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By Rich Cline | May 27, 2003

The latest lively comedy from Mark Herman (“Brassed Off,” “Little Voice”) is this American-style romantic comedy set in New England … and it’s a bit of a mess. Colin (Colin Firth) is a British portrait artist who travels to Hope, Vermont, to get away from his miserable life in England, where his fiancée Vera (Minnie Driver) has just told him she’s marrying another man. As he settles in Hope, he finds support from the local innkeepers (Mary Steenburgen and Frank Collison), the egotistical mayor (Oliver Platt) and, most importantly, a spicy occupational therapist named Mandy (Heather Graham). But just when he starts falling for Mandy, Vera shows up in town.
Everything about this film is too much. The story is fractionally too silly, crossing the line and leaving believability in the dust. The set design and decoration are too picture perfect. The jokes take things one step too far. And the characters are too broad to be very believable. It starts off well, with a lively sense of energy and charm, but as Mandy starts behaving like a misfit from a Farrelly Brothers film, we stop believing that Colin could ever fall for this alcoholic stripper with a butterfly fetish. Every event in the film only happens because rom-com conventions say it has to. There’s no character logic at all. Falling in love is handled in a trite musical montage that tries desperately to paper over the gaps, and by the time the far worse Vera shows up, we have really lost all interest.
This isn’t to say the actors are bad; they aren’t (in fact, they’re the only thing that’s remotely watchable about the film!). It’s the script, direction and editing that are to blame for this badly derailed film. There’s enough talent in this film to make a very good romantic comedy. This is not it.

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