Ms. Matched (2016)

Ben Reynolds (Shawn Roberts) has great budgeting advice, suggestions he apparently shared with the makers of Ms. Matched because they set an entire story in a hotel conference room. I get it though; if we want Hallmark productions in a Belgian village or the Irish countryside, we’re going to have to make do with a Holiday Inn every once in a while. And it’s not as if this story needs an expansive set; professional rivals Ben and Libby (Alexa Penavega) generate enough drama on their own.

The two are in the wedding business and meet and butt heads at an industry expo. Libby plans dream weddings for her clients, encouraging them to go the whole nine yards for their perfect day. No expense must be spared, not the fondant nor the limo nor even the fireworks, so she’s more than a little miffed when Ben arrives to promote his book about trimming down the celebrations. He wants couples to rethink their spending and budget for what comes after the “I dos” – the children, the house, maybe a dog.

This poses an existential threat to Libby’s business, which is already treading water. She’s counting on the nuptials of Annie (Elise Gatien) and Alex (Andrew Francis) to keep her afloat a little while longer, but it’s hard when Ben keeps espousing all this financial responsibility crap. Not only is he poaching her potential clients, but his advice is also causing Annie and Alex to rethink their own plans.

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but there’s a lot of stupidity going on here. Alex apparently doesn’t know how weddings work and is shocked to learn that he’s going to have to profess his vows in front of other people. Libby’s business model depends on not taking other people’s financial concerns into consideration. The expo itself lasts days and necessitates an overnight stay at the hotel.

Yet the movie isn’t as frustrating as it might otherwise be. Penavega and Roberts are the main reason why, and they make the film tolerable, even enjoyable, at times. They have the look of two people still getting used to one another, but both are pleasing personalities. Ben is easy to like because, well, I agree with him. He’s not aggressive about his point of view either, and simply wants others to be sensible with their money. Libby, meanwhile, is someone I would normally despise. When it comes to weddings, she can be arrogant and narrow-minded, her idea of romance beginning and ending on the wedding date itself, but Penavega somehow makes me like her. Libby comes from a generous place. Her desire to make things just so for others sometimes prevents her from seeing the bigger picture but when Ben helps her step back, she does change her perspective.

My main gripe is that the film could be more visually interesting. It doesn’t have to be Belgium/Ireland interesting but the set starts to box the story in after awhile. Since this is a movie about weddings and wedding planners, I thought we’d see more wedding paraphernalia, not just a cardboard cake and a few dresses down the runway. The monotony could have easily been broken up with some visits to Seattle’s best and most creative wedding venues. Instead, there’s nowhere to go and everyone ends up a bit stir crazy. This is a movie about making do though, so I guess I’ll just be happy with what I have.

Released: 2016
Dir: Mark Jean
Writer: Monica Parker, Jennifer Barrow, Rich Tabach
Cast: Alexa Penavega, Shawn Roberts, Leah Gibson, Elise Gatien, Andrew Francis, Chris Shields
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019