My wife and I just finished watching Falling Inn Love. It was horrible. The characters were either too flat or too over the top with an impressive inability of any of them to find the happy medium. The story was poorly paced, often convoluted, with large chunks that were totally unnecessary and yet somehow still completely predictable. It was almost entirely bad (I use the qualifier ‘almost’ not because I can remember anything good, but because there had to be something good, right?) .
The only thing worse than the movie’s general existence in the film world, was that I knew the movie was going to be bad, and I still was cool with watching it (my wife is pretty blah about movies in general, so she could take or leave any of them). And cool might even be an understatement. I was actually in the mood for a bad movie. And when I spotted that bad pun in the title of a made-for-Netflix rom-com, my life for the next 2 hours, was set.
But I am a critic of movies, both in my writing, and in my free time. I criticize every movie I watch. I selected this movie knowing that criticizing it would likely become a full-time job. Therefore, there was something strange about my gung-ho attitude about watching Falling Inn Love.
I am aware that there is a difference between entertainment and quality. They can be mutually exclusive. But that only explains the difference between John Wick and The Godfather, not why a grown-ass adult would want to watch a terrible romantic comedy with his wife, when he has four streaming services offering tons of awesome movies of both higher quality and entertainment value. At least it doesn’t explain all of it.
These kinds of Netflix movies, the ones that appear on the app with no fanfare and become back-end recommendations, buried in categories like “Rom-Coms” or “Christmas,” are the new made-for-TV movies. And made-for-TV movies not only had a home, but a following. Hallmark movies had an ethos and consistency that appealed to some people all the time and most people some of the time. And they were appealing because you knew what you were getting.
Let me explain. Upon a quick Google search for ‘Hallmark movies’ I selected a couple examples from the results. I have never seen Mingle All the Way or Nature of Love, nor do I ever plan to, but I can tell you, from the title and the image, that they both will involve a good looking girl (in the traditional sense) and guy (in the movie star way). The girl will be very busy and very modern, constantly using her phone while living in a modernized home and making moves in the business world, despite the lack of appreciation she receives for it (this is currently being overtaken by women who run their own businesses and/or are struggling to do so, but the character stays the same). And this woman will get taken out of her comfort zone via something to do with ‘Mingling’ and ‘Nature,’ and in that moment she will meet a guy who appears easy to hate or condescending or overly macho to this woman who has been through the rigors of the male-dominated corporate world But the viewer sees a different side to him, and they will eventually end up in love. In Mingle All The Way it appears to happen while planning some sort of Christmas gathering (based on the photo provided), and in Nature of Love, during some camping expedition. Regardless, they both will break up at the moment we think they have overcome every other obstacle using some misunderstanding as the plot device of choice, and then in a rousing resolution, they will be brought back together in a culminating reveal with some quirky friends they met along the way.
I don’t know. I may be wrong, and if any of my readers have seen either of these, feel free to comment on what actually happened, because I am definitely not looking up plot summaries. But the point remains the same- I am likely correct on some of the key details in those movies, and far from working against the films, this predictability is what dedicated made-for-TV-movie viewers love about them.
The mystery of a film’s plot is important, in fact necessary, for serious films in any genre. A movie cannot, if it wants to be taken seriously, just copy the conflicts, devices, and character arcs of previous stories and hope to be successful. But maybe, sometimes, that’d be what we prefer…
Made-for-TV movies are atmospheric movies. They set a feel or tone that the viewer is looking for. And when you are trying to set a certain mood or tone, it is easiest to turn to music or movies with known quantities rather than unknown. Enter cheesy, clichéd, predictable, and overdone made-for-TV movies. We can put them on when we feel sad or want a laugh or after a long day, and we have exactly what we want, no surprises after a day that contained too many.
This also might be why Hallmark movies found their niche during the holiday season. Especially the Christmas season. Holidays are all about recreating a tone through traditions, decorations, food, and rituals. Selecting the right movie becomes another element in making the holiday feel special. So bring me the trite and the foolish, as long as it feels like Christmas.
Now, with so many people cutting cable and turning to streaming options, made-for-Netflix movies are the new wave of atmospheric film. And the other day, after a long day at work, and a desire to drink whiskey, eat popcorn, pet my cat, and hang out with my wife, I wanted to watch Falling Inn Love. And it was horrible. And it was perfect.
And as the holiday season approaches, I probably will select more awful made-for-Netflix films that make their plots known in the opening scene, filled with characters I’ve seen before speaking lines that make me cringe, with exposition that is rushed and conflict that is melodramatic. And I am looking forward to it.
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