When I first heard about Butlers in Love at the start of December, I was very confused. And I wasn’t the only one.
I found out about the movie from an article detailing Hallmark Channel’s lineup of “New Year New Movies” and sent it to a group chat consisting of me, my twin sister, and one of our friends. Not one of us could believe what we just read in regards to Butlers in Love. The responses ranged from “That’s the weirdest story premise I have ever heard of” to “What did I just read?”
Instead of being excited about the fact Corey Cott — an actor who my twin, my friend, and I are all a fan of — finally gets to be in a Hallmark movie, we were just utterly perplexed.
The movie’s premise concerns a budding romance that happens at a butler academy. Yes, you read that right. A butler academy. Apparently, it’s an absolutely legitimate thing that exists in reality and not just in this one Hallmark Channel movie.
Emma Conroy (Stacey Farber) is a waitress before getting accepted to the American Butler Academy in the U.S. However, she just barely gets into the school, as she was initially rejected but was given a spot after it opened up. With the news of her acceptance came a childhood dream come true.
That’s where things get strange.
Conroy has spent her entire life working toward becoming a butler, but not just any butler. A butler for a royal estate. Instead of the cliché childhood dream of wanting to become royalty, she dreams of serving royalty. I try not to judge, but the idea that serving people could be someone’s dream is baffling.
With every butler academy rejection came action to make herself a better fit, whether that meant learning French to become more worldly or taking art history to become more well-rounded.
The movie did provide fair reasoning behind Conroy’s lifelong aspirations. The dream stemmed from, understandably, a television show she loved growing up, Plumshire Manor. The show featured a butler at an estate and gave her a romanticized idea of what is buttling (that is, indeed the present participle form of “butler,” which I actually learned from the movie).
But even with the backstory, it’s tough to wrap your head around the idea that this person, from adolescence to adulthood, maintains such a dream. And it’s this exact thing that makes it difficult to enjoy the movie. Maybe it’s just the creative in me, but I spent the whole movie wondering how, of all things, that was her life’s calling. Even with her explanation of how butlers help people and make their days better and all her other idealized reasons, it’s not enough.
In true enemies to lovers fashion, Conroy’s eventual love interest, Henry Walker (Cott), makes her time at the school tough right from the start. Unfortunately, the trope isn’t that strongly employed and could’ve been utilized better.
Walker arrives at the academy late on his first day and comes off kind of as a jerk but not overly threatening or worrisome. Despite his seeming disinterest in being at a butler academy, he does well. Like, really well. It turns out Walker’s a legacy butler, which is also strange but doesn’t not make sense.
Conroy struggles at the school, and Walker nonchalantly provides her with criticisms and sometimes offers pointers with each lesson. It’s enough that Conroy is obviously bothered by him, but, given the synopsis, I expected more of a stronger dislike between them instead of a manageable annoyance.
It’s the additions of apple slices, Gruyère cheese, and mustard that Walker makes to Conroy’s seemingly failed grilled cheese that ultimately reveals a deeper side to the legacy. His disinterest in butler academy is real and stems from his desire to become a chef. The only thing stopping him? The six generations of butlers that came before him, including his father.
That’s a take on “No, Dad. That’s your dream, not mine,” that I never thought I’d come across.
The revelation makes Conroy see him as more of a person and less of a nuisance. Eventually, it’s enough that she seeks his help with improving her buttling skills — with a bit of a push anyway. All this time together gives the two time to truly get to know each other, and we get a look at how opposites attract.
They help each other see new perspectives. She pushes him to be less timid about his true desires and encourages him to take a chance on cooking as a profession, not just a hobby he excels at. He pushes her to be less rigid and structured and encourages her to relax and enjoy life.
All in all, it’s a sweet story that turns out just how you expect. And I wanted to like it for what it is. But it’s too strange for my taste.
The butler academy aspect is unique, which is probably part of the appeal of it being used at all. But if it was substituted for something else, it’d be a more enjoyable movie. It’s just somewhat unsettling to see buttling romanticized. If you can get past that and are in the mood for a Hallmark movie, perhaps you can enjoy this movie.
I also got more of a sense of innocent, lighthearted like than I did a sense of two people who have fallen in love, though. It’s fine if they’re not actually in love quite yet. “Butlers in Like” just wouldn’t work as well as a title.
Not to mention, why not just make an excuse for Walker to sing? He’s played by Cott, a Broadway veteran known best for his work as the lead in the Tony Award-winning musicals Newsies and Bandstand who does a phenomenal rendition of “Maria” from West Side Story, but I digress. This is just me promoting my own personal agenda of wanting more people to hear him sing. It couldn’t have possibly made the movie worse, though.