I’m more conflicted about this movie than I expected to be. To be clear, Then Came You is not a particularly good movie. I was shocked to learn that the runtime was only 90 minutes because I could have sworn it went on for four lifetimes. The acting wavers between passable, wooden, and just odd. The dialogue and storyline will likely make you feel like you are suffering from periodic blackouts. You could make more chemistry by mixing baking soda and vinegar than the romantic leads are able to whip up between themselves. And the whole thing seems to have been edited together with pinking shears and off-brand scotch-tape. So no, it’s not that the movie is good, it’s that it had more good elements than I expected, and that left me feeling like I wanted to like it, which was wholly unexpected.
Anabelle Wilson (Kathie Lee Gifford, who also wrote and produced the movie) is grieving the loss of her husband Fred. They spent many happy years watching movies together and running a hardware store on Nantucket before he died unexpectedly. Per his wishes, she has sealed up his ashes in an empty Whitman’s Sampler box (his favorite movie was Forrest Gump), and now she and the box are headed out on an adventure to visit the places in their top twenty favorite movies. Despite the dreams she had as a younger woman, this is her first time traveling overseas and she’s excited to leave her responsibilities behind for solo adventures.
Her first stop is a large estate turned inn in Scotland, which is owned and operated by Howard (Craig Ferguson). While Howard tries to make it appear that the inn is well staffed, in truth he’s so broke that it’s just him and his best friend Gavin (Ford Kiernan) running the place. Howard and Gavin have a quite charming kind of chemistry, and I would happily watch a movie about the two of them wearing coveralls and fumbling their way through learning the ropes of inn-keeping.
I feel like I’m doing you a disservice by making the plot sound so coherent. In reality, things are flung at the viewer in a random order with dead spouses, current fiancés, children, dodgy plumbing, sing-a-longs, and long lost relatives appearing and disappearing as if they had been beamed into place via teleportation. (I feel like there’s probably a pun to be made there about Scotty from Star Trek and Scotland.) If you watched the trailer for this movie, then you might believe that Howard’s fiancé Clare (Elizabeth Hurley) plays a pivotal role in the movie, but in reality she’s not even mentioned until probably an hour in, and then she only shows up for about two scenes (where she exudes the personality of a wet paper towel). People are in the act of setting up a tent on the estate’s rolling lawns the first time Howard mentions to Annabelle that he’s getting married. And even then he can’t really muster a reason why he’s doing it. Should we really trust a man who was willing to marry a woman he couldn’t care less about? It was like no one could think up a good way to fit Clare into the plot or to extricate her at the appropriate time, which is strange because there are only about 70 bajillion movies that one could use for reference.
So anyway, Howard and Annabelle banter and argue their way through most of the movie where not that much actually happens. There are a couple of requisite scenes where they manage to get soaking wet. A scene where they get drunk. And many, many scenes where I could not tell if they were arguing or not until Annabelle stormed away. While the movie does have moments of something approaching humor, it’s so disjointed and confusing that most of it feels like the script was written via a non sequitur generator. I’d say that you can pretty much guess the way the movie goes, and you can in broad strokes, but, like I said, there are a lot of plot points that crop up out of nowhere. I’d tell you about them, but I don’t want to rob you of the out-of-body experience that these sudden plot jolts create. Just know there is a DNA test involved with one of them.
There are also just a lot of impromptu songs. Maybe this is your thing, maybe you will be thrilled to hear the third or fourth rendition of “Whiskey and Wine.” Maybe you know who Brett James is and it will make sense that he’s playing in a tiny bar in a tiny town in Scotland and you will enjoy it when Annabelle gets up to sing a duet with him. Maybe you will also enjoy it when the song is then reprised by Annabelle and Howard at least twice more. I was less enthusiastic. (And by less enthusiastic I mean I groaned like a cow in labor and skipped ahead.) And really, I think if you’re a huge Kathie Lee Gifford fan you will likely feel differently about the whole shebang than I do. I have very few feelings or thoughts about Kathie Lee Gifford.
But here’s the thing, Annabelle is also a very capable, independent, and sexual older woman. She makes it clear that she gave up her dreams for someone else once and she doesn’t want to do it again. She’s emotionally secure and open. She shows up with one suitcase and then merrily goes off to buy herself an almost entirely tartan wardrobe, which is something to behold. (This also results in a shopping montage that most certainly should have been cut. But we’re talking about positives here!)
She’s ready to pitch in and help when needed. She ably fixes Howard’s plumbing—that is not a euphemism and also very much a euphemism. She wows the socks of Howard in bed and then is fully prepared to walk away from the romance because she has other stuff she wants to do. If anyone is being saved or rescued or whatever in this movie, it’s Howard being rescued by Annabelle. And yes, she’s a version of an older woman with an eerily smooth face and thin body, but she’s still a woman well past her Hollywood sex appeal sell-by date, and I appreciate Kathie Lee Gifford not giving a shit and writing and producing a movie where she gets to play exactly the kind of role she wants to. Plus, Scotland, where the movie was filmed, is a damn fine background.
I guess, in the end, I had a lot of respect for the idea of Annabelle and her adventures, even if I did routinely pray for Scotland’s 6.8 million sheep to rise up as one and put an end to the entire disjointed jumble of half-baked plots.