Sweeter than Chocolate

“Love is Worth the Grief.”

I wasn’t exactly bowled by Dan Jeannotte in the previous movie I remembered seeing him in (turns out I’ve seen him in 4 movies) and was not looking forward to this one. Chocolate. Again. Save the little Shop. Again. But he won me over right away.  He brought humor and charm to his character who started off a little smarmy and full of himself but ended up quite warm and sympathetic. And his chemistry with the female lead, Eloise Mumford, was almost tangible.  She has done an excellent job in several recent Hallmarks. She tends to star in more emotional serious scripts, rather than light comedic fare. Probably because she almost always looks like she is going to burst into tears at any given moment. This movie is sweeter and lighter in tone and she handles the banter and romantic comedy vibe pretty well though it’s not her forte.

The plot wasn’t much and has been done before quite recently (eat magic food-find true love). But despite that, thanks to the pairing of the two leads, and some entertaining side stories, I enjoyed it. Lucy and her mother own a chocolate shop that features their magic chocolate cupids. According to the family legend, anyone who is open to love and eats one of them on Valentine’s Day will meet their perfect match. When her best friend does just that and ends up getting engaged to her boyfriend, she is so over the moon that she posts about it. It goes viral and the little family legend gets the attention of a TV producer who sends her ace investigative reporter to do a story on it. In a little twist, she wants a happy feel good story, not an expose. Unfortunately, too used to looking for scams everywhere, he offends and insults Lucy and her shop and gets thrown out. When his editor tells him that a promotion to the anchor position he covets is riding on his ability to branch out from hard-hitting takedowns of scam artists to include more fluffy morning show-friendly pieces, he convinces Lucy to give him another chance. The publicity would boost sales and save their shop.

The romance between ambitious and cynical Dean Chase and shy and vulnerable Lucy is engaging. Lucy has never tried one of her own chocolate cupids because she does not want to open herself up to love and romance. She was painfully affected by how the death of her father devastated her mother for so long. Despite themselves, Dean and Lucy grow closer as the one story has led to a whole series featuring interviews with couples that the magic chocolates have brought together. She needs the sales that Dean’s stories are generating but the orders become more than the shop can handle. Things get overwhelming, a few things go wrong, Dean may be moving to New York, and Lucy does not handle any of it well. She starts to think that the magic chocolates are cursed, and generally gets all weepy and starts to go off the deep end, which Eloise Mumford is very good at. Luckily for the happy ending, Lucy’s mother steps in with her insights, wisdom, and her own backstory, and helps Lucy to understand that even though opening herself to love may sometimes lead to grief and pain, it is worth the risk. And Grandpa “Opa” would approve.

This Hallmark had a nice balance of emotional struggles, humor, character arcs, and romance. A dash of magic and a good message made for a winning recipe.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Noel Next Door

A Good Start to the Season

And so it begins. This offering is the official kick-off to Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas. By December 18th, there will be a total of 31 Christmas movies, and this does not include 9 more that will be showing on Hallmark’s Movies and Mysteries. Some will be awful, most average, and some really good. But one thing’s for sure, there will be more diversity than ever. Not only with age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation but culturally as well. Kwanzaa and Hanukkah will be celebrated and 2 Chinese celebrations will be featured. For those who like to keep that kind of thing to a minimum, you can head on over to GAC along with Candace Cameron Bure, Danica Mckellar, Jen Lilley, and Trevor Donovan. In addition, Lifetime will have an additional 15 Christmassy contributions with a little more edge to them and probably even more diversity.

Anyway back to Noel Next Door. It was excellent. A youngish recently divorced mother who works in a diner meets a handsome partially paralyzed stroke victim who is sweet and kind (he gives her a 200% tip on his takeout order) and they are instantly attracted to each other. Her name is Noelle. Yes, really. Meanwhile, her tween son has several run-ins with the neighborhood scrooge who has recently moved into the neighborhood.  In addition to insisting the condominium complex take down their Christmas tree, slamming his door in the faces of some little kid carolers, and walking around with an angry disgusted face all the time, he yells at and threatens young Henry who continually kicks his soccer ball against the wall of his condo. Noelle’s son is a nice boy at home but does have a bit of a bratty side. In other words, he acts like a real kid. Little do the two know, while they fall in love, that he is actually the Christmas-hating neighborhood grouch with an anger management problem, and she is the incompetent mother of a mean little punk.

