Love on the Menu

Grade: B-

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Autumn Reeser – Maggie

Kavan Smith – Hank

Maggie lives in an upscale contemporary house that is very sparsely furnished. And by “sparsely furnished” I mean it looks like an empty house for sale. Literally, the only thing on the counter is a coffee pot.

 

When we first see her, she is dressed in a severe red suit with gold buttons. My daughters claim this is sleek and professional. I, on the other hand, think all she is missing is an elf hat and she could be a Santa’s helper no problem. Agree to disagree.

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As she is getting ready for the day, she opens her freezer and refrigerator and we see that all she has to eat are stacks of frozen dinners and a ton of identical green juice drinks. That’s it - no other food.

 

I don’t get it. Is she an unhealthy person because she eats crappy processed frozen food or a healthy person because of the juice drinks? If we open a cupboard will we see a case of vitamins next to a giant jar of Skittles? WTFudge? Hallmark you’re making me work way too hard and this is literally the first minute of the movie.

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Also what do the letters FFFI mean? It is on all the frozen food boxes. The viewing group takes a guess: Frozen Frozen Food that’s Ikky

 

We are probably wrong.

 

Next scene: Hank is in his home kitchen making a full cast iron skillet size gourmet frittata for himself and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Hannah.

 

Verdict – Hank is a big food waster.

 

This is Hank. He makes funny, goofy expressions and he really loves this red towel.

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Hannah walks in talking about how someone hacked her school computers and changed people’s grades. I would think this was pretty important information for a parent to know, but her Dad pays absolutely no attention. All he wants to talk about is his frittata.

 

Hannah: “Hey Dad, my grades got hacked and changed today.”

Hank: “That’s Spanish goat cheese in the frittata!”

Hannah: Dad, are you even listening?

Hank: “No I get it, but…frittata!

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We cut back to Maggie and find out that she is a VP of product development for a frozen food company called FFFI, (which still does not excuse her from eating garbage). Because we also find out that her boss is a horrible person, I am going to cut Maggie some slack and assume the best - that she has to eat the nasty frozen food for her job, so she drinks the green drinks since she wants to live.

 

Dear Hallmark,

Please stop making me have to think up excuses for your Leads so they do not come across as crackpots. This is work, and if I have to do any more of it for you then I would appreciate a paycheck.

Warm Regards,

Me

 

Maggie pitches the idea of a gourmet frozen food line to her boss, Andrea. Maggie wants Hank to create the recipes with FFFI, since he is one of only six “1 star” chefs in Seattle. A**hole boss agrees.

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Boss’s picture is tiny because she is mean.

 

Now we are in the kitchen of Hank’s restaurant, (Osteria), watching him start his day. Since he is a chef with a star, the script writer could have had him do something really cool with food.

 

Instead, he boils water.

 

We find out that Hank is a widow, (not an uncommon occurrence in Hallmarks), his deceased wife’s brother, Bernie, who used to be the bartender, is now his manager.

 

Bernie asks Hank if the menu will be different today and Hank says “No” claiming that his clientele love the classics.

 

Translation: Hank’s food is boring, and we should all have serious doubts about the longevity of his “1 star” status.

 

Maggie drives up to his restaurant in her red Mini Cooper with a white stripe down the middle which does not jibe with her character at all. Mini Coopers are fun and flirty. She is uptight and frozen like her food. Her character would have a reliable fuel-efficient car. She should be in a Honda Civic.

 

Oh crap, I forgot about product placement. I guess she can drive whatever gets this movie made.

 

Next, we find out that Bernie is behind on the bills. Furthermore, his messy office is Hallmark-speak for “he sucks at his job”. Perhaps Maggie will save him.

 

“Hello? Help me.”

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Maggie orders seven dishes off the menu so the restaurant staff thinks she is a food critic. There is a guy sitting behind her who, as a result of this misapprehension, does not get much attention. It is pretty obvious that he is the actual food critic and the restaurant staff have just made a big mistake.

 

Personally, I don’t have much sympathy for this bad decision. Just because a critic walks into your restaurant shouldn’t mean that everyone else present has a sucky experience. You get what you deserve Hank.

