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I guess I just like liking things

Ladies and Gentlemen, it happened. The one thing I was most concerned about – one of those $2 DVDs turned out to be a pretty decent movie and I was left without anything to mock. I have rallied, and chosen one from the pile that is guaranteed to be terrible, but for a while there I thought all was lost. This is me, ratcheting up the drama.

“Heber Holiday” boasts some Film Festival icons on the back of the case – you know the ones, the laurels with the writing in the middle to denote excellence. It won best of the fest, and it won Audience Choice and I am slightly stunned to see that the film festival mentioned actually exists. Perhaps the other films that year were all by Uwe Boll (haven’t forgiven him for House of the Dead, never will).

We open with stock footage shots of Hollywood and the LA area in general. Famous road signs, the Hollywood sign, fancy houses. You can see it in your head, I’m sure. On a film set, which must be tiny because everyone is crammed into a corner in their Hollywood Movie canvas chairs, a “British” director is being tense and shouty because his starlet is no where to be seen. The best bit here is that everyone was sitting quite still until the camera panned around to them, you could almost hear the “action” when they all started acting. The director asks a runner or something where Sierra is and is told she’s in her trailer and completely wasted.

If you say "Poodlehead" three times in the mirror, she'll appear

If you say “Poodlehead” three times in the mirror, she’ll appear

The runner was wrong, she’s in make up. She’s being a typical movie version of a movie star – ratty, snotty and either “wasted” or “sleepy”. The director reminds her she’ll have to turn up to the set to do some actual work and she grumps all over the place about how she hates this job and hates everything ever. We run through a bunch of takes on the movie within a movie. In each one, Sierra messes up or has her phone ring. We’re expected to believe an actual movie would contain the least convincing wig in the history of cinema. The issue here is that Sierra can’t cry on cue, and she has to in this scene. For whatever reason they’ve decided to skip the glycerin trick and just keep running takes until tears happen.

Now Sierra is in a hotel room, screaming her face off down the phone because her sheets don’t have a high enough thread count. We’re establishing she’s a psycho diva, and we’re doing it in the most obvious ways possible. Storming out onto the balcony, she throws the sheets down to the street below. Two paparazzi take her picture from a handily placed parking garage over the road.

Sierra attends a party full of horrible plastic people who are very much like her. Not that full though, the extras behind the main cast are having to work double time to make the place look busier. One of her friends is a cartoon gay man who ticks every single stereotypical box including (but not limited to) excessive duck face. The other two are almost identical women with Valley Girl voices and a good line in squeaky overacting.

We’re back to the same scene Sierra couldn’t get right before, and the director is threatening to sue her for the cost of the movie, since her tantrums and terrible acting are going to ruin box office for him. After the director asks her to be more convincing, she freaks right out and throws a chair at a light which then falls down and hits her in the face without electrocuting her at all. She goes back to her apartment with her fake friends. They refuse to go out with her because her nose is swollen (it isn’t, make up have slapped a plaster on it and called it good). They’re going to stay in and watch TV, so Sierra stomps out to go clubbing. So alone.

The limo driver drops her at a dark warehouse and tells her it’s a super amazing club, so she just accepts this and goes in, only to be confronted by her mother/manager and the director of the film she’s ruining. It’s an intervention with two thugs to keep Sierra in her chair, and the Director’s lawyer. Things that aren’t explained: Why Sierra is wearing ice skates. There’s a lot of big mouth acting and glaring, Sierra is a diva (we know) and something has to be done. They ask her to go off to a clinic to get straightened out. They want her to go right away, putting a stop to the movie that was so important to finish.

She arrives in Heber, and is driven to the clinic by a chatty limo driver named Scott who gives her the history of the town. She couldn’t care less, and tells him so. She’s met at the clinic by the relentlessly cheerful Doctor Samantha who tells her it’s a VIP Clinic who shows her around the place and accuses Sierra of self inflicted light-to-the-face. Things that aren’t explained: Why there’s a rock climbing wall in reception.

Scott is picking up a friend at the bus stop. He’s classically handsome and smiley. Hollywood Boy Next Door Heart Throb. He’s coming home early from Yale having dropped out.  They’re both somehow involved in the local Playhouse. I feel like maybe at some point they’ll need a reformed Diva to save a show, but I might be wrong.