The tension builds throughout the movie in anticipation of the two neighbors meeting in person and discovering each others’ true identities. Meanwhile, they grow more and more attached and happy with each other. It is handled very well, as the big moment doesn’t come until about the 75% mark and their reactions are pretty hilarious and well-acted. In addition to her work, her son, and her new relationship, Noelle has to deal with an ex-husband who is a one-man asshole parade. He threatens her with a lawyer when she won’t surrender her court-appointed Christmas day with young Henry to him and his mistress at their old home. There is some blind date comedy (Are you one of those people who believes our planet is round?) and some heart-tugging moments as well.

Both Corey Sevier and Natalie Hall were terrific. I still don’t like Natalie’s hair and makeup, but she did well in a more mature down-to-earth role than she is usually given. Joanna Douglas plays her sister and she was lovely and appealing as always. She needs to be given a lead role with Hallmark if she is even interested. Corey had the difficult job of being a bit of a jerk on one hand, and a sympathetic romantic lead on the other. It didn’t hurt that they had a good script to work with. It dealt with serious situations with a nice blend of comedy, drama, and romance along with a good message and plenty of Christmas Spirit to spare.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pumpkin Everything

If You Like Pumpkins, You will Love This One. If You don’t, Avoid at All Costs.

Going by the title and the description of the plot, I didn’t hold too much hope for this one, and I was right. This is just your standard Hallmark placeholder with emphasis on the season and the atmosphere, and little emphasis on making a real effort with a good story and script. There was no depth or complexity to this one at all and it is careful not to step outside the box in any way.  There was little humor, other than seeing some of the townspeople pretend to struggle to lift heavy pumpkins which were obviously very fake, very plastic, and as light as feathers.

Taylor Cole, who I didn’t recognize at first, plays Amy, a very successful best-selling author who has just finished the third in her vampire series. Ahem. She comes home right when she is to start her national publicity tour to help her mom take care of  Gramps, played by Michael Ironside who is also unrecognizable. He just drove his truck into the local coffee shop and ended up with a sprained wrist. He is a real piece of work, this one. He has spent the last 15 years or so pouting and sulking that Amy pursued her dream of being a writer instead of taking over his pumpkin store. He even backed out of paying for her college because of it. Jerk.

Despite Amy’s laudably kind and patient efforts, he obstinately remains semi-estranged from her. Add to this, he keeps having accidents because he won’t acknowledge that he is too old and delusional as to his capabilities to live alone safely. He selfishly won’t go into the retirement community which would give his daughter and granddaughter some piece of mind. And he can’t afford it anyway without selling his home and his pumpkin store. Amy’s old boyfriend, a recovering alcoholic and former delinquent (his mother died) is helping him with the store and is doing a great job.

I was just waiting for Amy to cancel her much sought-after promotional appearance on a national morning show to cater to the old coot, but that didn’t happen. If it had I would have turned this half-hearted effort off in disgust.  She was actually quite firm with him and confronted him with some home truths a couple of times. So that was good. The other bright spots were the underused Amy Groening who played Amy’s agent and the actress who played Amy’s mother. She has a little romance of her own when she charges in to confront the owner of the coffee shop who is rightly planning to sue Grandpa for demolishing his store and ends up falling for him like a ton of bricks. Also noteworthy was a super hip female resident of the retirement community who connects with Grandpa over their love of jazz. She was a star. Of course, it all works out in the end, but not without Grandpa falling off a chair end ending up in the hospital (again).  This knocks some sense into him, literally, and he finally agrees to join the retirement community. It is not explained how he is going to afford it though because he basically gives his store to Corey Sevier instead of selling it for mucho dinero. I guess poor Taylor will have to ante up with her book proceeds. Luckily, it looks like she can afford it. I’m guessing the irony of this will be lost on Grandpa.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

October 10, 2022

Big Sky River

A Parable for Step-Parents.

