Round the Bend
This is the surprise surprise still married to old husband trope. It’s tried and true, but unfortunately, I did not like the behavior of the old husband and really liked the new fiance who was eventually and inevitably dumped. Needless to say this negatively impacted my enjoyment of this movie.
Amanda Shull was excellent and sympathetic as the successful marketing executive who is soon to be married and moving to Paris. And Brennan Elliot, her leading man, has some quirks, but in general, is still a favorite of mine. Top 10, anyway ( used to be top 5). But the character he plays is a bad guy hiding behind a nice guy smiley facade.
When preparing for her marriage and the move to Paris, Amanda finds out that due to some paperwork snafu, she is still married to her old high school boyfriend whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in 20 years. When she goes back to her hometown to straighten this out she meets him in court and he won’t sign the divorce papers. He needs time to “digest” this. “It’s not chicken salad! There’s nothing to digest” She cries. Amen Sister! The guy broke his marriage vows and abandoned her and their marriage and moved over 4000 miles away where he couldn’t be found like a coward. No discussion, no explanation, no goodbye except a note left on her pillow. **spoiler alert*** He let himself be bullied by her awful mother into deserting her because her acceptance letter from Princeton came in the mail. What. So no married person ever went to college? They did not discuss the possibility of her acceptance before they got married? Letters of acceptance from Princeton just don’t come in the mail without a lengthy application process. Besides treating his bride as a child with no agency in the marriage by abandoning her, he doesn’t contact her for 20 years. Not a peep. And this isn’t some strangers in the night, they got married in a fever situation. They had been friends since childhood. Amanda was devastated and emotionally and psychologically crippled for years because of his cruelty. But once she has recovered and is happily engaged, he wants to derail her life again.
With the exception of Sweet Home Alabama, this trope usually only works if the other woman/man is a jerk and the heroine/hero doesn’t love him. But Amanda and Edward, her fiance, profess their love throughout the movie. And Edward is not a jerk. He is a demonstrably better man than the hero.
Amanda is not blameless in this fiasco, by the way. Needless to say, Brennan Elliot wheedles and manipulates her until her heart starts to soften. Isn’t there some sort of guy-rule about not making the moves on an engaged woman? Well, someone forgot to tell Brennan. But we already know he couldn’t care less about promises and marital commitment, so no surprise, I guess. When the strong mature, wise, patient, and loving Edward shows up, Brennan scurries away. Now that he has all but won her over to giving him another chance, he starts playing hard to get. Or maybe he has either developed a conscience or at least a sense of shame? Nothing so profound. He was just embarrassed, and probably scared of Edward punching him in the nose. No such luck.
Before the “happy ending” Edward releases her to find her happiness with her still husband. He lets her go (face to face, unlike Brennan) saying “I deserve your whole heart.” Not only is he the better man, but he is eloquent too. I appreciate that Hallmark didn’t follow the usual template of making the new man a weasel, but they did too good a job of not making him a weasel and on top of that they made the so-called hero the weasel.
September 15, 2022