Love in Glacier National: A National Park Romance

Snow Job

This one left me cold. The plot was the usual boring and predictable with the added bonus of annoying characters (3), examples of lazy incomprehensible plot elements (2 main ones), and downright offensive stereotypes of women (2). It drove my rating below  5 stars, that is, not entertaining but tolerable, into 3 or 4-star territory (not entertaining plus something very very wrong here.) It had some beautiful mountain scenery if you do not mind it was not filmed in Glacier National Park or any National Park at all, or even in this country.  The title of this one would be the worst ever for a Hallmark even if it were filmed in Glacier National Park.

Heather is a world-renowned expert in snow and avalanches. She has a doctorate in the subject and has developed a technology that predicts them with proven accuracy. She accepts an invitation to visit an old friend’s ski resort and install the forecasting equipment. She brings her sister who has spent the last of her and her husband’s savings on IVF treatments to get pregnant. It has been very hard on them and she needs a break while waiting to find out whether this last treatment has worked. Heather meets handsome hunky Chris who is the head of the search and rescue team. He is not only a Luddite who eschews her science-based life-saving technology, he is downright offensive about it. He relies on looking at the weather and sniffing and tasting the snow to determine whether the ski runs are safe. No kidding. His whole team is open-minded and on board, but when he stumbles into her class he rudely stands at the threshold disruptively chewing on a donut, and then leaves. Nevertheless, he is a good father to his motherless young teen daughter Samantha.  That, combined with his hunky hotness is enough for Heather to fall for him despite his disrespect for her life’s work. Especially when he emerges shirtless from the sauna looking like the top half of every action figure ever made and just as plastic. The daughter is played by Amelie Wolf, the daughter of the director. She is a Hallmark regular kid actor and she is fine. Unfortunately, Heather has a rival in red-haired Sonya, a shallow catty jealous massage therapist. She is so unprofessional that when she sees the sparks between Chris and Heather she tries to hurt Heather on the massage table. Sonya is the worst stereotype of a man-hungry desperate female (see paragraph 1) She even comes to his cabin at night to seduce him with his daughter practically in the same room. Amusingly, Samantha calls her on putting lipstick on before she goes to bed. Heather’s sister is similarly enamored by Chris’s hotness swooning and drooling all over him on her sister’s behalf because she needs a man to be happy. (Offensive stereotype #2.)

That takes care of the annoying characters. There were two plot points that were needlessly mishandled. The first was fairly minor. When Sonya shows up at a party where Chris and Heather are dancing, she is told off by his daughter in the one entertaining scene in the movie. She stops Sonya in her tracks. “My dad is with someone smart who chooses Chapstick over lip plumper. Now is not the best time.” Sonya retorts by telling her that she has some things to “talk over” with her dad which comes across as a veiled threat. I was sure curious!  But she leaves the party and the whole thing is just dropped. We never see her again. The more egregious one involves the suspense of whether the sister’s IVF, her last, has finally worked. [SPOILER ALERT] She finally gets up the nerve to take the pregnancy test while Heather is at the party. Tragically it is negative and she looks devastated. But the next morning, all is well and we have a scene where she and Chris’s daughter are yucking it up in a hot tub and jumping out to make snow angels in their bathing suits giggling uncontrollably. She doesn’t even tell her sister the I guess not so devastating news after all, and her sister doesn’t care enough to ask. Again, the whole thing is just left hanging never to be referred to again. Both loose ends could have been easily fixed with a quick edit or two. That they just left it is lazy and contemptuous of their viewers.

Despite her great relationship with his daughter and her attraction to Chris, Heather can not handle his disrespect and his refusal to even consider being open to using her technology as a tool. She pleads with him to trust her and hits him with argument after argument but nothing doing. She is strong and persistent but he won’t even explain himself.  To his surprise and disbelief (!), she walks out on him. This guy. It is only when her method saves his life, the lives of his team, and an injured skier that he admits he was wrong and apologizes.  That’s what it takes. But not before he checks with a male colleague who went to Heather’s training sessions first. What a prize.

The music was annoying and weird. The only other plus besides the scenery and Samantha’s takedown of Red Sonya was that Heather only brought 2 coats. You would have to be a Hallmark regular to understand how ground-breaking this is.

Rating: 3.5 out of 10.