Doctor Samantha leads Sierra into a meeting room and tells her she has to do cleaning. Literal cleaning, which will also cleanse her mentally. This must be that “pouring bleach in your ear” method I’ve heard so much about. Sierra kicks up a stink because she usually pays people do to this crap for her but the doctor is unswayed and hands her a broom. Someone is already washing the floor with a sponge and I can tell from the first second when the duck face happens that it’s yet another screamingly stereotypical gay man. This one is French (or possibly German) though, so there’s a twist for you. You can untwist yourself now though, because he’s a hairdresser. He goes all weird about Sierra’s hair and can’t help touching it because hairdressers are like that. I know I’ve been walking down the street and found a flock of hair dressers following me around trying to touch my head. His accent is Italian now, with German and a spot of French, which means we’ve found the Dire DVDs Flexible Accent Character! There’s got to be one.

In group therapy, Sierra tells Doc Samantha that she doesn’t have any problems. Sierra is, actually, really amazing and everyone loves her. She makes it very clear that anyone who doesn’t adore her for being so fabulous is wrong. Two of the other VIPs (one of whom must be an athlete because he’s wearing sweats) agree with her and Doctor Sam gets all prissy faced. “Cat fight!” screams the hairdresser. Of course he does. Ugh.

Doctor Sam cracks, shouting about young spoiled starlets thinking they run the planet when they need a reality check. She has a point. After what amounts to a 15 second argument, Sierra screams “I have had it with this place!” and stands to leave. The athlete takes control of the situation, making everyone hold hands and comparing their mental health to a basketball court. He teaches them a song he remembers from growing up in Congo and that makes everything all nice. He talks about leaving war torn Congo and how much better America is. Sierra goes all soft faced because of the wisdom of this man. Or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention. He ends by telling Sierra she’s the American dream which seems unhelpful when someone is trying to work on their massive ego problem, but alright.

Meanwhile, Sierra’s friends have gone to a private detective named Hound. He has an eye patch and a slight issue with over-acting. Then again, so do Sierra’s friends. Even though no one was supposed to know about the clinic, these guys do. Probably valley girl ESP at play. They don’t know which clinic but the Hound tells them it’s fine, he’ll get her scent. He letches on to one of the friends (don’t know which one, it’s one of the girls) and rambles on about being a hunter. They have Sierra’s credit card for some reason, so she’s paying the bill for Hounds services.

The clinic has a large greenhouse and the patients are milling about poking plants. There’s not a lot of patients, only the ones in the group therapy from earlier. This clinic must cost a bomb if the intake is so low. Doctor Samantha tells Sierra that weeds are like bad people and need to be removed. Cleaning, weeding – there’s nothing Doctor Sam can’t turn into some kind of lesson about life. Her eternal smile is getting a bit tight, almost like a serial killer. This gives me hope – maybe all these tedious people are about to be murdered! Hooray!

Hairdresser has a map to get out of the clinic, so Sierra offers to let him do her hair in exchange for the map. He goes off to his room to rehearse. Yes he does. Someone wrote this bit into a script and thought it was a good idea – having a hairdresser waiving a comb and hair dryer around to warm up for a haircut. Sierra creeps into his room carrying a bag she didn’t have when she arrived. Someone’s been stealing from other patients.

Sporting a new and terrible haircut, Sierra follows the map through the grounds keeping shed. She’s not carrying the bag anyway, so I don’t know why she bothered to steal it. The basketballer slips out from behind a shelf to hand her the keys to the truck so she can make good her escape. Despite the snow on the ground, the window of the truck is open so that’s going to be a damp ride I bet. She deserves it, she’s stealing a truck. Stealing is wrong.



The truck breaks down and she’s off on foot. She’s picked up by Scott the limo driver who fails to recognize her as a previous passenger. He takes her to the Playhouse where there’s a lesson in acting going on. Everyone in the movie so far should be attending for some tips. Seriously. Scott and Sierra turn up just at the end of the lesson and he introduces her to the guy he picked up earlier, who is named Tyler. Sierra gives a fake name so no one knows who she is. She’s still sporting her nose bandage which is like Clark Kent’s glasses – it makes ordinary people unable to recognise her.

The theatre has been in Tyler’s family for generations, because his grandfather built it. Also his grandmother runs a local B&B and also they’re about to audition for Taming of the Shrew (I see what you did there, movie writers). There’s a run of “comedy auditions” with people tap dancing and acting terribly. Scott gets up and talks about baseball for a minute, which sends Tyler and Jodi the director into actual hysterics despite being not at all amusing. Even Sierra has cracked a smile.

Jodi is annoyed she can’t find someone to play Kate. Everyone is too stiff and can’t act (herself included. She doesn’t say that, I’m just letting you know). It’s such a shame there isn’t a professional actress in town… waaaaaaaait a minute! Sierra mumbles a line from the play under her breath.  Jodi is amazed beyond belief and makes her audition for the part. Tyler and Jodi are thrilled with her terrible performance (no one told her Shakespeare needs more than a whiny monotone).