 

Hank goes out to meet her and gives her a free glass of prosecco. Hmmm… I’ll be right back.

 

Next, Maggie meets Hank and the first thing she does is complain about his recipes because they are not precise. Evidently his chicken cacciatore recipe calls for a “hint” of sugar. I agree with Maggie on this one. A “hint” is along the same lines as a “smidge”, a “tad” or a “skosh" which are measurements used by Disney princesses to bake cartoon cakes. They are not used in the professional recipe world.

 

She starts to talk about frozen food which confuses him and then she gets wine spilled on him which confuses him even more. By the end of this awkward first conversation they have barely gotten their names out. Somehow he is Hank and she is “Always Maggie.”

 

Whatever.

 

Hank gets a call from Hannah’s school. She has been suspended for hacking into the school computer and changing everyone’s grades back from the first hacking that occurred. Question: how easy is it to hack the school’s computer? How did she know what the grades used to be? And why isn’t she being punished by her dad? All he does is pick her up from school and drop her at their house so she can hack back into her own suspension records. When he comes home all he’ll probably do is make her some Tiramisu to get her through this difficult time.

 

Group consensus: 1 star restaurant, 0 star Dad. 

 

So the restaurant review comes in and he lost his star which we all knew would happen three minutes into the movie. Apparently, the service was slow and the menu and décor is stale.

 

Adjusted Group Consensus: 0 star restaurant, 0 star dad.

 

Cue dramatic piano music. Cue Hank looking at sleeping convict daughter who should be a convict but is not a convict, and instead is probably happily sleeping full of her Dad’s ragù alla bolognese and gelato.

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Maggie returns to the restaurant to make him an offer. It’s a bit of a mean-pouncy offer since she and her a**hole boss tell him straight out,” You are a failure, but we can save you if you make some frozen food.”

 

I again, do not have sympathy for Hank. Bernie tells him they are $250,000 in debt in front of the frozen food people, and this is the first he has heard of it. Hank needs to spend less time on frittatas and more time on business.

 

It is decided that Maggie is going to come on as a business consultant and the agreement is that FFFI will pay him a certain amount of money for every recipe he creates. It is called a step deal. They say “step deal” A LOT. So this is going to come into play later. I am assuming he will be screwed through this step deal thingy so let’s see if I am right. (FYI I probably am…I think we can all agree that Hallmark is not really known for its red herrings and plot twists).

 

The next morning Hank makes his daughter some oatmeal. I am going to mention this since I will be making this for my breakfast tomorrow. It sounds awesome.

 

Recipe: Oats, almond milk, cardamom, candied ginger, chia, coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, and grated nutmeg, Yes please!

 

0 Star Restaurant, 0 star Dad, 5 star Oatmeal

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Hannah does not eat this deliciousness…that is because she is spoiled. When I was young my Mom made me dishes like ground hamburger mixed with canned soup and served on a piece of white toast. This concoction was some old Navy dish called “Sh** on a Shingle” and we ate it all the time. I think Hannah needs to stay with my Mom for a week which would teach her some essential survival eating skills. After that she’d jump into this bowl of oatmeal face first.

 

Maggie makes herself at home in Hank’s office. She wipes his desk down with a wet wipe. (lest we forget the fact that she B crazy), then she sets up her laptop and becomes Miss Snoopy Pants by looking at his personal photos and past due bills.

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Next, I think we have a filler scene. This is a scene which doesn’t advance the story at all and just eats up time. In this case, Maggie goes into the busy working kitchen, whistles loudly to stop the entire staff, introduces herself, and asks then awkwardly asks how everyone is doing. Huh? Is she trying to start a Sharing Circle? Will there be a talking stick?

 

Hank comes back to the office later and tells her not to talk like that in front of his crew.

 

Side Note: “Crew” is a weird way to describe your staff. Maybe they are all a dance crew on the side like in the Step Up movies? Because that would be way cool.

 

Maggie does not accept his dictate about his “crew” and says she has ideas she wants to share. Hank says this is not a democracy, and then she totally sticks it to him by saying his stubbornness is why his menu hasn’t changed in 4 years. Ouch! Hank just got burned by a lady who sells frozen food – that’s a freezer burn!