The Wedding Veil Journey

The Best of the Bunch

At the beginning of the movie, The three friends have gotten together and since they are also enjoying their wine, we know it’s been well over a year since the end of “Inspiration” when we learned Emma was newly pregnant. It’s been a total of 3 years since they first bought the veil. We follow Tracy (Alison Sweeney) home and we see that she and Nick (Victor Webster) rarely see each other, as she works during the day as the head of an art auction house, and he at night at his two restaurants. After talking to her friends, Tracy is inspired to give her marriage the kick in the pants it needs and the two end up going on their long-delayed honeymoon. They decide on Greece, the veil in tow, to lend to Nick’s still single sister in Spain. As in the second installment, we are treated to some gorgeous scenery throughout the movie.

I believe this one was very well done. It was very well put together and although not really comedic, had plenty of amusing scenes, dialogue, and a lot of heart. Alison and Nick’s relationship was very loving and mature. Any rough patches were handled by communication and a sense of humor. At one point, Nick starts surreptitiously doing the cooking for one of the owners of the struggling inn they are staying at. His food is inedible which is both a running gag and a real problem. Tracy is irritated when he starts “working” on their honeymoon, but, no worries, it is handled with no silly drama. There is drama in this one, but it is definitely not silly. Tracy and Nick get close to a cute orphan boy, a talented artist and athlete, but who lives at his school under the rule of a temperamental headmaster who actively discourages his art. As he explains to the interfering Americans, Leo will have to earn his living when he leaves the school and can’t afford to indulge his talent in a vocation that will not support him.  He has no one to fall back on, unlike impractical art majors. The neighbor who was raising him after his parents died had to be put in a care facility for early Alzheimer’s. Leo lovingly sends him his drawings weekly but it is doubtful he even remembers Leo. It is a very tragic situation and when Tracy and Nick take Leo to visit him it is a real tearjerker.

Meanwhile, in the light sweet romance department,  the veil works its magic with the young beautiful Inn owner and the grandson of a wealthy aristocrat played by Jane Asher, a British actress most famous for being engaged to Paul McCartney in the 1960s. When the young man called her “Granny”, it was jarring, to say the least. Equally jarring was learning she is almost 80 years old! Off the subject, but hey, we all love the romance and happy endings Hallmark is famous for, right? After her very public breakup with Paul, Jane Asher met Gerald Scarfe, a famous English illustrator and cartoonist. They have been together for over 50 years, and happily married for over 40. Can we have a movie about that, please?

There was a lot going on in this 6th Wedding Veil movie: Mystery (the veil keeps disappearing) light romance, Humor (the inedible food and the victims’ efforts not to hurt the amateur chef’s feelings) suspense and drama ( the antagonistic head of the school), and some real heartwarming moments involving how Tracy and Nick handle their attachment to Leo and how they help him.  Tracy and Nick have to have a think about their whole lifestyle and the kind of people they are individually and as a couple.  I thought it was well handled, with due respect given to balancing each of their careers with their relationship along with how they handle the situation with Leo. Unlike some of its predecessors,  All of the plot threads were fully developed, interconnected, and well-integrated into one coherent story. We are also treated to a thought-provoking defense of the importance of art in everyday life.

Yes, Autumn Reeser and Lacey Chabert do horn in on Alison’s honeymoon, Autumn on a small pretext, but Lacey flying halfway around the world on no pretext whatsoever. This does serve to illustrate what a good sport Nick is, however. Tracy is one lucky woman. I want to add that Alison’s acting in this was superb. I once referred to Alison Sweeney as Hallmark’s best crier. She is, IMHO, but in this one, her performance was truly moving. And she was funny too.

After a 7th couple is brought together by the Wedding Veil, (Nick’s sister is now married, we hear,) Tracy, whose skepticism is a running thread throughout the series is forced to admit that she has no choice but to believe in Magic.  The movie ends with the women going shopping, being lured into a shop, and tempted by a beautiful antique necklace that, oh no! has a legend attached to it. Everything has come full circle. Well played, Hallmark.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

The Wedding Veil Inspiration

Terror in the Art Department

I liked most of this one. The script was smart and the plot was multilayered without being all over the place. All of the actors did a nice job.  Emma’s (Autumn Reeser) slowness to realize her professional life needed a reset got on my last nerve, but mostly it was very enjoyable, buoyed considerably by the charm of the secondary romance. The movie picks up a few months after the ending of  Lacey Chabert part II, A.K.A. The Wedding Veil Expectations. Paolo and Emma are living in Chicago with Emma pursuing her career goal of being the director of the Art History Department at the University.  Paolo is in the midst of opening the new Chicago location of his family’s lace business.