At some point, and perhaps I missed the bit where it happened, Sierra has gone from demanding diva to cheery happy friendly person. I mean, it’s a nice change but I’m not entirely sure what triggered it. Sierra agrees to play the part and Tyler takes her to his grandmother’s house for cookies. As they walk to the car, Scott has obviously figured out who Sierra is, because he’s lurking in the bushes taking pictures of her. Either that or he’s just a big old creep.

Nettie (Tyler’s grandmother) is pleased to see them both and invites them in for brunch. Nettie talks about how if she wasn’t so old she’d never go to bed because life is awesome. Sierra agrees. It’s a long conversation, I’ve given you the gist. For a woman who apparently just wants to grab life by the hands, Nettie wastes a lot of time in the kitchen. Maybe that’s me not being terribly interested in cooking. Anyway, she offers Sierra a place to stay and that’s all sorted.

A lass called Shirley walks in uninvited and introduces herself as Tyler’s girlfriend, which he isn’t that happy about. Shirley also looks directly at Sierra who is supposed to be one of the most famous actresses in the world and doesn’t recognise her. Shirley is upset that Tyler won’t be watching her defend her title at the Yodeling Festival (no I haven’t been drinking, this is the plot) so they have an argument while Sierra is upstairs claiming to be the victim of domestic abuse. Nettie offers to kick the butt of this made up boyfriend, so way to be emotionally manipulative there Sierra. Feeling sorry for her, Nettie offers her room and board for free. Sierra, stop sucking. You’re a bajillionare and you’re leeching off an old lady.

Apparently Sierra left the truck at the Playhouse even though she really didn’t because she got a lift there with Scott. Speaking of Scott, he’s online, looking at a fake IMDB to see pictures of Sierra. Doctor Sam is on the phone to the Director complaining about the theft of the truck. She gives him 6 hours to sort it out and her smile is a grimace now. Still time for some murdering, Doctor Sam. Think about it, that’s all I’m asking.

They actually went to the trouble of putting the Yodeling competition in the movie. Shirley, who is trying to defend her title, cannot yodel. Bit of a casting oversight there. Scott slinks in to talk to Tyler who happily leaves the audience. Scott tells Tyler that Sierra is Sierra and Tyler doesn’t believe him, though he has heard of Sierra Young. Those nose bandages man, right?

Tyler heads to Nettie’s house to meet Jodi, who is lurking in the kitchen eavesdropping on him talking to Nettie. I don’t know what it is about this house that causes women to just barge on in. Nettie is sick, apparently, and terribly upset that Tyler left Yale to come and care for her. He doesn’t mind because family is the most important thing and so on.

The next morning, Sierra comes downstairs without her nose bandage, but Tyler still doesn’t say “Whoa, you really ARE Sierra Young!”. Instead he says “Let’s go to the farm!”. Poor old Sierra is a city girl and she steps in a cowpat because city girls do that. There’s a long montage of them walking around and looking at cows, or tractors, or the hay barn. Sierra can’t understand why anyone would want to live on a farm in the country side without restaurants or nightclubs, but Tyler is all down to earth guy and loves his playhouse and the peace and quiet. It gives him plenty of chances to waffle on about what’s important in life in a pseudo deep way.

Scott takes Tyler to the office and hands him a stack of creepy stalker photos he’s taken. He’s been filming her too, to make a documentary about Sierra Young in Heber (I don’t know either, just go with it). Tyler looks directly at a photo on the web of Sierra at some event and still doesn’t say “Hey, actually…” What is wrong with these people?

Rehearsals are underway for The Taming of the Shrew and everyone is shouting their lines in a weird voice because it would be terrible if they performed Shakespeare with any kind of tone or timing. Shirley is playing Bianca, so Sierra and Jodi get to drag her around on the end of a rope because they don’t like her. I didn’t realise they were all in High School still.

Pointless, vapid and irritating. Not unlike the movie itself

Pointless, vapid and irritating. Not unlike the movie itself

The three friends are consulting with Hound, who tells them Sierra was at the clinic but isn’t anymore. They’re in Sierra’s house, so Hound is sniffing one of her socks to retain the scent he’s following. This subplot is ridiculous, I am not sorry to return to the Playhouse.

Except I am sorry to return to the Playhouse because here’s Scott trying to get Tyler to take Sierra out to dinner to spice up the documentary he’s making. Sierra goes to talk to Shirley who has had to icepack her wrists from the little rope prank earlier. Sierra apologises not for the rope thing, but for hitting Shirley too hard with a whip, blaming Shakespeare for writing it so rough. She seems genuinely surprised that Shirley doesn’t want to speak to her. Instead she storms out to talk to Tyler about how he’s a terrible boyfriend because he has a Playhouse.

