Gretchen Wieners is Soooo Princess Material

It’s hard to believe, but even though it’s just Thanksgiving today, on Hallmark time we’re halfway through our Countdown to Christmas. Amazing!

Before we get into today’s movie, an anecdote. I was at a party this past weekend happily drinking champagne out of a plastic picnic cup when the topic of this little project came up. Since this was a crowd of screenwriters, the first question I got was: “What pervasive themes have you seen over the movies so far?” I answered with brutal honesty. Heteronormativity. White people. And a weird idea that if you aren’t super into Christmas, you must have serious damage.

Those first two issues are especially pronounced when the basis of your story involves European royal lineage. But how can I be mad at A Royal Christmas when we’re talking about GRETCHEN WIENERS HERSELF as the scummy American trying to get in on that royal line? And when MOTHERFUCKING JANE SEYMOUR is the snippy queen trying to scare her off??

Lacey Chabert (who I’m sure is tired of always being called Gretchen Wieners, but I’m sorry, Lacey, you were part of something timeless, get over it) is Emily Taylor, the daughter of a TAILOR and aspiring fashion designer in Philadelphia. Her boyfriend is charming generic-Britty-accented Leo (Stephen Hagen, who should’ve tapped in to play Matthew Crawley when Dan Stevens wanted out of Downton Abbey — seriously, doppelganger). And though Emily’s dad scoffs a bit at the fact that Leo doesn’t have a job, little does he know it’s because this supposed normal student is living off that never-ending credit line from the kingdom of Cordinia. (“A small sovereign state in the south of France.” DON’T LOOK IT UP IT’S TOTALLY REAL.) Once the news is out, Emily (who’s just recovered from her relief that Leo’s secret life isn’t a secret wife) agrees to head home with him for Christmas to meet Mother.

Meanwhile in Cordinia, Queen Isadora is very dissatisfied with the staff. It’s so hard to find good help when you don’t have a Carson-the-butler to help, although her right-hand man Victor is doing a good impression. Still, she’s been brought mandarin marmalade when she prefers quince, and the tea is tepid. Unforgivable. When Leopold and Emily arrive, she insults his casual-American-university clothes and refers to Emily as his “acquaintance.” Oy vey.

As Emily does her best to stay smiling while explaining to Isadora about her goals for a fashion line (“Hoodies! Well, the world awaits.”) and trying to pass the test of eating various horrid local delicacies, we learn of a looming nemesis: Natasha. The girl everyone under the Cordinian sun, but ESPECIALLY the queen, wants Leo to marry. She’s a duchess. She’s suitable. She doesn’t want to make hoodies for a living.


Despite seeing how truly adorable Leo and Emily are as they do things like dance around the ballroom, harass the statuesque guards, and stage sword fights with what are surely priceless historical objects (the castle location is fantastic; Hallmark definitely used the money they saved on the shitty locations for A Cookie Cutter Christmas), the queen keeps bringing up ol’ Duchess Natasha. And didn’t Emily know? She’ll have to be prepared to meet not just Natasha, but all kinds of royals at the upcoming ball. Not that Leo told her to pack for a goddamn ball or anything. MEN.

Leo takes Emily out for a stroll in town, where they buy a small, scraggly Christmas tree like Emily always did with her dad as a kid, and befriend a nun and a moppet-orphan named Poppy, like you do. It’s a very pleasant day, until Leo gets recognized and mobbed, giving Emily a taste of life with a famous person. Between this, the queen, and Natasha, doubts are creeping in.

Things keep getting worse as even with the help of the maid she’s befriended, Emily makes a fool of herself at an important dinner, going from not knowing what fork to use to sipping from the finger-rinsing bowl to asking an infertile couple about their children. (Seriously, Leo has given her NO help navigating this shit. Like so many cute and charming boys, he’s also fucking useless.)

But while Emily’s feeling hopeless, she’s secretly winning hearts. The queen accuses her man Victor of liking her, which meets little protestation. And here’s where we start to understand the queen a little more. Though she misses her late husband, she didn’t love him at first, either. But, of course, her parents knew what was best. Just like Leo, she wanted to run away from responsibility when she was young and marry someone who wasn’t suitable, but now she knows the throne is more important than one person’s wishes. Hmmmm. We’ll get back to that.