While her rigid taskmaster of a boss is preparing Emma to take her place as department head, Paolo is called back to Italy to deal with his father’s health crisis. Meanwhile, a cousin, Matteo, has left his home in Miami to live in Chicago and take over the day-to-day running of the new store. During the grand opening Matteo meets Lily, Emma’s assistant, and due to an almost accident, they both touch The Veil together and their fate is sealed. Carlo Marks as Matteo, and Kacey Rohl as Lily are both charming and appealing with Lily, in particular, having a quirky and well-rounded personality with a nice sense of humor. And a terrible haircut.

The main event, however, is the trouble Emma is having at work which is causing some hiccups in her and Paolo’s personal life and worrying her two best friends. The more she is groomed by her boss to take over the long-dreamed-of position, the more unhappy she becomes. Her very bossy boss insists she give up her teaching assignments, work longer hours (leaving less time with Paolo,) go to bureaucratic meetings, and stop posting her popular educational art videos. Emma complies unhappily with each new restriction. It is obvious to the viewer and everyone else except her that the post that has always been her professional goal is not a good match for her. When will the light dawn? When her tyrannical boss advises Autumn that she must give up her stylish wardrobe because it doesn’t reflect the image she must project, I thought that that surely must be the last straw. I mean, why would an ART professor have a wardrobe like a trial lawyer? But sure enough, she shows up at work the next day in a black “who died?” suit getting looks from all of her friends and colleagues. At this point, I was getting remote-throwing level frustrated with her not putting her foot down. Adding to the pressure, are Paolo’s increasing obligations in Italy. Long-distance relationships don’t work for Emma, and she is in a quandary.

All is resolved finally with an unanticipated (by me, anyway) twist, that puts a new light on Emma’s struggles and bumped my rating up a star. I liked that Paolo was loving, clear-eyed, and patient throughout all of the drama, but was not a doormat.  I liked the lesson Emma learned at the end about building a happy life with your husband and working towards professional goals. But I wish she had learned it without being driven by force to the end of her rope.

Next week we have the last entry in this second trilogy. I am a little worried about that one because according to the previews it has Autumn and Lacey horning in on Alison Sweeney and Victor Webster’s delayed honeymoon. All I can say is that the reason for this intrusion better be good.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

A Country Wedding and The Perfect Catch

A Reassessment

Withdrawal from my routine of watching then reviewing the new Hallmark (and occasionally other) Christmas movies led me to re-watch two old Hallmarks from 2015 and 2017. These are ones that I have rated but never reviewed. A Country Wedding, I originally rated as a 7, and The Perfect Catch I rated as a 6. A Country Wedding is a favorite with Hallmarkies with glowing reviews on IMDb and is frequently included in “All-time Favorite, Best of” type lists. Also, it stars one of my favorites, Autumn Reeser.  I anticipated going up in my rating as is usual with movies that I originally rated long ago. With due respect for their recent first-rate efforts, I have sadly had to adjust my standards downwards for Hallmarks in the last few years. At the end, it remained a 7. The Perfect Catch stars a favorite duo:  Nikki Deloach and Andrew Walker. I bumped this one up to a 7 when I finished with it.

I was pretty disappointed in A Country Wedding given my expectations.  Autumn as the owner of a struggling horse rescue ranch was great of course, and Jesse Metcalfe as a country music star was a good match for her.  Also good was Laura Mennell in a ropy blond wig as Jesse’s movie star fiance as was Lauren Holly as her henchwoman/manager. Jesse leaves  Lauren in Hollywood while he cuts ties with his past by finally selling his dead family’s old farm. While there in the country he gets re-acquainted with his old childhood best friend and next-door neighbor, played by Autumn.