This was a low-key pleasant way to pass the time while also serving as a cautionary tale for loving step-parents. There’s not a whole lot of action, but then again it also avoided a lot of tired tent pole scenes and tropes that Hallmark is famous for. This was on Hallmark Murders & Mysteries, and those usually have something a little more to offer than the usual stuff that Hallmark churns out like an assembly line.

Tara is a recent divorcee whose ex-husband wants to distance her from his daughter, her step-daughter, Erin, so she can bond with his new girlfriend without Tara in the way. Tara and Erin love each other dearly. Of course they do. Tara is the only mother Erin has ever known, and Erin has been Tara’s daughter for 10 of her 13 years. But Tara has no rights now that she is divorced from Erin’s father. This is a sad and scary situation for both of them, but being a mature, reasonable woman Tara respects James’ wishes (not that she has much of a choice) and is leaving for the summer. As a young girl, she spent a vacation at a dude ranch in Parable, Montana with her parents and she has always thought back on that time fondly. No, surprisingly, this is not a Dude ranch story. The dude ranch is now defunct but she is renting a house nearby.  

While in her summer home she takes care of the resident chickens, rides horses, makes friends, and dances, but more importantly meets a handsome next-door neighbor who is also the local sheriff, and his two boys. They form a connection right away, but being parents they are cautious and careful. And, as they both know, Tara will be leaving at the end of the summer. Meanwhile, the ex-husband, Hallmark’s longstanding never-the-romantic-lead-and-also-director Peter Benson, is not having a smooth time with his daughter. She has chased off 4 nannies and the agency won’t send anymore. He basically wants to just get rid of her and she won’t go to camp. He calls Tara and asks her to take Erin for the rest of the summer. Both Tara and Erin are thrilled and Erin happily joins her mom and makes herself at home in Parable.

And that’s about it until the big crisis. I won’t go any further, but it results in Tara finally putting her foot down with James and James caving in immediately. It was the highlight of the movie.  By the end, Tara and Erin will be together in Parable with Tara and Boone pursuing their promising relationship and hopefully forming one big happy family.

I appreciated late 30 and 40-somethings dealing with age-appropriate situations. Too often, Hallmark has their 40-year-old actors dealing with life situations more common to twenty-somethings. The moral, or parable, if you will, of this story is, that if you’re the loving parent of a stepchild, better go ahead and adopt them. Marriages are not always forever but parenthood is. Don’t lose your rights to your child.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

August 18, 2022


It Wasn’t That Bad.

It was not my intention to review the much-criticized new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. But such has been the vitriol and bitterness of some of the reviews, that I can’t resist. Because I didn’t hate it. I was confused by it and confounded by some of the decisions that were made particularly concerning Anne’s character, but there was much that I enjoyed. And I certainly didn’t think everyone involved should be “thrown in prison”.

It follows the plot pretty closely. All of the characters are substantially the same people as in the book and the very faithful films.  Except for Anne. Anne is not the same character at all. The mumblings and murmurings started with the miscasting of the gorgeous Dakota Johnson as the mousy beaten-down Anne. And the trailer really got people going. Since Anne Elliott is one of Austen’s most beloved characters, the sneak peak did not sit well with many. Particularly the hyper-vigilant “Janeites”. Because of all the hate, I approached this movie with an open tolerant mind and sat down to be entertained. One aspect of the movie that has incurred much criticism is Anne continually breaking the fourth wall. She makes sarcastic and witty comments to the viewer about the behavior of her family members. Her observations are dead on. “My Father. He’s never met a reflective surface he didn’t like. Vanity is the beginning and end of his character. Also the middle.” She gives the viewers sly glances when one of her fellow characters does or says something particularly absurd. It was clearly an attempt to interject Austen’s own voice into the narrative and simultaneously enliven Anne.