Sierra and Tyler have a heart to heart about acting and the play. There’s a really heavy handed line about how a shrew would never switch to nice. They got that line in with a crowbar. Tyler does some babbling about why he loves acting and Sierra is gazing at him like he’s chocolate cake with icecream and.. I’m hungry. They do some heart to hearting, and Sierra says she loves acting but can never cry on cue. Tyler doesn’t say “I didn’t know you did acting before” but at least manages to pick up her excessive use of movie terms like “Post production.” Jodi turns up and is sad to see Tyler getting all cozy with Sierra because she’s completely in love with him.

Oh hooray, another montage. Nettie is cutting down a Christmas tree, the play is in rehearsal and Hound is driving around eating footlongs. Jodi and Sierra are all best buds, and Jodi is helping Sierra with her acting while Scott drops a load of groceries in a car park. The montage ends in Jodi’s office, where they’re looking at potential props for the play. The bench Jodi wants to use is pretty heavy, so Sierra suggests getting one of the stage grunts to move it. Jodi is a little bit shocked by this comment, and calls Sierra out for being harsh. Sierra agrees, and says she needs a notebook to help her remember all the things she needs to remember.

Scott is editing his docudrama about Sierra. He’s planning to both win a festival and sell the footage to the paparazzi. That’s not how it works, you can’t really do both. But what do I know, I’m not a stock character in a poorly thought out plot. Tyler is now convinced that Sierra is Sierra and is looking forward to dinner with her even though Scott has hidden cameras all over the room. Tyler is worried in case Sierra falls in love with him over the entree. As Tyler leaves, Shirley is outside in her car being a stalky clingy nutjob. She goes into the Playhouse and rummages around in Scott’s pile of photos he’s taken of Sierra. She can see Tyler looking at him all lovey dovy and she’s devastated and a bit stampy.

Nettie is digging out a dress for Sierra to wear to dinner, and Sierra spots a photo of the playhouse on the wall. Nettie tells her Jodi invested her savings into the Playhouse, thereby killing her dream of taking a world tour. Tyler doesn’t know, Jodi made Nettie swear she would never tell him but she didn’t specify not to tell any other random person she encounters.

Jodi is pretending to do something with costumes when Shirley barges in to demand to know how Jodi was able to cast Sierra in the play without knowing she’s really Sierra Young, Hollywood Diva. It’s a bold comment from Shirley who also hadn’t recognised her. Jodi doesn’t care because Sierra is an amazing actress. Jodi and Shirley have an argument about Tyler and his affections, even though he’s off with some other woman right at this moment so it seems moot. Shirley quits the play which can only improve matters on stage.

Have you seen this woman? She may have been the right way up at the time.

Have you seen this woman? She may have been the right way up at the time.

Scott drives Sierra to Tyler’s cabin. He’s dressed in tradition German lederhosen because he’s wacky. He’s doing the cooking, which lets him sneak cameras into the food. Tyler cracks a joke, Sierra laughs and says “You make me laugh!” in case he missed it. While the three are having zany fun times in the cabin, Hound has arrived at Nettie’s place to wander around shouting things. Nettie, who thinks Hound must be the fake abusive boyfriend, grabs a poker and waggles it about. She manages to get this accusation in quite quickly, so Hound shows her photos of Sierra to prove she’s famous.

Tyler is dribbling on about the theater at dinner. Sierra spills the beans about Jodi bailing the playhouse out with her savings. She’d managed to keep the secret an entire hour, so well done her I say. Meanwhile, Nettie is sad about the lies Sierra has been telling, and how hurt people will be when they find out. Hound is moved, drops his terrible accent and takes off his eye patch to reveal a guy who can actually act. Where were you hiding, actor guy?

Sierra tells Tyler he’s amazing and wonderful and perfect, but there’s no way she’s going to date him. She points him to Jodi, so that’s kind of nice of her. Hound barges into the kitchen and grabs Scott. Hound says hello to Sierra, and lets her know that Scott has been filming her this whole time. They’re about to have a big argument about this when Shirley storms in to confront Sierra about being Sierra. There’s a kerfuffle, you don’t need to know about it.

Jodi has dropped in on Tyler and discovered Nettie on the floor having a heart attack. She calls Tyler who burns some rubber to get to her. Nettie is refusing an ambulance and Jodi was all “Okay fair enough” about that because people who are having heart attacks are absolutely of sound mind and certainly don’t need any immediate medical attention. Nettie walked to the car by Tyler and Hound. Scott is filming all this, so they take a moment to have Sierra talk to him and tell him to release the DVD if he wants to. Sierra and Hound get into the van to go back to LA. Sierra gazes out the window and murmurs “All the world’s a stage.” Don’t drown in all this depth, will you?