There were two main reasons why this one did not impress me as much as I thought it would. First, the southern accents were way over the top and really got on my nerves. Related is the SOP of stereotyping southern small-town people. More importantly, were the characters of the two leads. Autumn was smart and strong. Jesse was dumb and weak. What was he doing engaged to that shallow self-centered Hollywood thing to begin with?  But worse, he persists in stubbornly deceiving himself that he lu-u-u-vs her and continues planning the wedding in the face of huge red flags, not to mention his growing love for Autumn. She is helping him plan the wedding as he had the fine idea to get married there in a barn instead of in Hollywood. When he kisses her in front of everyone on a crowded dance floor, Autumn wisely realizes she is getting in over her head with an engaged man and backs off. Jesse won’t let her alone and follows her around like a puppy dog. He doesn’t get it. Since he won’t take the hint, Autumn is forced to lay it all on the table with no kidding around, even telling him that he does not love his fiance because he doesn’t even know her.  This straightforward honesty is rare in a Hallmark. But instead of seeing the light, he ignores the good advice and ends up apologizing for the kiss explaining that he just got “lost in the moment” and was carried away. It takes the spectacular arrival of his fiance and a lot more hits with the clue stick before he finally finally finally wises up. Autumn takes him back at the end, the fact that he bought her ranch (without knowing it!) having nothing to do with it, of course.

A Perfect Catch met my expectations of impressing me more now than it did originally. It deserved to be bumped up a notch. First of all the easy rapport between Nikki Deloach and Andrew Walker was very enjoyable as usual. Andrew plays a star pitcher who hasn’t been able to find a new team after giving up a grand slam in the World Series. He returns to his hometown and his Mom and Dad to lay low while waiting on his agent to bring him some good news. He meets his old girlfriend, Nikki, who owns a struggling diner in town. She is a divorced single mother of a son who loves baseball but is awful at it.  While he coaches her son he starts to feel more and more at home in the small town and with Nikki. Meanwhile, he repairs the strained relationship with his Dad and encourages Nikki in her brave idea for boosting the diner’s profile and sales. Even though she is in debt and against the advice of her stick-in-the-mud risk-averse accountant boyfriend, she buys a food truck. Her standing her ground against her boyfriend and giving him the heave-ho in a timely and decisive manner is definitely cheer-worthy. And the food truck is a massive success! Yay! Andrew retires from pitching but gets a great position in  MLB that allows him to stay with Nikki and her son! Yay! Plus he will coach at the local school! Yay! And the kid hits a home run! Yay! Totally predictable but very satisfying with an especially neatly resolved and very happy ending for everyone involved. And a special shout out to Lisa Durupt, Hallmark sister/supportive friend/ second fiddle extraordinaire who gives another cute and charming performance. Also liked Andrew’s haircut. He should go back to that floppy-hair look.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

The Wedding Veil Expectations

Expectations Met, but not Exceeded

I found this only mildly entertaining. It was good to see the three women together again, I like the actress’s rapport and their characters’ solid long-term supportive friendship, and Lacey Chabert’s wardrobe choices remain a constant source of fascination. I will be front and center for Autumn Reeser’s turn in the spotlight next week. Or at least my DVR will be.

Basically, the plot was a series of bumps in the road and challenges revolving around Lacey’s character discovering that she’s pregnant, and dealing with a new and antagonistic executive director who has complete creative control over the museum in which she devotedly works. And other unrelated stuff. It is an episodic plot rather than one having a focused beginning, middle, and end.

First, we have the dilemma of how and when she is going to break the happy baby news to her husband. Her perfect romantic setting and plans are upended a couple of times. Finally, she just bursts out with the news after a little fight and all is well.

We have her hormones acting up and some amusing scenes regarding forgetfulness, cravings, aversions, nausea, and heightened emotions. Lacey is great in these scenes.

We have the loneliness of her mother-in-law established. A suitable love interest presents himself when she holds the magical veil. But hold the phone. Peter, her son and Lacey’s husband disapproves and is suspicious. He is rude, so we have the resulting break-up. She tells her swain she is still in love with her dead husband and also the new relationship is making her son unhappy. So which is it?

Meanwhile, we have Peter, the son and husband in question struggling with his conflicted feelings. There is an awkward but, thanks to the actors, entertaining, first meeting at a restaurant.

We have a big home renovation money-pit sub-plot. Lacey and Peter have bought an old historic home with lots (and lots) of constantly emerging problems. They pop up throughout the movie. They did not generate too much concern though, because Peter and Lacey are fabulously wealthy and can well handle the expense. Thus, Peter’s frustration and distress over all the bad news the doom merchant contractor continues to bring is kind of boring and comes across as a little whiny.  And why does a contractor care about Lacey’s color choice for her curtains anyway? Picky, I know, but it was just one of those “huh?” moments.

And Let’s not forget Peter’s tussles with the typically mean school board regarding the art program he heads. Several scenes about that.