 

Now Maggie is putting napkins on the tables. I thought she was the frozen food lady/business consultant not a waitress, but in hindsight I don’t really care. She tells Hank she will help him get his star back if he will teach her about food. He agrees.

 

Next, we see her learning to peel a potato, so I am not sure if Hank is messing with her or not. I also do not understand how a person who does not know how to peel a potato could possibly help Hank get a restaurant star, but I suppose anything is possible when LOVE is on the Menu. *ba dum tssss*

 

“0 star Dad” Hank misses his daughter’s phone calls, (again), and so Hannah has to call Maggie to let someone know that her bus broke down and she’s stranded. Maggie picks up Hannah and they bond over pizza and hair braiding, because, as we all know, this is all girls talk about.

 

Hank comes home after work and Maggie tells him Hannah is fast asleep as if she were a toddler. (News flash - Hannah is a high schooler who I guarantee is awake right now on Facebook).

 

Also, apparently Maggie has been babysitting Hannah since school let out until the restaurant closed and Hank got home. This would be about 8 hours. Hannah’s fifteen…not necessary!

 

Hank asks Maggie to stay and have a late-night glass of wine (aka cranberry juice) with him – smoooooth move Hank.

 

They discuss their lives and drink cranberry juice (aka wine). She leaves and can’t stop herself from looking back at the house to see if he is looking out at her and she catches him dancing at the window. What is he dancing for? Because he made it through a conversation with a woman?

 

Stan, (a character we have never heard of or seen before), is stealing wine from the restaurant! Ha! Ha! The joke’s on him because all the wine bottles in this movie are full of cranberry juice! Maggie is Nancy Drew and she cracked the case. Since Bernie obviously has no idea what is going on in this restaurant, he will now manage the bar and Maggie will fully manage the business end.

 

Bernie says he is “over the moon” to run the bar, although I don’t know how happy he will be when, at the age of approximately 36, he has to live off of minimum wage and tips.

 

Maggie asks Hank to go to the frozen food lab where he walks around and then tastes awful paella. Not sure what the point of this scene is.

 

More goofy expressions. I love this guy.

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Hank’s sous chef forgot to make pasta for the restaurant, so Hank decides to use this opportunity to continue Maggie’s lessons on food and teach her to make pasta.

 

However, since Maggie has issues with messy things, he has to literally push her hands into the dough which freaks her out. Also, they make enough pasta for about 8 people, so I hope it is not a best seller.

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After this Hank unnecessarily throws flour on Maggie’s clothes. I’m assuming he thinks this is playful but it is not. FYI Hank, girls do not like crap thrown on their nice clothes because we are not 8 year-old boys. Maggie half-heartedly throws some flour on his white chef coat which make no difference at all since it is a white chef’s coat.

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Weird note about this movie – for some reason the set designers seem to think that standing open gas flames turned up to high are the norm in a restaurant kitchen – just to be clear…they are not.

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Hannah comes by the restaurant and eats off a plate that is about to be sent out to the dining room. Now either one guest at the table will have to wait, or the rest of the party’s food will sit there until a new plate is made.

Not cool Hannah.

 

Hannah sees Maggie’s coat in the office and tries it on. So far she has hacked grades, stolen food, and now she is trying on other people’s clothes. This chick shows a lot of criminal tendencies…just sayin’.

 

Maggie makes over the restaurant and Hank asks her over to his place to “work on some of the recipes for FFFI.”

Uhh huuuh.

 

He cooks short ribs for her and then he tells her that she been is a good influence on him, that she has pushed him out of his comfort zone and made him try new things. Maggie tells him that the short ribs are the best thing she has ever tasted in her life and they kiss. Hold up…did that sound pretty uneven to you? Oh, just forget it, Hank gets some action and Maggie gets non-frozen food so I’m going to call this a win-win.

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Obviously, the kiss is interrupted, (by Hannah…awkward!), before it can get too passionate. Once again we face the unwritten rule that there is no sex in Hallmark Land and all the characters are always super okay with this.

 

The restaurant is supposed to be redone, but actually it just looks like they are holding a wedding there.

