In July, Netflix released Secret Obsession, the streaming service’s take on a Lifetime movie. It….did not go well. The cast was weak, the story was not engaging, and it missed the whole point of a good Lifetime movie. Namely, to be insanely melodramatic. You watch Lifetime movies to see people chew scenery, and Brenda Song and Brick McHandsome or whatever the male lead’s name was didn’t go nearly nuts enough.
Falling Inn Love is Netflix’s version of a Hallmark movie. Now, let me start by saying that, you’re reading a review on a site about movies. You probably enjoy well-written stories, well-directed action, twists and turns…Hallmark has no truck with that sort of thing. They are predictable in the extreme. So much so that if you google “Hallmark movie drinking game” you get dozens of results like this:
So, that should make Netflix’s job easy, right?
Directed By: Roger Kumble
Starring: Christina Milian, Adam Demos, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Anna Jullienne, and Claire Chitham
When city girl Gabriela (Milian) spontaneously enters a contest and wins a rustic New Zealand inn, she teams up with bighearted contractor Jake Taylor (Demos) to fix and flip it. Sparks fly, but will romance bloom?
Lower Your Expectations
First things first, if you go into Falling Inn Love expecting an awards-worthy film, you’re making a mistake. If you go into expecting a good film….yeah, that’s not going to be a win either. If you’ve never seen a Hallmark movie, first of all, well done. Secondly, they are a strange world unto themselves. I deliberately didn’t say “This review will be spoiler-free” because there are no plot points to spoil. Will Gabriela and the Dollar Store Hemsworth fall in love? Of course they will! Will she face jeopardy? No, not really, this is the lowest of low stakes world. A world where someone can drop everything and fly to New Zealand as if money is no object. It doesn’t really have a villain as such. There’s an uptight lady with a competing guesthouse but she’s not so much an antagonist as a comedic annoyance.
No…Lower than That
What do 90% of rom-com protagonists have in common to make them relatable? Clumsiness! Gets you that bonus slapstick too. So, of course, Gabriela is clumsy.
She carries out a whole conversation while in a headstand but they still make her wobble comedically when she moves to standing on one leg. That sort of shorthand laziness extends to the rest of the cast. There’s a guy who watches rugby and that’s all he does because all Kiwis in film are legally required to be rugby fans. Gabriela’s douchey boss in America is called Chad. Because of course he is.
Down A Little More…That’s It
Gabriela has a boyfriend at the start of the movie, but why? Only the writers know. He orders her salad in a restaurant without asking her what she wants. They’ve been together for two and a half years but he won’t move in with her. The man has more red flags than a Chinese military parade.
What does her job involve? I don’t know, but it apparently pays enough for a fancy apartment and last minute flights to New Zealand despite her being so unimportant to her boss that they don’t even tell her that no one is coming in the office until 10:30 when she starts at 9.
Thankfully her pay isn’t important in New Zealand because everyone in town is insanely generous and nice. They love nothing more than to give stuff away for free because…reasons.
So, is Falling Inn Love terrible? Objectively yes, but from that view ALL Hallmark films are terrible. The trick is not to treat them like you would a regular film. Firstly, don’t watch them alone. The best way to see Hallmark movies is with other people. You have to treat them like Mystery Science Theater 3000 Or Rifftrax. Falling Inn Love‘s formulaic nature suits that perfectly. You can joke over-the-top and you won’t miss anything important. Once, the person I was watching a similar movie with pointed out the similarities to Get Out and it became tremendous fun. The matchups with Get Out or The Wicker Man are so frequent I’m half-convinced they aren’t unintentional. At one point Gabriela sneezes in town and FIVE people arrive at her house with a doctor, soup and honey. (Honey from Jake’s beehive, because he’s also a beekeeper. And a handyman. And a kids rugby coach. And a fireman. It’s like the writers couldn’t decide on their hunky guy stereotype and gave him them all.)
Within days, it seems like everyone in town is Gabriela’s friend. Only cults are that welcoming. You may want to think about running with that idea and drinking every time someone looks like they’re from Midsommar…I can recommend it, although your liver may disagree.
Can I recommend this movie? Well, it’s simplistic to the point of brain damage, patronizing to both men, women, and goats. So, it’s not something I could grade above an F as a film.
But I highly recommend watching it as a fun way to spend 90 minutes. The cast is all lovely, the countryside of New Zealand hasn’t looked as enticing since Lord Of The Rings and the film bimbles along its silly little way without any dawdling. I wasn’t bored while watching it. Also, the goat was actually pretty funny.
For what it’s aiming for, Falling Inn Love absolutely succeeds. Whether what it’s aiming for is a noble target is another matter entirely.
Actual Grade: F
Entertainment Value Grade: B
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