Hallmark friends, I have a confession. I have never read a Jane Austen novel in my life. I LOVE to read. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve read a lot of “classics.” But somehow, all my life, Jane Austen has escaped me. So, I know that “Playing Cupid” is based on both a recent-ish novel as well as “Emma” by Jane Austen. But I will not be able to tell you how much it misses the mark, okay? My issues with this movie will be totally unrelated to the damage it likely inflicts on the original story. So, now that that’s settled, let’s dive in.
The movie begins with our leading lady, Kerri, high fiving one of the students as she tells him saw his game on TV the night before. His JUNIOR HIGH GAME. So no. Then, in class, she announces a big project/assignment. The students will be required to create a small business that will ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY. But not for themselves to keep. No, it is a fundraising project. Do I need to remind you that we are talking about 8th grade children? No? Okay. At the end of class, Kerri has a quick heart to heart with a girl who is struggling. This poor girl is inexplicably failing all her classes. So SOMETHING is up.
Then she walks and talks with her friend, Marni who, by comparison must be a horrible teacher because she doesn’t seem to understand how Kerri can like connect or talk to her students. Kerri is celebrating her one year dating anniversary that night with her boyfriend, Adam. She moved to Seattle FOR HIM.
Later, she sits in the Mexican restaurant alone for an HOUR. Adam finally arrives, after going out for drinks with his coworkers. He doesn’t seem concerned about making her wait at all because the happy hour was FOR WORK. She’s like, dude I moved here FOR YOU. Then he says that he and his career are a package deal so she has to make sacrifices. Dang dude. The nice waiter, our lead, David, comes by and hands her a GIGANTIC drink. And then Kerri dumps Adam. A little while later, Kelly is still drinking sangria when David stops by and checks on her. She asks for something extra cheesy. Like literally some kind of food that is covered in cheese. And then he gives her some unsolicited relationship advice.
The next day, Kelly and her friend power walk around the…playground? Kelly wonders if she should just move back to Oregon. I mean, probably.
Meanwhile, David talks to…must be his ex-wife, Eva on the phone about their daughter. Eva moved to Texas and wants the daughter there. But he wants her to stay! His daughter, Clara (surprise-same girl from Kerri’s class that is struggling) and her friend are doing homework in the restaurant. Oops. I’ve been calling him a waiter but he owns the place.
Marni stops by the restaurant to pick up a take out order and sees a cute guy. Clara observes Marni and the cute guy making eyes at each other. Clara decides to be a wingman for Marni. Dang Clara CRUSHES IT. Wait, how did Clara know what the guy was reading? And who read “To Kill a Mockingbird” in middle school? Anyway, it totally worked. Clara has a gift! So she’s going to make that her project somehow. Also, if this is like the local hang out, how has Kerri NEVER BEEN IN BEFORE. Or ever noticed that the owner has a daughter at the school?
David comes by the school the next day and realizes that Kerri is his daughter’s teacher. Clara pops by too. David wants to talk to Kerri about Clara’s matchmaking project. Then David gets way too personal. But David is like, so this is not a great money making project. Or like, age appropriate. She can’t be setting 8th graders up! And instead of being like, “yes, great point sir!” Kerri is like, no this is totally an appropriate business venture for an 8th grader so let’s let her go ahead. David is like, how are you even going to grade her? Kelly is like, trust me. I will just give her a good grade, okay? So David finally agrees after that.
David must have vented to his coworker who also doesn’t seem to think an 8th grade matchmaking business is inappropriate.
All of a sudden, Kerri sees David everywhere. David is the new PTA president. He is very involved in Valentine’s Dance. Kerri and Marni whisper about him during the meeting. Marni tells Kerri he is very intense about Clara’s grades. First she’s experiencing it!! How is it like mid January and David has not talked to Kerri? Also, why are they at the PTA meeting? They wisely sneak out and go to HIS RESTAURANT. How many days in a row can someone eat Mexican food?
They see Clara sitting at the counter doing homework. David arrives to seat the teachers. They exchange some mindless sass.
