Harlequin: Diamond Girl (1998)

Directed by Timothy Bond
Written by Diana Palmer, Charles Lazer
Produced by Randall Torno, David Wicht, Kevin Lafferty, Jennifer Black, Susan Minas
Starring Joely Collins, Jonathan Cake, Kevin Otto, Blair Slater, Dyan Cannon, Denise Virieux, Royston Stoffels, Stacey Sacks, Paddy Canavan

Her consistent competency sustains the San Franciscan office of a coltishly irresponsible attorney (Otto), but That Magical, Material Makeover (on which so many romantic dramas and comedies hinge) of a frumpily pretty paralegal (Collins) may well lure her employer away from his girlfriend (Virieux), who’s greedy to broker the purchase of his family’s Californian winery and estate on behalf of a French investor (Stoffels). That’s the ploy of his pushy, peppery elder brother (Cake), another lawyer who’s angling with the paper-pusher’s freshened tresses, dresses, and cosmetics for a better deal….but his own inceptive intimacy with the newly beautified legal assistant confronts him with his noncommitment to kin, home, and love. Clunky dialog, credible characterizations, and transactional intrigues from Palmer’s novel are crisply histrionized by vivacious, good-looking players. Otto resembles a fusion of Greg Kinnear and Bob Saget, as does Cake one of Alex Stein and Christian Bale; both eventually cocreate enough heat while semi-clothed with cutie-pie Collins to stay the prurient preoccupancy of ladies as likely to watch as read the most safe and staid of all Harlequin’s publications adapted for two telecast hours. Spry Cannon cheerfully clothes the brothers’ widowed mother with sweet gentility. Toronto and Cape Town are imperfectly but suitably substituted for San Francisco (which is only actually seen in establishing exteriors), as are South African ruralities for Napa Valley. Drama doesn’t come much fluffier, nor its erotism milder.

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