She didn’t get where she is by being a meek “girl” about everything. No, this career-driven woman doesn’t have the word “no” or its description in her vocabulary. On the fast lane towards success, E.J. Baxter (Kristin Chenoweth) got to where she is by taking control – refusing to be told “no.” Her engagement was even at her insistence when, instead of being a total girl about it, she took the initiative and proposed marriage to her equally career-minded fiancé. A New York publicist who knows, not only how to work her clients but wow her boss, E.J. is counting on having one of the best Christmases she’s had in years… but that is when things come to a halt. When she finds her fiancé and boss making out, her reaction is to break the heel off a thousand dollar pair of pumps, which in turn, gets her unceremoniously fired.
Depressed and alone during the holidays, E.J. lets her sister, Roz (Erin Dilly) talk her into accepting the only job she can find… in Montana! Feeling stranded and miles from civilization, E.J. is brought in by the small-town mayor to lure businesses there for their corporate retreats. Ideas are slim, until inspiration strikes when she sees the local search-and-rescue team’s small fundraising events for new equipment – why not sell calendars of the 13 gorgeous men posing… naked? With opposition coming from nearly all of the men, E.J. and her assistant / local / friend, Jan (Anna Chlumsky) find their task a difficult one but when it comes to matters of the heart, E.J. just may have met her match in the annoying, stubborn, Will Albright (Josh Hopkins). Seeing no point to the ridiculous scheme, Will is proud to be holding up production – but then… there are 13 members on the team and the calendar only needs 12 faces.
From there, we follow E.J.’s yearlong quest to take the “lemons” she was handed and make life into something… better. It’s a story that while familiar to many (resulting from rom-com clichés), it may not register with some of us because we are blinded by the potential immoralities. For Austen fans this is loosely based off her iconic Pride & Prejudice, this is far from its stage presence but noticeably does borrow facts and plots from it. What I liked about that was how well writers wove into the script all the high points from the opposites-attract classic novel while still being true to its own originality. But, right down to characters names (even the ever-popular “pond scene” is included. *smile*) do we encounter the parallels. Originally a novel titled Decent Exposure, everything about its premise would suggest the possibility for a plethora of suggestive material. Here, the re-named telefilm has a fabulous sense of humor, whether in homage to Miss Austen or at the hands of talented writers is anyone’s guess but it allows the script to shine as a “crowing achievement.” Penned by a British author is likely where hints of Pride & Prejudice appear, and being a viewer who wants to love the characters, a vital part to any story, these sparkle with their own kind of pizzazz but also having been inspired by Lizzie Bennet (E.J. is a spunky heroine), Will Darcy (the bane of E.J.’s existence… at first) and George Wickham (a womanizing jerk in the form of “Jason”). Nearly all the characters are likable but not without flaws. The battles of wits and wills are just the beginning to this story – there is a timid romance and good-natured humor, something that makes everyone entertaining.
This is one movie that is actually better than it gives itself credit for. Cast, producers, and its director carry it well – though not grand as a sweeping epic would be the cinematography consists of wide-open spaces that are nothing if not picturesque; Montana being where the majority of the film takes place allows cameras to feature outdoor activities amidst waterfalls and wild scenery, something that adds even more charm to the overall picture of the movie. While overplayed too much in the talk of its release, some may find the premise ridiculous or “offensive” to their personal choices. And if you do have misgivings, the DVD is probably best left on the shelf. For me, I was pleased at the outcome, discovering that compared to many of the romantic comedies that I own, this is “clean.” Much ado is made about the men posing naked – most of them have misgivings about it, and refuse; some on principal, others just to back their fellow members. (Most declare it a “tacky” gimmick – E.J. wants it done “tastefully.”) A fresh spin on a new Christmas flick always makes me smile, and casting Kristin Chenoweth may have helped since she has a natural flair for comedy. No matter what it was that won me over, either way, I was tickled to see this hitting store shelves.
You may also like…
(Be aware: jokes are bantered about in regards to being proud to display the “wares” or the guys taking some ribbing for posing. As it turns out, nearly all of them are clothed in pants from the waist down [one is shot in a hot tub, another merely wears a towel]. During her annual company Christmas party, E.J. finds her fiancé with her boss [all we see is the two of them falling out of a stall onto the floor where Noah is buckling his pants]. Some minor conversations revolve around his cheating, and that of a past falling out between two friends over one of the man’s fiancée. Later we assume E.J. and Will were intimate; she is dressed in his shirt only, while he is shirtless. Nearer the beginning, E.J. finds Will swimming in the nude – he emerges nude [implied]. Basically non-existent, profanity makes rare appearances – a**hole, d**n and an “oh, my god.”)