As Sir Walter Elliot, Richard E. Grant could not have been better. In fact, all of the actors except one were good to excellent. But things started to get weird almost immediately. Instead of keeping Anne’s outspoken and barbed observations between herself and the audience, she calls out her relatives directly to their faces. Anne is shown to be publicly full of verve and spirit. If they had kept this facet of her personality a secret between Anne and us, her confidants, they could have kept much of the integrity of her character. They missed an opportunity to show how Anne’s true feelings and opinions are at odds with the way she is forced to navigate her world. She acts out and in the process makes her character eccentric and at times, incomprehensible.  There are many examples but most jarring was Anne spouting off out of the blue and unprovoked during a dinner party to all and sundry that she herself was the first choice of Charles, her sister Mary’s husband. Needless to say, she brings the merry party to a standstill. However true, even the most socially inept meanest mean girl wouldn’t do that! It was almost Tourettes-like. I can’t think of why this was done, as well as the many many other examples of weird behavior Anne displays such as the octopus speech and drinking way too much wine right from the bottle. The director replaced Anne Eliot with Bridget Jones. Remember Bridget’s response at the dinner table full of couples that all singletons having scales? And as Bridget Jones, Dakota Johnson was charming and funny. She just wasn’t Anne Eliot in a work that is supposed to be all about the character regaining her bloom and spirit long suppressed by sorrow and regret. There is nothing to prevent This Anne from going after her heart’s desire right from the get-go.

There was little to no chemistry between Anne and Captain Wentworth, who looked decidedly grungy throughout the production. I didn’t care for him. Henry Golding’s shady and scheming William Eliot actually falls in love with the common and unattractive Mrs. Clay and marries her at the end. Just weird and nonsensical. Back to the good. The cinematography was beautiful and the scenery and fashions were both lovely. I actually liked the contemporary pop-culture parlance (“playlist,” “fashion forward,” “you’re a 10,” “we’re exes”, “I’m an empath,” etc.) I thought it was fresh, whimsical, and definitely brave. I was drawn in as I always am by Jane Austen’s regency world however askew this one was. In fact, I rather enjoyed the off-center vibe.

I was able to tolerate the strange choices by the writer and director while I was looking at it. It was only later upon reflection that my feelings started to sour. I hated that they could have made Anne a modern kick-ass heroine, while still maintaining the integrity of one of Jane Austen’s most interesting creations and her truly moving character arc. I hear that Netflix is (or was) planning to bring more of Austen’s novels to the screen. If they decide to go ahead with this despite the fact that “everyone” hates this one, I will be very curious and interested.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

July 20, 2022


More Than I Expected

This movie came to my attention thanks (many thanks) to a comment on one of my reviews. Thank-you Sally Silverscreen of https://18cinemalane.com/. In reading the brief synopsis I thought I was in for a juicy soap opera/romance along the lines of The Scapegoat or Barbara Stanwick’s No Man of Her Own. The first scene challenged my preconceived expectations when it opens as two adults are discussing the death of someone who appears to be the eponymous Caroline. The rest of the movie is told in a flashback beginning 2 or 3 decades earlier.

An attractive young woman appears at the door of a mansion and claims to be the long-believed dead daughter of the house. Suspiciously just in time to claim her part of an inheritance. Is she an imposter and a scammer? Seems likely. And yet it isn’t really about that. Whether she is or isn’t it becomes clear as she interacts with the rest of the family that she is a good person and very smart and capable. Further, she seems to be on a mission to improve the lives and futures of her two young possible step-siblings. The young daughter is stricken with cerebral palsy and spoiled and overly protected by her mother. She is treated like a pet or a baby to the point that her parents don’t even know she can read let alone put her own coat on. They expect her brother to be her constant companion. He is destined to be her caretaker when their parents are no longer able to. So he is trapped and isolated as well, with no friends, future prospects, or chance of happiness.

