I’m going to channel some parent energy here and say that I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed. I wasn’t expecting much from this movie about a young woman who plans the wedding of her best friend to the high school mean girl, but I also didn’t think the characters would act like teens still trading gossip by the hall lockers. From Friend to Fiancé wastes a great chance to upend a tired story, opting for a cliché-filled plot over a more meaningful one about redemption and forgiveness. It finishes with a genuinely surprising turn that is both heartfelt and full of empathy, but this dramatic high note is also what makes the rest of the film so frustrating.
It’s a good ending unearned and made irrelevant by what’s come before. The script tries to have it several ways – part misguided love triangle, part revenge fantasy. It’s also loathe to make any of the three main characters look too bad, though in doing so it ensures that they come off naïve at best and spiteful at worst. Jessica (Jocelyn Hudon) is probably the most coherent character, a teenage wallflower who’s moved on from her hellish school days. I wouldn’t say she’s gone on to bigger and better things, but she’s relatively content. Even when her boyfriend dumps her, she at least can turn to the old folks at the retirement home where she works or to her loyal and super hot BFF, Ted (Ryan Paevey). All that goes to the shits when Ted springs on her some news that he should have hinted at much earlier, giddily announcing his upcoming marriage to their chief high school tormentor, Kimberly Kentwood (Kelly Kruger). This forces her to reckon with her own romantic feelings for him.
Ted does seem like the sweet dude everyone insists he is and I know I’d be calling him over to open pickle jars all the damn time, BUT is there a guy more clueless than Teddy bear? He makes an insensitive, bordering on cruel, request for Jessica to plan his wedding to their nemesis, which she really has no choice but to accept. And, as someone later points out, it’s never clear what he and Kimberly have in common. Ted seems stupidly in awe of her, as if he’s still the ugly chub who somehow ended up with the prom queen. As a plot point, that’s fine; people change, and I’ll buy the illusion that a guy who looks like Paevey pulled a Neville Longbottom. He doesn’t have much of a personality though, unless you call owning a gym a personality. Ted’s characterization isn’t helped by Paevey’s wooden acting. Perhaps the aim is to make him a loveable doofus, but Ted just comes off as slow.
The film might have succeeded if the writers had a better handle on Kimberly. You think you know what you’re getting with her, and yet she defies expectations, which makes her the most intriguing character in all this. Like Jessica, we’re trying to figure out if Kimberly has changed her ways or if she’s the same catty, backstabbing B. She also keeps taking calls from her ex, arousing suspicions about her real feelings towards Ted. It’s hard to figure out what to make of Kimberly though when the movie can’t figure out what kind of antagonist she should be. She’s reformed and apologetic when it suits the story but is also in league with her villainous friends (Holly DeJoseph and Melissa Strong) when necessary. This uneven development confuses the ending and keeps it and the rest of the movie from being as sincere as it might have been.
Dir: Andrew Cymek
Writer: Patrick McBrearty
Cast: Jocelyn Hudon, Ryan Paevey, Kelly Kruger, Derek McGrath, Valerie Boyle, Krista Jang, Jennifer Vallance, Holly DeJoseph, Melissa Strong
Time: 77 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel