Movie mad Rosalie Futch (Kate Bosworth), a sweet, ordinary girl who works at a Piggly Wiggly store in Frasier’s Bottom, West Virginia, is besotted with screen hunk Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel). Meanwhile in Hollywood, worried his bad boy antics may be harming his chance to land a role in a forthcoming blockbuster, Tad agrees to participate in a contest wherein the lucky winner will land that much sought after date. No surprise that the winner turns out to be an over-the-moon Rosie, much to the delight of her friend/co-worker Cathy (Ginnifer Goodwin) and the dismay of Pete Monash (Topher Grace), who harbours a secret crush on his childhood friend. Her date with Tad goes even better than expected as the initially reluctant superstar recognises a warmth and goodness about this small town girl quite unlike anything else around his superficial life. So Tad arrives in Frasier’s Bottom, determined to woo Rosie, just as Pete is on the verge of admitting his feelings.
Rather like its heroine, this feel-good fable exudes a disarming sweetness liable to warm even the most curmudgeonly heart. In sunny-locked, lollipop luscious Rosie Futch, Kate Bosworth essays the most gosh-darn delightful character she has played since debuting in Blue Crush (2002), which makes you wonder why Hollywood struggles so hard to cast her in the right roles. Wide-eyed she may be but, winningly, Rosie is no ditz and doesn’t fall for any of Tad’s pickup lines. Instead she wins him over with her sincerity plus a propensity for folksy expressions along the lines of “shake-a-doo!” Trust me, you’ll be saying it for weeks.
Their date itself is a beautifully observed bit of writing, by Victor Levin, and acting that rings true about the goofy ways folks behave around the rich and famous, and how simply being around a happy, loving person can turn your life around. The chemistry between Bosworth and the equally engaging Josh Duhamel regrettably overshadows that between our heroine and the man we’re presumably meant to root for: Topher Grace. In spite of his unenviable predicament (Do you fancy your chances wooing the girl of your dreams against a gorgeous mega-star?), the filmmakers fail to make Pete as sympathetic as he really ought to be. Consequently, he comes across as a whiny, petulant jerk. Of course frustrated love makes jerks of us all, but as we follow Tad while he starts putting down roots in Frasier’s Bottom and takes to farm life like a duck to water, you find yourself itching to see the predictable plot take a different direction.
Levin and director Robert Luketic pitch a few curveballs to get the Rosalie-Pete romance back on track, but while Pete’s big speech in praise of his ladylove is a suitably heart-stirring moment (and pitched at Tad while he’s sitting on the toilet!), your heart sinks just a little watching a potentially marvellous movie settle for being an ordinary one. Away from the leads there are great turns from star-in-the-making Ginnifer Goodwin; Nathan Lane and Sean Hayes as Tad’s identically-named agents; Gary Cole as Rosie’s dad (“Have her back by dawn and no cocaine!”); and Kathryn Hahn ably handles some grace notes as the lovelorn and philosophically inclined bartender Angelica. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton tells the kind of story you thought died out with Sandra Dee movies. Far from classic, but wholly charming in the sheer sweetness and decency of its characters.