 

This was before the makeover

(btw looks completely fine to me)

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This is after.

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A**hole boss is happy with the new recipes, but now she wants to focus on a different food ethnicity (is she a food racist?). She says they don’t need any more ideas from Hank, he is history and he will not get any more money. Boss lady threatens Maggie with her job if she doesn’t move on to the next chef.

 

Maggie is as mad as F…FFI.

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Maggie tells Hank the bad news and Hank loses his mind.

Hank: Is this some kind of game you are playing? You get my recipes and then you dump me and move on?

Maggie: No! Andrea threatened to fire me.

Hank: Then you should have quit.

Maggie: I wanted to, believe me.

Hank: How am I supposed to believe anything you say again? I have to get back to my restaurant. I would appreciate it if you were not here when I get back.

 

Grrrrr!!

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RED FLAG ALERT! Hank is super unreasonable when he gets emotional. She should have quit her job? Seriously? When is this ever the number one option?

 

Fair warning - If the fictional character of Maggie is going to end up in a fake long-term relationship with the fictional character of Hank then she better be ready for some big fake fights down the road.

 

Hank calls his “crew” together to deliver the bad news: there is no more money from FFFI so the restaurant will close in a month, and Maggie is gone because he told her to leave.

 

Bernie and Hannah both call him on his behavior towards Maggie, since she has done nothing but help them all out.

 

Here is Hank realizing his mistake. I love this freaking goofball.

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Maggie is at her house drinking wine, (aka cranberry juice), and looking at the Osteria website on her computer.

Hank comes to her door in his chef’s coat which I can only assume is still dirty from work and probably smells like fish and onions. This is the package Maggie…get used to it.

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Hank gives her a very nice apology, Maggie forgives him, and then says she has an idea to save the restaurant.

 

Next scene: A***hole Andrea walks into Osteria.

 

“Why am I here? Maggie, you said it was an emergency and I have a plane to catch in 45 minutes!”

 

Evidently, Maggie lied to a**hole Andrea so that she would drive all the way out to Osteria to learn that she, (Maggie), was going to invest in Hanks’s restaurant to save it. I think this could have been done by phone myself, but whatever.

 

The only emergency I see here is the new décor!

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A**hole Andrea then fires Maggie for apparently investing unwisely. This makes no sense.

 

More good news! The restaurant critic who they ignored before will be coming back to rereview the new and improved restaurant tonight! We need to be ready! Assemble the “crew”!

 

Montage of Hank walking around the kitchen checking in with each cook:

 

Here he is touching a carrot in a bowl of water, (2 more carrots and we are good)

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Next, he checks the consistency (not the taste) of a protein smoothie in a blender

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Now he is checking ten slices of radish on a teeny tiny tray. All’s well.

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Whew! All the crew members passed their rigorous testing. Now they are all ready for the wedding….I mean dinner service.

 

Oh! Here comes the critic – since he booked under a pseudonym, he is surprised when Maggie calls him by his real name. Maggie tells him they have a new “system” in place which keeps track of all the best food critics. Huh? What kind of system can tell over the phone what your real identity is when you give a fake name? Is a drone looking through his window? Did they hire a private eye? Will they be watching him tonight as he sleeps? I’m a little freaked out right now.

 

The critic orders the short ribs and Hank gives a speech to his crew, “Now we aim for the stars… yadda, yadda, yadda”.

Behind him is open flameville

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Next, we see the dinner the critic will get. Some congealed pasta and red sauce on a plate with two slices of parmesan and two burned, and dry looking short ribs. Maybe Hank is shooting for 1 star from Yelp.

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Also, they show Hank decorating a piece of glass with sauces. This is dumb.

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The critic likes the food because he looks like this as he eats it.

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Hank and Maggie kiss right after she tells him her name is “Always Maggie.” Uh, that’s kinda long but…okay.

 

Pros:

● Hank’s goofiness

 

Cons:

● The short rib dish looked terrible.

● Dinner and a show. All in. Dinner and a wedding? No thanks.

 

Credits: All photos, unless otherwise indicated, have come from the Hallmark Movie “Love on the Menu” which can be viewed on the Hallmark Channel

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