Caroline’s developing relationship with the children and with the other family members, her conflict with the mother’s wrong-headed ignorant notions of how to treat her children, her brave strategies to help the young kids, and the complex relationships among the family members add up to a compelling drama. To add to this we have deeply interesting and complex characters (especially the children) and the overarching mystery of who is Caroline really, and how and why did she come to this family. The answer is revealed near the end in a letter to the boy and it is not shocking but quite touching. The final bookend scene in which all is revealed as to Caroline’s accomplishments up to her death, the impact she made on the 2 children, as well as the entire community and beyond, is poignant and beautiful.

Of course, the whole plot is wildly implausible, and there are certainly some unanswered questions.   There was some drama and suspense created at the expense of common sense and established characterization. There is a whiff of Lifetime Movie Network about this Hallmark Hall of Fame production. But so many positives completely outweigh the flaws and make it very deserving of its 1990 Emmys for Best Direction and Best Made for Television Movie. Not to mention Patricia Neal and Dorothy Macguire adding their considerable cachet in small but key roles. I highly recommend seeking it out. It isn’t hard to find and is free on YouTube and Amazon Prime.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July 11, 2022

A Gift to Remember


I really enjoyed this one back in 2017, but I never reviewed it. It came up again during Christmas in July or Merry Movie Week or whatever so I decided to re-watch it. I am pleased to say it really held up.

 First off, it was based on an amnesia scenario and thus was able to avoid the city bad/country good rescue the whatever from the evil corporation,” Let’s go to or save the festival!” Hallmark tent poles. It was actually set in Philadelphia although it is debatable whether it was filmed there. Another point in its favor was that this featured an interracial secondary romance, fairly unusual in 2017 for Hallmark. Third and most important were the talents and charm of the two stars Ali Liebert and Peter Porte. Ali has been up and down with me depending on the state of her botox treatments. One of her main appeals is her unusually expressive eyebrows. So when her eyebrows are working, all is well. I know that sounds funny, but it’s true! This is early-ish in her Hallmark career and her first lead role in a Hallmark after languishing in the friend zone for a couple of years. Peter Porte’s acting chops are not up to Ali’s but he is too gorgeous to be real and he seems like a nice guy. They worked well together.

Ali plays Darcy, a shy and reticent bookstore employee who does not like to take chances or rock the boat. She accidentally runs over Peter Porte on her bike sending him into retrograde amnesia. She feels responsible because she is so nice and in her desire to help him regain his memory she starts uncovering clues to his background and identity. By doing this, she discovers she is persistent, a problem solver, and is willing to conquer the fears which are holding her back from going for the job as manager of the bookstore. She figures out that he is rich, has an important job in the literary world, doesn’t like Christmas, and is about to become engaged to his girlfriend. These conclusions make sense given the clues, but don’t make sense as she comes to know Aiden and don’t jive with his gradually returning memory either. So we have a little mystery going on as well as a roadblock to their growing attraction to each other.  When the truth comes out, it all makes perfect sense and all of the details are tied up. (He is single for one thing) Aiden’s real story results in a very nice ending with Darcy meeting his real family, and her little local bookstore triumphing over Mega-book’s ruthless machinations. And she gets promoted to manager. Ali Liebert just has a special spark in this, and she was just charming.

This part is really silly, but I really liked her make-up. It was pretty rather than glamorous until she had a fancy event to attend, and only then did she have the false eyelashes and the red lipstick. It seems like these days Hallmark actresses put on the Glamour Shots treatment just to walk the dog. Oh, the good old days of 2017.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 26, 2022

Falling for a Dancer

Far from the Madding Crowd Meets Maeve Binchy. With a Hint of Pride and Prejudice.

I had never even heard of this almost 25-year-old British historical drama, one of my favorite genres. Someone, to whom I am most grateful, mentioned it in one of the Facebook Groups I belong to. I believe it was the British Period Drama group. Well, I looked into it, read the reviews, decided it was right up my alley, and bought it on DVD on impulse. I forgot to see if it was available on YouTube. (It is.)

