED with her.
It oozes out of his pores and grosses me out completely. “I want to know everything,” he tells her. Dude is days away from this:
But alas, Candace’s evil plan has taken root and Angie realizes it’s five minutes to midnight just as they’re about to make out. No time to fuck now! I mean, collect their prize for winning this shitty weird game and demask, revealing their true identities. She runs away, bumping into that creep Zelda who just speaks in stupid platitudes, and then changes into her uniform and joins her two catering employees/friends in the kitchen, meaning she has completely abandoned them all night to eye-bang some dude in a garden.
Candace video-calls her and is satisfied to see that she’s in her uniform. In the background, Angie hears Max (Leland B. Martin) calling out for the woman who took a still-masked Nikolaus’s stocking; she’s “broken his heart” by leaving without revealing her identity. This is played so dramatically.
The next morning, she opens up his stocking to discover he’s the world’s most boring dude: a broken watch (“he’s mysterious”), a rock (“he likes the outdoors”), a candle (“he’s homey”), spearmint gum (“gotta be more to this than fresh breath”), and a horrible t-shirt (“and funny!”).
She deduces that he’s PERFECT. Oh my god, I wish this girl had better friends than her pet rabbit and two employees.
Meanwhile, Nikolaus is on the fucking hunt to find his mysterious dream girl and has already called every party guest and is ready to contact all the people who worked the event. What he doesn’t realize is that his dream girl is right downstairs, busy cleaning up. He runs into Candace – who you’ll remember was supposed to be his date to the ball – but she quickly reveals that she couldn’t make it, thus unwittingly removing herself as a potential candidate.
JESUS H. CHRIST. I can’t make this next part up. He literally posts a video on the Internet wherein he announces that he needs to find his mystery woman to…AH YES, marry her on Christmas Eve. That’s her prize: to marry him. Angie watches this, realizes her masked suitor is this fucking guy, and sets out to determine if he’s the real deal and not just what the tabloids say.
So, she goes to visit him, under the guise of party planning, since he’s asked them to plan his horrific wedding. This is his insane stance (and outfit proportions) during the entirety of this scene, basically.
He has absolutely no memory of ever meeting Angie prior. OMG, he tells her that the mystery woman is the LOVE OF HIS LIFE. What makes her the love of his life? The sheer fact that she stood out amongst the hordes of outstanding women he’s met (and fucked, but I’m paraphrasing) and she’s a pretty rare type to be able to manage that. I have no words.
Peeved, she starts baiting him (“what if you don’t recognize her when she’s right in front of you?” and “how can you be so positive I’m not her?” ) and he basically laughs in her face and is like WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME ALL THESE PRYING QUESTIONS? because he has no idea what irony is and doesn’t recognize the voice or mouth or eyes of the woman he allegedly loves. The exchange turns frosty but for the magical spark that erupts when they shake hands to part ways.
The next day, Candace decides to do something on her own for once and returns her ballgown to Zelda. When Angie hands it over, Candace realizes she recognizes it; some party guest had posted a video from the ball, showing the mystery woman wearing a VERY SIMILAR dress dancing with Nikolaus. How is Candace the smartest person in this movie? She takes it up a notch and gleefully tells Angie that she (Angie) is going to convince Nikolaus that Candace is his mystery woman; in exchange, Candace will hand over her share of the business to Angie. The bones of this entire plot are paper-thin. Angie crumbles immediately, telling herself that Nikolaus probably would’ve fallen in love with any woman in her place, which is actually very true.
Ugh, they’ve obviously done a complete 180 from their previous scene, because here we are with Nikolaus and Angie flirting over decorations at his house. They even admit to liking one another. They’re giving me whiplash with this shit. Thankfully, Candace is there to cockblock these two assholes. Angie reveals to Nikolaus that Candace is his mystery woman, and he can’t believe it, especially since Candace had already told him she wasn’t there. She plays him like a chump with a well-rehearsed explanation for why she lied about not being at the ball at all and he’s putty in her manicured little hands.
A little while later, Angie turns on the news:
We’ll get to this in just a few minutes, trust me. Meanwhile, Angie is heartbroken, but you know what I have to say about that via DJ Khaled?
That is correct. Thank you, DJ Khaled.
Fancy Mummy is shocked to discover her stupid son is engaged (well…again, we’re getting there very soon) and immediately ices out Candace, then privately dresses down Nikolaus for settling down too quickly in order to get his inheritance without actually being in love. Shocking approximately no one in the audience, Angie overhears this and is distraught about his motives, because she’s never met a rich boy before or seen one on TV.
