Lifetime is like your paranoid aunt who’s always forwarding you articles she read about how dangerous the Internet is. That’s why I was surprised that their newest movie The Husband She Met Online pretty much abandoned the “online” theme after the first fifteen minutes and then just made it a cautionary tale about never ever trusting men. Ever. Because if they don’t cheat on you, they’ll probably just kidnap you instead. Lifetime movies are some of the best advertisements for spinsterhood I’ve ever seen.
Our heroine is hotel event planner Rachel Maleman (Meredith Monroe), whose last name is either a silly but pointless play on “mailman” or another way of reminding us that this movie’s lesson is all about men. Male men, to be more specific. Or maybe Lifetime’s finally getting into hidden clue territory and Rachel is secretly a man. Whatever it is, I like it. Rachel has been struggling with the dating scene ever since her ex-boyfriend and co-worker John (Brett Watson) cheated on her. On top of that, she has to deal with John’s constant attempts to win her back.
Fed up with meeting men in person, Rachel decides to go out with Craig Miller (played by Jason Gray-Stanford, who looks like Ken Jennings’ beardy cousin), whom she met online. Aaand the “online” part pretty much ends there, aside from some brief hacking later. But we’ll get to that.
Craig and his motorcycle-helmet-carrying brother Ryan (Damon Runyan) work for their mother. Apparently in order to gain control of the company, Craig has to marry someone his mother approves of. Mother hasn’t exactly approved of Craig’s previous girlfriends, like Dominique for instance, who is currently missing and being searched for by a P.I. Dominique’s father suspects that her “bohemian ways” led to her disappearance, a phrase which led me to have “Seasons of Love” stuck in my head for the rest of the movie. But the truth is that Craig… how you say… murdered her when she told him she was pregnant. Or there’s also Melissa, whom he assaulted and then paid off to keep quiet. What a gentleman, am I right, ladies?
Rachel and Craig have their first date when he shows up unexpectedly at a wedding she planned after she had to cancel their initial coffee date. They laugh over her story about a couple who ended up with a styrofoam wedding cake and then agree to go out again the next day. Craig rents out an entire restaurant for them, and Rachel comments, “This whole date is like something off The Bachelor.” But she seems excited about that and doesn’t roll her eyes, so I’m very confused. Then they awkwardly laugh with the waiter over the styrofoam dessert Craig had him bring out, and I think I threw up in my mouth a little.
Because she’s not very smart, Rachel agrees to go to dinner with her ex-boyfriend John, the cheater. She tells Craig she’s meeting with clients and can’t see him until later that night, but Craig’s not buying it, so he takes a break from creepily scribbling her name over and over on a notepad to follow her to the restaurant and spy on her date. The date itself is a chance for John to promise her he’ll never cheat again, as well as a chance for Rachel to prove she has the absolute worst taste by believing him. She talks to her newly pregnant roommate/co-worker Laura (Krista Morin) about her conflicted feelings. “I trust him completely,” she says of Craig as he lurks in his car outside her house. Yeah, not the best judge of character, that one.
To further size up his competition, Craig gets his hacker friend (whom he used to find out more about Rachel before they met) to get into Rachel’s computer. He reads her email and discovers that John is desperate to get her back. Clearly John must be murdered, but Craig doesn’t want to get his hands dirty so he convinces Ryan — who helped him cover up Dominique’s murder — that John knows what they did. So Ryan goes over to his house and shoots him in the chest. When he searches the house and learns who John really is, he’s understandably pissed. Rachel’s the one who finds John’s dead body when she goes to check on him after he doesn’t come to work. The downside is that John is dead, but the plus side is that now she doesn’t have to choose between guys anymore. Very convenient.
After a brief period of grieving that we don’t see, Rachel and Craig go to Los Angeles for what ends up being my favorite scene in the movie. They approach a street magician who calls Rachel forward for a trick with a magic box. “Ohhh noooo,” I said aloud while watching, realizing what would be in said box. The rest of the scene seemed to happen in slow-motion for me, because it was so perfectly ridiculous. The magician pulls out an engagement ring, and Rachel turns around to see Craig leaning out of a window in a nearby building wearing a tux and holding flowers. How he got up the stairs and into a tux in the approximate minute it took to do the trick is beyond me. If I were Rachel, I’d laugh hysterically at him before turning him down. But this is the woman who enjoyed the Bachelor date, so she obviously says yes. Big mistake. HUGE.
Here’s where the movie turns into Red Flag City. First Craig infiltrates Rachel’s dress shopping and insists she choose a cocktail-style wedding dress. Then he suggests she quit her job and start her own event-planning business with his money so he can spend more time with her. Then the P.I. comes to speak with her and tells her all about Dominique and Melissa. About twenty-five red flags too late, Rachel decides that she and Craig should reconsider things. Naturally he handcuffs her to the bed. Ryan proves no help at all when he shows up, sees what’s going on, makes a couple of attempts to stop Craig, then gives up and leaves. MAN UP, RYAN!
Craig declares that they’re going to elope and go on their honeymoon, threatening to kill Laura and her unborn baby (which turns out to be a very convenient plot device) if she doesn’t comply. On the way to the courthouse, Craig leaves Rachel’s adorable dog Cody on the side of the road. Oh no he didn’t! That would be the last straw for me. Rachel, however, just whimpers. MAN UP, RACHEL! Thankfully, this heartless animal abandonment proves helpful, because Cody’s found and his microchip is used to call Laura, who suspects something is wrong and calls the P.I., who after way too much prodding gets Ryan to reveal where they’re headed.
After a very miserable wedding ceremony at the courthouse, they head to the airport to catch a private jet to Belize. The P.I. shows up with his gun drawn, which of course leads Craig to put a gun to Rachel’s head. Meanwhile, the pilot is looking on with the best WTF face I’ve seen in a while. The P.I. quickly shoots Craig to death. I wonder if Rachel will tell that greasy-haired guy she meets in the park at the end of the movie that she’s a widow.
In conclusion, I’m very disappointed that Rachel didn’t resign herself to a life of spinsterhood, but I’m even more disappointed that we’re not told whether or not Ryan is brought to justice for KILLING JOHN! Why is there always at least one death in every Lifetime movie that gets completely glossed over and not followed up on? RIP forgotten Lifetime murder victims.