Innocent, pretty Elizabeth is seduced by a traveling actor who leaves her pregnant in the Ireland of the 1930s. Since her socially respectable and well-off parents refuse to let her stay at home to have her baby (Oh the scandal), she is presented with two options. Either go to a Magdalene asylum or marry a 40-year-old farmer with 4 young daughters whose wife just died. She decides to go to the asylum but when she walks in and takes a look at the horrors she walks out. She has no other choice but to agree to the arranged marriage with a man old enough to be her father. At least she can keep her baby. It’s quite the culture shock.

What follows is Elizabeth’s life in the country with her new family. Her husband drinks and keeps her on a tight leash but was probably no better or worse than many men those days. Also, we are introduced to her husband’s cousin and neighbor, Mossy, whom he hates.  Mossy, a decent, respected, (and very attractive) man falls in love with Elizabeth at first sight. Elizabeth is not similarly affected.

 Elizabeth has her baby and we pick up the story 6 years hence and we see that Elizabeth has had a child with her husband. She has become a hardworking and loving and loved mother to the girls, except one, who is hostile and never accepts her. We also see that she is enduring a life of boring drudgery but seems to have largely come to terms with it. And always we have attractive Mossy lurking in the background.

One day, she and her wise older friend Tilly go to Dublin with a group for a treat. There she coincidentally meets the cad who is the father of her 6-year-old child and has words with him. She is spotted by one of the party who tells her husband what they think they saw. He is a jealous drunk, and in his rage, he rapes her almost in front of the children. And things continue to disintegrate. (spoilers)

The Drama comes thick and fast with bad behavior on the part of our heroine, more abuse, a scary accident, a tragic accident, homicide, and lots of remorse on the part of several people, a courtroom trial, and another young teen in terrible trouble. And  Mossy is always there in the background ready to help and support. In addition to the bad stuff, we also have a joyful recovery, reconciliation, and hope for change and growth. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when(and this is a big spoiler)

Elizabeth goes to the local priest about her pregnant daughter.

“ … If she’s in trouble, I…”

“No, she’s not in trouble. She’s pregnant.”

“Well if you’re looking for my help…”

“ No, I’m not, Canon. I knew you would want to help, and I just want to reassure you that we can manage by ourselves. I just wanted to be the first to let you know.”

The almost 3 1/2 hour 4 part series ends most satisfyingly and happily. Though we know Elizabeth will not have an easy life, it is a life she freely chooses. There will be struggles but there will be happiness and fulfillment as well. For me, it measured up to the glowing reviews.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

May 13, 2022

Aloha With Love

Lots of Crying

This one was pretty good with some problems. I liked the actress who played the female lead. Tiffany Smith had unusual strong features that went beyond typically pretty. She reminded me of Jamie Gertz. However, I usually do not appreciate the ubiquitous Trevor Donovan, an often used actor for Hallmark and its clones. This one was on UPtv. He is just so BLOND. His acting is no more than competent and brings nothing special to roles, except a very muscular chest which is shirtlessly shown off to great effect here. He is very popular though, apparently. It’s a me problem.

Gemma is a star architect who works with her boyfriend of 4 years, a realtor, who also works at their firm. She presents a top-notch brilliant proposal for a condominium to a developer. He is crass and insulting to her, presumably because she is a woman. And even though she answers all the questions with which he had hoped to trip her up, he turns the firm down and rudely walks out using the excuse that there are 66 units rather than the 76 he had asked for. Her boyfriend blames her and behaves like a jackass. So right away you hate the guy and are rooting for her to break-up with him. And she does! So now I’m a fan even though she cries about losing him for some reason.

She gets word that her beloved aunt has passed away(more crying) in Hawai’i and has left her valuable property, and a not-so-valuable house to her and her sister to sell or keep as they wish. The one condition is that they have to restore and renovate the tumbledown house first and use Trevor as the contractor who (shocker!) happens to be Gemma’s ex. Obviously we have a “matchmaking from the grave” situation.