The next day at school, the kids give presentations about what their projects are going to be. Kerri reminds them they even have to calculate payroll tax. I’m dead. GUYS. MIDDLE SCHOOL. For some reason, David is there.
Oh Clara. Her “business” really is going to be helping 8th graders find dates to the Valentines Day dance. Clara tries to explain her plan and, well, it’s not great. Kerri gives her some notes. It’s NOT GREAT. Clara is going to fail if she sticks to this plan.
Outside, Kerri is wearing a great Valentines Day coat. David invites her over that night to make candy grams for a PTA fundraiser. They exchange texts. We see them all. Luckily they don’t read their texts out loud.
Kerri arrives and David has dinner all set out. David says 8th grade Clara is at basketball UNTIL 9PM!! How old do these writers think 8th graders are? Seriously. None of these kids are equipped to figure out payroll tax or play basketball until 9pm.
So does everyone have a firepit in their yard? Also, are they not going to make those candy grams? Oh, and shouldn’t like the student government class be making those? It wouldn’t be just the one teacher and a parent right? Well, of course not. But here we are.
So anyway, Kerri and David are talking about why she wanted to be a teacher. She says she tries to TALK TO HER STUDENTS. Wow. So novel. She is a real John Keating.
Clara finally comes home. She asks Kerri and David for some advice about her project. Honestly, their suggestions are mostly unhelpful. Clara says NO DUH she doesn’t want to date. In spite of Kerri and David, Clara finally comes up with a great idea. But for the record, I still find this project to be wholly inappropriate; Clara’s “business” specifically and the demands placed on her and classmates generally.
The next morning really puts me over the edge. This business project is way too much for 8th graders. Have I mentioned that? This poor kid actually has to mow lawns? Before school? And he can’t keep any of the money. It has to go to the school. And it’s for a grade. WHAT.
Clara and her dad have a heart to heart that morning. At school, Clara and her friend talk about the matchmaking. She is BOY CRAZY. But the buzz around getting the results of the questionnaire is working for Clara. These poor kids. Why did they all do the survey in the first place?
Clara comes up with ideas for expanding her business to real adults. Kind of weird, right? Again, this is not an appropriate assignment for 8th graders.
Later, Kerri is back at the restaurant making more Valentines things. Clara stops by and then gets a call from her mom and walks off. This allows David to open up a little about his divorce.
So then ADAM SHOWS UP at the Mexican restaurant. WITH A GIRL. So then David pretends to be Kerri’s boyfriend. After all that drama, Kerri decides to walk home. David decides to walk with her. They have a nice moment on the way home.
The next day at school, David helps the kids while they work on their projects. Yawn. But also, WHY.
Later, Marni and Kerri do yoga together without following along to a video…and in coats…inside? Why are they wearing coats!!!?? Meanwhile David talks to his coworker about whether or not he likes Kerri. Obviously Kerri and Marni are talking about this too but I can’t get over them doing yoga in their winter coats indoors.
The next day, Kerri and David sell candy grams. WHY AREN’T THE KIDS SELLING THEM?! Then David’s ex-wife calls and they have a heated phone call. This may be the first time Hallmark is portraying a bad co-parenting situation.
Kerri and David head to a coffee shop to cheer David up.
During class, they took a five minute break for candy grams. Kerri gets one from a secret admirer. Meanwhile David stops by the school to “pick up his PTA mail.” And guess what he gets? A CANDY GRAM FROM A SECRET ADMIRER. Clara gets one too.
David runs into Kerri outside. What kind of school campus is this? Clara’s dating event is tomorrow but she has late night basketball tonight so she can’t help prep. So obviously Kerri steps in to help. Clara’s plan is working perfectly.
Kerri comes by the restaurant and catches David lip syncing to Sonny and Cher. Actually this is pretty cute. They both sing along with gigantic carrots. Then they have a moment making heart shaped tortillas. AND THEN THEY KISS. WHOA. And then David’s EX WIFE SHOWS UP. Wow. That’s alot.