Later, her catering friends deduce that Angie is the real mystery woman and that she should speak up to save everyone (namely Nikolaus), like he’s somehow forced to marry Candace and hasn’t concocted this insane wedding on his own?? Angie declares that she refuses to be a pawn in someone else’s game, which is truly hilarious considering how often she’s been played by Candace this entire time.
Speaking of our wily woman, Nikolaus presents her with an array of engagement rings, fulfilling her Sweet Home Alabama fantasy, I’m sure, but she’s VERY specific about the ring she wants. Nikolaus’s lone brain cell flickers dimly in a dark empty cavern, sparking him to ask why she had told him at the ball that she wasn’t into jewelry. She covers for the slip-up and then immediately asks when he’s going to propose. Hasn’t he already? Not really, she says. She tells him to propose the next day at sunset and then begs Angie to be the Cyrano de Bergerac to her Christian on the date with Nikolaus just in case he throws another curveball her way about details from the night of the ball; they can use little earpieces and everything!
The next day at “dusk” (clearly just late afternoon), Nikolaus proposes to Candace where he had his almost-first-kiss with his mystery woman, and she busts out her selfie stick to capture the moment:
You done fucked up, editor, big time. This photo and the news of their engagement was literally already shown via TV news BEFORE IT EVEN HAPPENED.
Anyway, Angie listens in (via earpiece) as she prepares dinner in his kitchen, falling for his stupid sappy proposal speech. Candace is more focused on not needing to change her initials and then accidentally knocks the ring into the koi pond below.
Why is Angie cooking in Nikolaus’s kitchen while he’s proposing to her cousin right outside? Well, apparently he asked Candace to make the “beefy puffs” that she (aka Angie) made at the ball, so naturally Candace forced Angie to just whip them up for her…during her date. Inside his house. At no point does Nikolaus become suspicious that the food is preparing itself this entire time or that he’s probably hearing some kind of noises from the kitchen. He even asks Candace at one point if she should check on the food, but she assures him that “the beef can practically puff itself.” Well, I never.
He admires her for looking so polished while she’s cooking, unlike Angie who’s “always sweating, she’s got her hair sticking out all over her head, she’s on her knees half the time.”
Angie recites an Oscar Wilde quote for Candace to drop into conversation, because that’s a douchey thing that she had done on her boring-ass night with Nikolaus at the ball. He’s impressed and then gets her to guess the meaning behind the items in his stocking. Well, actually, just guess the meaning of the broken clock because then he goes on to explain the rest. “Candace” guesses the meaning of the clock correctly.
- “A broken clock is right at least two times a day” is this guy’s life philosophy, which is the WORST life philosophy I’ve ever heard of
- Spearmint gum; the first project he was allowed to run for the company (what does his family’s company even do?!)
- Rock; from Greece the first time he travelled alone
- Candle; makes him less homesick when he’s away from home, but always forgets to bring matches
That list is a one-way ticket to sleepy town for me, but of course, fuckin’ Angie is enamored. Later, she warns Candace that he’s going to put two and two together eventually and will realize she’s lying to him. Cue montage of Angie and Nikolaus flagrantly eye-fucking in front of Candace during the wedding planning.
They share a very inappropriate tête-à-tête about how he’s doubtful about his wedding and how he still feels the magic of love from the ball…just not around Candace. Another almost-kiss is aborted.
Overcome with guilt, Angie tells Candace that she wants to tell Nikolaus the truth. Candace is all, yeah you could…but he’d never speak to either of us ever again and just like that, Angie’s backbone dissolves into jelly.
Nikolaus confides to Max that he’s not sure who his mystery woman is – Angie, Candace, or maybe ANOTHER WOMAN ENTIRELY?! – so he decides to open up the stocking his mystery woman had left behind. For the first time. Jesus Christ, he’s had it this entire time and at no point considered it might contain a clue?! Anyway, her stupid items are:
- Tiny book of Oscar Wilde quotes; both have quoted Oscar Wilde to him, so that’s no help
- A rose; no clue
- Pencil crayons; Angie is the one who sketches but it’s not conclusive evidence
- Picture of a rabbit (Angie’s pet rabbit Jenny), but he doesn’t know if either of them own animals
- Matches from an international-themed restaurant (which he concludes as meaning that the stocking owner is his true match because remember how he always forgets matchezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)
Max and Nikolaus hit up the restaurant but leave with no information (“Um excuse me, can you tell me if a blonde with crazy cheekbones frequents this restaurant and WHO IS SHE”), until Nikolaus spots The Blue Dress hanging in a shop window across the street. Turns out, Max knows Zelda and tells Nikolaus that she also attended the ball, they hit her up for information, which she doles out vaguely until he finally realizes Angie is The One. They even go to the cemetery where her parents are buried (thanks to Zelda’s stalker info) and spots another ruse, concluding that that must be where her stocking rose is from? WHATEVER.
