I love a good theme month, but after some challenging themes lately, nothing feels better than picking whatever films catch our fancy. That’s right–September is another month where we just do what we want on the Blog Collab. Face it: some of our picks are going to be cheesy as a French grocery store, like this week’s petit slice of fromage.
Falling Inn Love
After winning a New Zealand inn through an online contest, career woman Gabriela has her work cut out for her as she renovates the building.
Gabriela is a driven, career-oriented San Franciscan determined to save the planet. Despite being a member of the soulless corporate world, she is committed to projects that move forward green, sustainable housing. Though in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Dean, he is unwilling to settle down or even leave some of his clothes at Gabriela’s place.
Her life changes dramatically when her company fails and she finally pulls the plug on her stale relationship. After impulsively entering a contest to win a small-town New Zealand inn, Gabriela is set to make her dream of a fully sustainable residence a reality.
Like other recent events in Gabriela’s life, this is going to be more difficult than it first appears. After arriving in rural New Zealand by bus, Gabriela searches for cell phone reception to call for a ride. Unfortunately, she loses control of her suitcase, which is set for a collision with a stranger’s 4-wheel drive. Though the kiwi is friendly and offers Gabriela a ride into town, she is having none of it.
The inn is, of course, nothing like Gabriela anticipated. Once a beautiful building, it has fallen into a state of disrepair (complete with unwelcome resident goat) and requires some major renovation work. Passive-aggressive Charlotte, owner of the town’s only operating B&B, is more than willing to swoop in and buy the property, but Gabriela is determined to see the project through.
Good thing she already knows a guy who is a contractor, Jake; bad thing he’s the guy whose car she hit with her suitcase. Embarrassed by their first meeting and ready to prove she doesn’t need help from anyone, Gabriela decides to fix up the inn all by herself.
In the mean time, Gabriela manages to befriend the married coffee shop owners, Peter and Anaaki, as well as Shelley, who runs the gardening center. After falling ill with a cold, Gabriela learns how quickly gossip spreads in the town, and that her business is everyone’s business. Her new friends, along with Jake, arrive to take care of her and complete some of the much-needed DIY work for the inn.
Recognizing the extent to which team work makes the dream work (ugh), Gabriela partners with Jake to rehab the inn and sell it, sharing the profits. As she gets to know Jake, Gabriela realizes he’s a gentle soul with a tragic past, and the two share a bond.
However, as the renovation is close to complete, Charlotte seizes an opportunity to get Gabriela out of the picture and claim the inn for herself. When she secretly invites Dean to New Zealand, he brings along a surprise: an Australian real estate agent interested in the property. Is this still the way Gabriela wants the story to end?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
This film is predictable to a fault and painfully sweet at times; truly, the Netflix version of a Hallmark Channel original movie. But the likeability of our leads, particularly Christina Milian as Gabriela, elevates this from a dull slog to a charming (if forgettable) feature. Gabriela as a character manages to be the stereotypically uptight rom-com lead without being so completely rigid as to be a caricature. She also has the power to experience growth, though her journey doesn’t focus on how finding a man has changed her life utterly (thank GOD).
The quirks of small-town New Zealand also help, as well as its friendly, untroubled residents (and their accents!). In other contexts, the environment could feel like Pleasantville, with darkness hiding under all of the sunny smiles, but the celebration of small-town life seems genuine here. The film is so in love with New Zealand and its cute little towns that it felt at times like one long commercial to draw tourists to the area. And, you know, I’m not mad about it.
There are certainly subplots that are unnecessary, like the WWI-era letters Gabriela and Jake find hidden in the inn’s walls. And it’s ridiculous that Jake is not only a contractor, but also the chief of the volunteer firefighter crew (and former coach for the children’s rugby team). The only way he could have been more fully the poster boy for rugged masculinity is if he also carved chainsaw sculptures in his spare time or smoked his own penguin jerky over an open fire.