And wait, there’s more. We have Lacey’s conflict with her “arrogant, opinionated” boss who wants to improve the suffering attendance at the museum by changing up the art. This includes getting rid of the first trilogy’s Amici portrait and the magical wedding veil it depicts. The drama of the conflict was blunted for me because I actually saw his point. In all of the scenes in the museum, I never saw one paying visitor. He was just doing his job. He thinks Lacey is a dilettante and overly emotional and invested in lace. In fairness, I couldn’t really blame him. Also I kind of liked the S.O.B. I was hoping that he would touch the veil, find love with Lucy the assistant, and turn into a good guy.

Throughout it all, we have Lacey on the phone or in person with her buddies venting, confiding, and getting advice and support. Alison Sweeney shone particularly in one of these scenes, turning insignificant dialogue into a genuinely touching half-a-minute.

All is resolved happily: Lacey’s professional challenges in particular by a scheme that dramatically bolsters the museum’s languishing attendance and saves the painting. It should have been enacted long before. I guess sometimes it takes a  bad guy to get the good guys off their patooties.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Game, Set, Love

Forfeit This One

Taylor, a tennis coach, is approached by her old doubles partner, Ashley, to coach her prospective new partner, William, who is a high-profile singles player. He is temperamental and has gone through 4 coaches in the last year. He needs to soften his image by showing that he can be a good partner, and Ashley needs to raise her profile by playing with a well-known star. Taylor doesn’t really want to but is finally convinced. When Ashley hurts her ankle on a team-building hike, Taylor has to step in to take her place in the tournament.

My main problem with this one was the casting of the male lead. He did not have an athletic build and didn’t look strong like a tennis player at all. His complexion was pasty like he did not spend any time outdoors on a tennis court. As an actor, he came across as cold and disinterested. While in “resting face” or not consciously making an effort, there seemed to be nothing behind his eyes.

He was too young for the lovely Davida Williams, the female lead. This age mismatch was exacerbated by the characters’ personalities. She was a mature educator and taskmaster as a coach. He played a whiny entitled childish brat. Throughout. The way he treated his parents near the end was despicable and mean. This dynamic does not make for a believable romance. If you want to see a good romantic comedy based on Tennis, see Wimbledon.

I find it hard to believe that Venus Williams and Tracy Austin were associated with this production.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

August 30, 2022

The Dog Lover’s Guide to Dating

Bad Doggy!

Based on the lively previews, I was looking forward to this first Hallmark offering of 2023. I’m sorry to say that it was very disappointing. Especially considering the sometimes stellar parade of Christmas movies. The first scene with a dog getting away from Corey Sevier and creating havoc among picnickers in a park was entertaining and amusing, but it went downhill from there. Plot and character-wise, it ended up dull and mediocre throughout, although the script had some semi-clever lines, occasionally.

Corey Sevier plays an advertising guy who is trying to get together with a beautiful model turned designer, We know she is meant to be shallow and “not worthy”  by her valley girl inflections and vocal fry. Her dog is a hindrance to the insipient romance as he is badly behaved and doesn’t like Corey. After Corey is rescued by our dog-trainer heroine from the ruckus in the park, he hires her to train the dog or help him train the dog, or train him to handle the dog, or something.

I didn’t like her. Her character has been stunted by her father’s abandonment of her and her sister when they were young girls. She refuses to be open to a relationship with a human man because of course she expects every man to be unreliable and to abandon her as her father did. Instead, she showers all her love on her dog while still acting flirty with the two main men. Dogs are famously loyal and reliable, as we are reminded throughout. We know this girl needs therapy when in the first scene we see her fixing an elaborate breakfast complete with a cheese omelet, bacon, hashbrowns, fresh sliced tomatoes, and garnished with parsley. For her dog. Meanwhile, she eats a power bar. I guess this was supposed to be cute and endearing but to me, it just came across as silly, stupid, and very unhealthy for her pet. This wasn’t just a treat. This is every morning. And from someone who either should have known better or just doesn’t care. Despite her likable and sensible sister’s advice and counseling, she remains stuck throughout the whole movie, causing her to be very annoying. There was no growth. She just finally listens to her sister and changes her mind at the end. The actress was a fresh face and had talent. She even kind of had a Julia Roberts thing going on with her hair down. It wasn’t her fault.