Sierra is back on set in her stupid wig. A runner calls her Miss Young and she smiles at him and says “Call me Sierra” because she’s got a whole new personality  now. They’re still doing the same scene, but this time Sierra can cry on cue. She still can’t deliver the lines convincingly, but she can cry and everyone’s happy.

Jodi and Tyler are Christmas shopping, and Tyler presents Jodi with a big old present. It’s a festive egg, to replace the nest egg Jodi spent to save the Playhouse. She says it’s better to be able to be around the guy she loves than to travel the world and have adventures without him, which is rubbish. Go to Peru or something! They kiss.

The movie ends (finally, sheesh) with Sierra attending the opening night of The Taming Of The Shrew in order to generate lots of publicity and save the playhouse. Hairdresser is there having done the hair for the cast. Nettie is in the front row. She has completely forgiven Sierra for being a lying, manipulative cow. Jodi is playing the lead now, to Tyler’s male lead (so romantic). She’s doing it very quietly, so I hope the people at the back have good hearing. The movie ends with Tyler and Jodi kissing on stage.

I think this was supposed to be a comedy, but I’m not entirely sure. There’s some amusing bits – Scott and Tyler were actually pretty entertaining in their scenes together. Everyone else was mostly irritating. The women were all caricatures, except for Jodi who was pretty much just a nice little nothing of a woman. Shirley was terrible. I get they were wanting her to be an annoying person getting in Tyler’s way, but the character was hideous and overblown. I’m sure there are women out there who think one date means they’re going to marry someone, but they need shouting at, not a character based on them.

There was a lot of suspension of disbelief required here. No one spotted Sierra as herself, they all happily accepted she was some random chick passing through town. This is despite her being set up as a massive Hollywood star. Now, I freely admit there’s a lot of actors I simply wouldn’t recognise if I saw them in the street, but to have an entire town looking at this lady without seeing who she is? Nonsense and a weakness in the plot. Considering the weakness of the plot anyway, that’s fatal. I was amused to note that people only really twigged as to who she was after being shown photos of her. There’s this whole speech Sierra does in group therapy about her face being on billboards all over the world, but even so it’s a printed photo taken from inside a bush that makes people say “Oh it is her!”.   I still don’t know what triggered her complete change of character. Maybe it was the clean air of Utah. Of course, she did emotionally manipulate Nettie, and was a bully to Shirley so it’s not like she became a lovely angel, but she just suddenly stopped sulking and shouting from one scene to the next. Very odd.

I’d just like to point out that the camp gay man as a comedic device is tired now. Any aspiring screen play writers reading this (which I assume is anyone reading this, my reach is massive) should note that even in the “comedy” genre, camp gay men are over over over done. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a lot of gay men who are very camp, and that’s cool, but pretending every gay man minces around lisping is lame.  Having two in one movie trying to “out-camp” each other wasn’t interesting or funny, it was tedious and predictable.

Then again, no one in this movie really broke out of any established character roles. Yes, I’m complaining about this again because it keeps coming up in these movies. Here’s Nutty Friend, here’s Crazy Clingy Lady, here’s Underappreciated Best Friend Lady, here’s Lovely Old Lady. There was nothing interesting or unusual about any of them, they were all spawned from the same exhausted character types that will always be with us.

The clinic was consistently referred to as re-hab, and the first scene in the movie where Sienna is referred to as “wasted” would indicate there was a plan to not just have her being a massive diva, but also to give her some drug problems.  They must have decided that was too gritty or serious so it sank without a trace and the clinic was apparently some kind of psychiatric clinic. They started out so bold with their drug references too, which is a shame.  It would have added something interesting to look at. This movie was not interesting to look at.

Romantic Comedies (not that it’s a genre I enjoy anyway) are supposed to have a sort of “Will they? Won’t they? I hope they do!” quality. You’re supposed to want the main characters to get together against all odds or something. In this one, I didn’t care if they did or didn’t as long as they just got on with whatever and got to the credits. The idea that Tyler decides his best friend is worth smooching only after he discovers she’s given up her life’s dream to help him out is rotten. That’s a real stinker. That says that no matter how great a lady is, she’s only really worth what she can give you or do for you and not worth being with for her personality.  There’s a bit at the end, just before the play starts, where Sierra hands over an envelope to Jodi which I thought might be a huge cheque to get her on a plane, but it was just a good luck card. You suck, Sierra.


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