Beauty & the Briefcase stars Hilary Duff as the socially awkward Lane Daniels, a struggling journalist who lucks into writing a cover feature for Cosmopolitan magazine. The movie first aired in April 2010 on the ABC Family network and is now available on Blu-ray. Hilary Duff fans are the ones most likely to appreciate this romantic comedy, though it did manage to snag a 2011 People’s Choice Awards nomination for Favorite Family TV Movie.
As Duff continues transitioning into more adult-oriented roles (see her against-type supporting turn in 2008’s War, Inc.), this fluff must have served as a kind of stopgap. It’s actually a step back for her. Her portrayal of Lane brings to mind her star-making role as the title character in Disney’s Lizzie McGuire, a sitcom that premiered a decade ago. In fact, it would’ve been a great marketing hook if they’d just had her play an adult version of McGuire, depicting her first foray into the professional world. There are plenty of Lizzie-esque voiceovers and even a few pratfalls as Lane stumbles her way through an assignment she’s not quite ready for.
But that wouldn’t have been in line with Diary of a Working Girl, Daniella Brodsy’s novel upon which Beauty & the Briefcase was based. The plot is simple: in order to research her story on dating executives, Lane cons her way into an office job in a big New York City skyscraper. She plays the field, scoring dates with as many well-dressed employees as possible. Lane happens to have her own personal list of requirements that the “perfect man” should possess. These form the basis of her article, but the more she gets involved the more she realizes her list is unreliable.
Despite the television network for which it was produced, Beauty & the Briefcase isn’t really a family film. And that’s not to say it contains inappropriate material. Sure, there are a few risque references now and then but nothing compared the average episode of the same network’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. This film’s true target demographic is preteens. I can’t really imagine anyone older than twelve finding it funny or being surprised by the way the plot unfolds. I watched it because I like Hilary Duff, but I’m hoping she leaves this type of role behind for good. The supporting cast includes Jennifer Coolidge, Jaime Pressly, and Topher Grace. Actually, no – Topher Grace isn’t in the movie. But Michael McMillian (as Tom, Lane’s office boss) looks and acts so much like Grace, you’ll swear it’s him.
The Blu-ray edition of Beauty & the Briefcase is presented in 1080p high definition, framed at 1.78:1. Fine detail, such as individual hairs on an actor’s head, is well-defined. Outdoor scenes showing cityscapes and bright blue sky are boldly colorful and realistic. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect this movie was shot on high definition video. It looks really impressive, with no detectable flaws in the picture.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is less noteworthy. The film was produced for television broadcast, not theatrical presentation. The mix is very basic though it serves its purpose. Dialogue is intelligible throughout. The original music by Danny Lux is at times a bit too loud for my taste. Rather than defined surround placement, everything kind of blares out of the center, right, and left channels. The rear and LFE channels are not frequently used. Don’t get me wrong, the audio doesn’t sound poor in any way. It’s a no-frills mix that is free of distortion.
While I’m guessing the primary cast and crew must have at least done some promotional interviews for this movie, none of it is included on the Blu-ray. In fact, the only supplement is a standard definition trailer. Beauty & the Briefcase isn’t likely to win Hilary Duff any new fans. In fact, it may not even please the ones she already has. Even though the Blu-ray presentation (absence of special features notwithstanding) is strong, I doubt the movie will hold much repeat viewing value for many people.