Besides my dislike of the heroine, I found Corey Sevier’s performance in this one a little off as well. Can’t quite put my finger on it, I have liked him in the past and he did have a couple of good scenes in this. I found the vet who was his rival for the dog trainer’s affections a little creepy and vaguely sinister. The subplot of “save the dog shelter” is the excuse for Corey and dog girl to spend time together. It also serves to keep the rivals for the couple’s affections in the picture. Presumably amping up the tension and suspense. What a laugh. The scheme they came up with was unbelievable and contrived. He is putting his talents to work by throwing an exclusive gala and silent auction to scrape up the money for the shelter’s owner to buy the building which is being sold out from under her. They didn’t even try to make any aspect of this scheme even vaguely credible. So unlikable and uninteresting characters, a silly plot, not enough humor, and irresponsible pet ownership. Not good.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

Family for Christmas

What About the Children?

This is a 2015 movie that I have seen a couple of times. It was on again last night and it got my attention again. This review is more of a rant. And not about the sexist patriarchal message it sends. No, this is one of those time travel movies with children in it and as usual, that makes it very problematic. A career-oriented Lacey Chabert meets a magical Santa who whisks her into another version of her life. One in which, if, 10 years earlier, she had stayed with her college boyfriend and not gone to San Francisco for an internship. In the version of her life she is thrust into, she is a suburban mom happily married to said boyfriend. She has two children she doesn’t know, and we are shown photos of them as babies and growing up with the alternate version of Lacey. Jumping to the end, when she wakes up again back to her “real life” as a career-oriented journalist, she wants to go back to her husband and children she has come to love. She finds that same Santa, and he tells her that she can’t go back, she can only make other choices going forward. The husband is alive and well with another life. But what about the children? They have been wiped off the face of the earth. They had personalities, thoughts, fears, love, friends, and even souls if you will, and they are just gone. They never even existed. That is horrific and tragic. Never have even existed is even worse than dying too young. At one point, if I interpreted it correctly, she goes to their school and they never come out after dismissal. In a Richard Curtis time travel movie, About Time, the hero could go back in time and make other decisions to get it right, only as long as he had no children. Then there were rules and restrictions. The only other way this trope can work is if it is crispy clear that the whole other life experience is only a dream. That is not the case in this one. At the end, she meets up with her old boyfriend who is still available 10 years later, to live her life going forward but this time including love and family with this guy. She still remembers her alternate life and her kids. I don’t even want to think of the effect these memories will have on her life and decisions going forward. Mind. Boggled.

Lacey Chabert is funny and touching in this, and the movie, if you just ignore all of the metaphysical and existential dilemmas is a good fish out of water story. I like time travel tropes. This one is often compared with Tea Leonie and Nick Cage’s Family Man. I need to watch that movie again to see how the children thing is handled. I can ignore all of the other paradoxes the time travel tropes present and just enjoy the movies for the interesting situations they present, both funny, dramatic, touching, and uplifting., But not if they involve children being erased. That is a bridge too far. I don’t know how to rate this. I’ll just give it a 5.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Five More Minutes: Moments Like These

Five More Minutes: Take Two. Will there be Three?

This is one of those dramatic heartfelt Hallmarks that show on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. It is a follow-up to last year’s production based on the country song, Five More Minutes. In both, a grieving person gets 5 more minutes with a dead loved one. It looks like it may be an annual thing. I gave the first one 8 out of 10 stars, and I gave this one the same rating.

Ashley Williams is on a roll with me. She plays Kaitlin, a still-grieving widow of a 10-year-old boy, her husband having died 4 years earlier in a car wreck. Her performance was considerably toned down from her old Miss Perky McPerkison energy. She should play brave grieving widows more often. She still flashes that killer smile, but you know what? The girl can’t help it. There is some concern about her son, who though a nice kid, has become more and more withdrawn and introverted since his father’s death. Kaitlin goes home to Colorado from Los Angeles to spend Christmas with her husband’s family and decide what to do with her beloved home which has been vacant for the last 4 years.  She has received a very tempting job offer from a regular client but she would have to relocate to London.

While at a local Christmas fair, she meets a nice handsome man, Matthew, who it turns out was an old schoolmate and friend of her husband. They really hit it off, but the relationship suffers a blow when he fails to disclose that he is the representative of a huge corporation that covets her house and land. Luckily for their budding romance/friendship, her trust is restored with his explanation, apology, contrition, and his very positive relationship with her son. Also, in a clear conflict of interest, he is helping her to fix up the house in order for her to get the best price possible from his employer or another party. This seemed very shady to me.  His employer, who is also a friend and kind of worships the ground he walks on because of his honesty and integrity (?!) lets this go for some reason and in fact wants to hire him for his New York office.