So Kerri’s house is GIGANTIC for a teacher. COME ON HALLMARK. Marni calls Kerri at the crack of dawn to tell her to watch the news. Clara’s little business is being discussed on the news. It is not great. These ADULTS are making fun of a CHILD’S SCHOOL PROJECT. WHAT!!
Later, David walks Clara into school. Clara shows David the candy gram she got and says she thinks someone is playing a trick on her. Oh that’s devastating. Oh Clarita, my heart can’t take this.
Kerri and Marni do more power walking around the soccer field. Later, David catches Kerri in the parking lot to talk. He apologizes for Eva. Then he says he enjoyed their time last night!! But I need more info on Eva. Like, was she mad? Did they have a huge fight? Why is she even there? What’s going on, girl!!
That night is the big Valentines Dance. Clara is wearing the cutest heart pattern dress while she waits for her candy gram crush. He doesn’t show.
Then all of a sudden we are at the restaurant. So is the event at her dad’s restaurant happening simultaneously? Or is this a different night? Eva is there but NO ONE shows up. Oh wait, here they come. Again with the speed dating?! Come on Hallmark. I like how they’re doing this though. Groups moving around instead of one on one.
When Kerri gets home, she gets an email that causes her to drive right over to Clara’s house. Eva answers the door. Kerri tells her that Clara is a “finalist” for the project. What does that even mean? This is like compulsory participation in a business competition? That doesn’t seem right.
Eva is like, oh do you always drive over to students’ houses at night like this? And well, Eva does have a point. A phone call or telling her at school the next day would do. It kind of seems like Eva and David are going to try and get back together at this point? So Kerri is like, I’m going to move back to Oregon so this all works out for everyone.
Clara shows Kerri some newspaper coverage of her matchmaking event. Because obviously. Clara is now really gunning to win the district wide innovation award. A child matchmaking service really is “innovative” I guess. More creative than mowing lawns, anyway.
Later, Kerri tells Marni that she plans to move back to Oregon. DOES SHE HAVE AN OUTDOOR FIREPLACE? It seems like they are sitting on outdoor furniture. How much is she making?!
Meanwhile at David’s house, Clara asks where her mom is. She is out looking for an apartment. David tells her that he and her mom are going to just be friends but she’s going to stay in the area. Clara is surprisingly fine with this because she knows her parents aren’t a good pair. So what was Eva’s deal earlier? Saying they were having “Family time?” Oy.
So now they are at some grand finale presentation of all these kids’ projects. And THE NEWS IS THERE. NO. NO. NO. OMG I just realized this nationwide program is called “ABC” for “Annual Business Competition.” SO CLEVER. The head of the organization reads the winner of the Innovation Award. Guess who it is? Obviously it’s Clara. So now this poor thing has to read a speech. She invites Kerri up on stage with her. And then they have a private convo but then Clara reveals that the kids bought her a new chair and desk. Wait, with the fundraising money? Oh no, David and EVA bought her the desk, chair AND A COMPUTER. What?
Later, Trevor, Clara’s crush, wants to see who his match is. But he wants it to be her! He chickened out on going to the dance. Oh bless his heart. Oh these two kids. He asks her to a movie. I can’t deal. Eva and David witness the whole thing. Eva seems to have warmed up to like, being a mom again. Then Clara invites Kerri to a celebration at the restaurant. Kerri is like, girl, read the room? But Clara doesn’t, So Kerri says she’ll stop by.
When she gets there, the restaurant is dark and empty. And yet, Kerri TAKES OFF HER COAT. IN THE DARK RESTAURANT. Then David flips on the twinkle lights that are strung all over. It’s cute. Then David gives a little, “stay here for me” speech. She was already planning to stay. They KISS. And Clara creeps on them from behind a wall. Not weird.
And that was that. Okay so as usual, if you can suspend disbelief with these movies, they can be pretty fun. I liked all the characters and even though the story line was INSANELY silly, I did enjoy this movie quite a bit. I think it could have worked without the small business project though. Like, Clara didn’t need that to set these people up or to make the movie work for the “Love Ever After” theme, which is why I’m ultimately okay with this movie. Does that make sense? No? Who cares. That’s it!