The next day, Emily’s relieved to find out that the Baroness, whom she offended the night before by asking about children, is actually a nice gal who confesses she also made many faux pas when she married the Baron. At last, an ally besides her lunk of a boyfriend! They go shopping in town together, where they run into adorable orphan Poppy again, and if you don’t suspect we’re gonna see a damn heartwarming adoption before the end of this adventure, I don’t wanna know ya.

Fun with orphans aside, the royal ball approaches. Left alone again while Leo does his royal duties, Emily turns to Victor to help her get prepared for the ball. But no amount of waltzing, proper greetings, and hors d’oeuvres etiquette can prepare her for…. the gown the queen presents her to wear. Guys, it’s BAD. But if you’ll recall, she’s an aspiring designer. Time to bust out those skillz, and I don’t mean to make a hoodie. I mean some damn Disney Cinderella shit.

Leo’s plan to ask Emily to marry him is still just a plan as the night of the ball finally arrives. She wows in a gorgeous gown whipped up from that ghastly garment (no helpful mice needed), impresses on the dance floor, and charms with her manners. But Leo keeps letting himself get snatched away for the royal rounds (led by that minx Natasha), and an exhausted Emily soon ends up in the kitchen teaching the servants how to make a good old-fashioned Philly hoagie. Bad timing, though, since they’re supposed to be, you know, working the ball. The queen busts in, starts firing people, and tells Emily off. She’s a commoner and has no idea what it takes to be royal. Ouch. Emily is ready to hit the road.

Leo finally clues in that maybe this trip hasn’t been a bed of roses for his girlfriend, and hastily proposes while she’s trying to pack her bags. But she can’t say yes, because she doesn’t want to pretend to be someone she’s not — she’s proud of who she is. YEAH GIRL. And because this is a TV movie… the bitter queen overhears the whole thing. Could her heart be cracking?

The next morning, the queen summons Leo and tells him the story of that commoner she was once in love with. Finally, she’ll give her blessing to his union — except, Emily’s already gone! Time to hop a royal jet to Philly!!! (By the way, that commoner love of hers? IT’S TOTALLY VICTOR. And she’s all “Call me Izzy” and he’s all *tiny hopeful smile* and we’re all Be happy and bone down, aging but still totally attractive people!

One proposal in the Philly snow later, we’re back in sunny Cordinia for the wedding. As Emily’s and Leo’s kiss gets a tearful reaction from those previously stoic guards, it starts to snow there, too! Just as you’re thinking “It’s a Christmas miracle!”, Leo literally says “It’s a Cordinian Christmas miracle!” And that’s the last line of the movie.

Okay, if you don’t want to see Lacey Chabert running around a castle and finding orphans their perfect families before she has a fairy tale wedding, I don’t even know why you’re here. Other Hallmark films, step up and take note. Also, this movie has DECENT BANTER. I’m not saying it’s His Girl Friday, but in the world of surface-level TV-romance relationships, it’s nice to see the lead couple actually throw some flirty zingers at each other. (I don’t know if Jane Seymour’s lines were also really good or if I just love the way she sniffs haughtily with each one, but her efforts were also noticed and appreciated.)

This movie gets ten heteronormative white people stars.

Countdown to Christmas scorecard:
*female lead’s name is a Christmas reference: 3/6 films (But come on, her family, the Taylors, are tailors? What is this, an ancient village? Are the Smiths around the corner literally smithing things or whatever?)
*female lead gets fired: 1/6
*male lead has sad childhood Christmas memories: 2/6
*romantic ice skating scene: 2/6
*romantic tree decorating scene: 4/6
*character comes to senses after heart-to-heart talk with father figure: 2/6
*dead parents: 3/6


1 Response to “Gretchen Wieners is Soooo Princess Material”

  1. 1 maliaann November 27, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Reblogged this on Writing for the Whole Darn Universe and commented:
    Christmas movies! Yay! :)

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Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

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