Meanwhile, her son is having short encounters with progressively older boys every few days. They disappear mysteriously but not before leading him to friendship, community involvement, and finding his hidden talents.  He is finally healing and blossoming in this new community of Hollowford. Cameo Alert: Nikki Deloach as Clara Bingham, the art teacher and lead in the first Five More Minutes.

Everything comes to a head when she decides to sell the house to Matthew’s business partner for a ton of money and move to London. Things start to fall apart with her relationship with her son, who wants to stay in Hollowford,  the sale of the house, and her relationship with Matthew. She goes down to the basement in despair and what she sees there shows her that the boys her son has mentioned are none other than her dead husband coming back to help their son and who, in a  kind of spooky jump scare, then appears to her. They talk for 5 minutes.

The kid actor was fantastic with a layered, touching, and authentic performance in a part that could have been annoying. I can take or leave Lucas Bryant, but he made a good match with Ashley Williams.  I liked that when Matthew and Kaitlin felt that surge of sexual attraction, they actually admit and knowledge that to each other openly. That is actually quite unusual for Hallmark couples to do. Usually, they just gaze soulfully or have an almost kiss which is not attempted again until the very end. The owner of the development company that had a signed contract on Kaitlin’s house, did something at the end for no good reason. It was weird and made no sense. Nevertheless, I could watch another one of these Five More Minutes movies with no hesitation whatsoever. It’s a good concept, and so far they have been well done.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Hanukkah on Rye

Tradition!

If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, or The Shop Around the Corner, this movie will hold no surprises as far as the romance is concerned. But this movie adds family, history, culture and food to the classic romance plot line.

Molly in New York City and Jacob in California are the young single scions of Jewish families who have been in the delicatessen business for 3 (or maybe 4?)  generations. Jacob in California is being sent to New York City to finalize buying their new location. Molly helps run her family’s deli, Gilbert’s, which turns out to be on the same street as the future site of Zimmer’s, Jacob’s family’s new location. Gilbert’s is old school featuring only Jewish food and promotion and technology averse. Zimmer’s is just the opposite, carrying food for all ethnicities and embracing modernity. While Jacob is in NYC his grandmother engages a matchmaker for him as Molly’s family does for her, anxious as they are for them each to find nice Jewish spouses to spawn a new generation of deli owners. They very reluctantly agree to give it a try. They write to each other long hand on paper per the rules under aliases which they will dispense with if they think they may have a future. The very notion of not using the internet to communicate freaks them both out. (“Does she also want me to write with a quill on papyrus under candlelight?!”) They coincidentally also live in the same apartment building getting to know each other face to face while writing to each other anonymously.  You know the drill.

Molly is struggling to bring her family’s business into the 21st century as it is on the verge of going under. Jacob, who finds out that he is actually writing to the same woman he is falling in love with in person struggles both with knowing he will soon be hostile competition and also his guilt in not having the guts to tell her the truth.

When his family shows up in NYC concerned as to why Jacob is dragging his feet and still hasn’t closed the deal, the fit really hits the shan. The two Bubbes both meet the matchmaker at the same time intent on demanding a refund, and Jacob’s true identity comes to light. The ideal solution to the problem of two competing delis on the same street is solved when the two grandmothers learn how it could be possible that their two families’ secret latke recipes are identical. An assist from The Fiddler on the Roof did not come amiss either, reminding one and all that change should be embraced and not avoided.

The whole cast was on point.  Paula Shaw is a standout (as usual) as Jacob’s Bubbe. Whenever she narrows her eyes into slits of anger or suspicion it would cause strong men to tremble and cower in fear. She is hilarious. Another stand out is the anonymous doorman who knows all between the two anonymous correspondents right from the beginning. Also a hoot while barely saying a word. Jeremy Jordan, who was so great in Mix-up in the Mediterranean, plays Jacob, and Yaol Grobglas is sympathetic and lovable as Molly. A classic plot, a well-written and witty script, excellent acting, and attractive leads. Check, check, check, and check. I also have had good luck with Hanukkah stories at Christmas. Check.

Rating: 8 out of 10.