All precedes very predictably with the two clashing over the job at first. She just wants a “refresh” so she can get back to her career in L.A. quickly, and he wants the complete renovation the house deserves. They learn to work together, and romance boringly ensues. But Uh oh. Here comes the old boyfriend all contrite because now she’s rich. And he wants her to sell the property to creepy condominium developer and she actually agrees to it. So now I am not such a fan.

We have a very long mawkish sappy scene with Gemma’s father crying about his sister, and a nothing short of miraculous transformation of a shack to house beautiful in 48 hours. Seeing the house as it was meant to be causes Gemma to rethink the sale (just as Trevor predicted). She is still unsure but thanks to her jackass ex publicly and suspiciously  proposing marriage right there on the lawn and arrogant condominium guy stupidly insulting her again (!) (he just can’t help himself) she comes to her senses.

So lots of crying (bad) spectacular scenery (good), male costar I don’t like (bad), new fresh female lead (good), strong supporting characters (good). Impossibly speedy home renovation (complete with Art)-(bad), and impossibly stupid bad guys (bad). Also it was tremendously risky of Trevor to renovate a house, spending dozens of thousands of dollars when chances were it would be demolished in a week or two (bad). It’s a Hallmark 6.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

May 8, 2022

Art of Falling in Love

Poor guy


This one started out strongly. I liked Kimberley Sue Murray in Love Upstream. There’s something about curly red hair… and she was very funny and likable. The hero I wasn’t familiar with, but I liked his down-to-earth normal guy looks. It appeared that it was going to go out of the box a bit as there was a bit of a very subtle Christian theme, and the heroine is seen getting alarming dizzy spells and popping prescription pills. Hmmmm… this might be interesting.

Vanessa (Murray) is an artist who gets commissions to paint murals on hospital walls that she doesn’t charge for. She is famous and acclaimed and travels all over the country. She is working on a mural for a children’s wing that Nate designed and she overhears him saying he isn’t sure it fits in with his vision. OOOh, them’s fightin’ words. She spunkily tells him the mural is not for him but for the sick children. Good one, Vanessa! Of course, he apologizes and they make up and the love story commences. We learn through flashbacks that she had cancer and was very close with another cancer patient who died. The dead one is her “guardian angel” and she also left Vanessa a trust fund and a list of activities (take tango lessons, go rock climbing, go scuba diving, take a cooking class, fall in love, get married, stuff like that) to live life to the fullest. She shows him the list and he innocently calls it a bucket list. She freezes up. This is the first in a long line of her giving him the cold shoulder over something she takes offense to or some innocent infraction of her precious privacy.

Things go downhill from there, for me. Despite feeling the attraction and connection (whenever she is by herself she swans around and simpers with happiness at the thought of him) she often acts standoffish and demanding when with him. She will not share and is so closed off and secretive about her past that he thinks she is dying rather than recovering from an illness. He himself is just recovering from a divorce because his wife cheated on him. So he is vulnerable and not into secrets. When he finds her passed out on the floor, a side effect of her medication, he begs her to open herself up and let him in. She states petulantly that she is not ready and says something along the lines of “it is her prerogative and her life to live as she pleases.” When he replies, “Well I’ll leave you to it then,” and leaves, I almost cheered. She sees she went a little too far with her mess and apologizes.

Her nonsensical hot and cold behavior continues until it all comes to a head. He finds out his ex-wife, who refused to have children with him, is pregnant. He is hurt and angry and leaves town to take care of a building emergency in Boston. Finally sick and tired of Vanessa’s predilection to take offense at every little thing and lack of openness, trust, and honesty, he cuts her off. Meanwhile, she learns she has a clean bill of health and accepts another commission in Vermont. He comes back, and she is sulky about his treatment of her (even though she tells his mother she doesn’t blame him) and he APOLOGIZES AGAIN. But of course, she has to torture him some more before she finally “forgives” him. I swear, he is a glutton for punishment because they get married. In the end, I positively hated her which is why I gave this a failing grade despite its strong points. Shout out to Kelly Bishop of the Gilmore girls who played Nate’s mother, the misguided matchmaker.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

February 24, 2022