Incensed, Nikolaus abruptly shows up at Candace’s to confront her about “her” stocking items. When her explanations fall through, she lies that she was too busy planning the ball that she asked Angie to throw together some items of her own. So, he forces her to try on the ballgown to see how it fits (it doesn’t). RUDE. Oh, by the way, Angie is prowling outside the window, watching this unfold since she spotted Nikolaus’s car in the driveway and is now just blatantly spying on the two of them?
Candace is like, okay let’s say it wasn’t me WHICH I’M NOT SAYING but Angie instead – she’s helping you plan your wedding to someone else, so she obviously doesn’t love you, dude. But I do. She forces him to hug her and Angie watches, crushed.
This fucking movie.
Angie is decorating Nikolaus’s patio when he confronts her very dramatically at dusk. He tells her he likes her. She likes him too. “But you don’t love me,” he declares as if this is a personal fault of hers. She doesn’t trust his reputation because of the tabloids and his past relationships. He’s all, “I’d be different with you because you’re different!” I’m sure no other woman has heard that line before. They part in a cloud of unresolved tension and deceit.
Wedding day! She visits her parents’ gravesite to blather on about Feelings, and then shows up at the Karmichael mansion to overhear Fancy Mummy reluctantly attribute Nikolaus’s change of attitude about life and marriage to Candace.
OH MY GOD, so Max and Nikolaus are having a pre-wedding bro sesh except that Nikolaus isn’t even dressed yet with twenty minutes to the ceremony.
He literally says, “I really thought if I didn’t cancel this wedding, then Angie would be forced to tell me the truth. But she’s really going to let me marry Candace. She doesn’t love me.”
You fucking fuck.
- You planned this entire wedding yourself. As a “prize” to your future wife.
- You already know you don’t want to marry Candace.
- You “know” you like/love Angie.
- You are going to marry Candace and are blaming Angie for letting you do it.
Candace and Angie have a final showdown while Candace is mic’d up for her impending ceremony. Angie stands up to her approximately two weeks too late because really, what the fuck is the point by now, and her catering friends overhear it, so they get the DJ to loudly broadcast what is a very private conversation for all wedding guests to hear, except the groom. Fancy Mummy realizes Angie is Nikolaus’s mystery woman and Candace is a liar just as Angie is telliing Candace that she is quitting the company AND telling Nikolaus the truth, but Candace won’t have her ruining her wedding day, so she locks her out on the terrace?!
Nikolaus runs in (having no idea where Angie is or that Candace has unknowingly confessed that she is not his mystery woman) to finally trick her one last time: he tells her his Christmas gift to her is to decline his inheritance so nobody will think she’s in this marriage for the money. Why not just fucking dump her, you loser. What is there to gain from this little ploy? You already know it’s not her! She is crushed and then Fancy Mummy runs in to gloat that they heard everything she said. I’m so tired.
Nikolaus and Fancy Mummy have a little chat. After hearing that he was willing to give up his inheritance, she now feels comfortable signing it over to him without the condition of marriage. When he pouts that Angie doesn’t love him and never told him the truth, she tells him he’s also been keeping the truth from Angie: that he loves her. NOBODY IS TEACHING ANYBODY THE RIGHT LIFE LESSONS IN THIS MOVIE.
After being rescued by Max and told that Nikolaus has run off, Angie goes home to find a recalcitrant Candace and ineffective Uncle Otto. Apologies are passed around like Christmas handjobs and we’re all a happy family now, the business now fully being Angie’s like she “deserves.” Just then, Candace reveals that Nikolaus is INSIDE THE HOUSE. Candace and Uncle Otto peace out.
Nikolaus reveals to Angie that he felt insecure because she wasn’t into him for his money, and what else could he offer her? Would she love him for him? Probably not because you’re fucking crazy, dude. He calls her his “show-stopping soulmate” (I’m dying) and how they’re so alike: “kind, understanding, creative, intelligent” – here he jokes that they’re both humble and they both love him. This would be funny coming from ANY OTHER ACTOR IN ANY OTHER MOVIE. But then he’s super needy again: “I don’t know if you do love me…but I love you.” My guy, you are the very worst.
Oh look at that, she loves her stalker right back. Give this girl The Gift of Fear for Christmas, anyone!
He fucking proposes to her on the same day as his foiled wedding to her cousin.
I mean, good luck telling that story to people for the rest of your life.
THE FUCKING END
I miss gin and tonics.
Also, an abundance of sensitive male knitwear in this one!