I Like Her Again
I used to be a huge Ashley Williams fan. Her perky cheerful demeanor really energized many of the Hallmarks she starred in. I just couldn’t help smiling whenever she came on the scene. Then I got a little tired of her. Instead of perky, she came across as over-caffeinated and exhausting. Instead of cheerful, she came across as manic. And she started to wield that mega-watt smile like it was a weapon. So I approached this latest Ashley Williams vehicle with caution. I did look forward to how she would pair with one of my fave Hallmark actors Ryan Paevey.
I would like to renew my membership to the Ashley Williams fan club, please. At least on a movie-to-movie basis. She plays a happy bride who is dumped the morning of her wedding. Sitting on the floor of the church toilet stall Boo-Hooing hysterically with Mascara running all over her face, she was hilarious. I never liked her more. “I never should have forced him to watch The Sound of Music!!!!,” she wails to her mother and sister frantically pounding on the bathroom door. Out she tumbles from the window of the church in full wedding regalia and meets Ryan Paevey, who has been similarly dumped. They engage in some banter and Ryan talks her into going on her Hawaiian honeymoon by herself. She is taken under the wing of a sweet resort manager and starts having a good time. “ Mango-Lime Mimosa? Sounds Gross. I’ll take it!” Ryan later shows up at the resort himself (Are you following me?”). No, he has a good friend on the island and also needs a break. They become friends, go on adventures, start to recover from their trauma, and the inevitable happens. Yes, that. But also her ex-fiance shows up.
The dialogue was funny and the rest of the scripting was good too. Ryan and Ashley’s relationship develops naturally and they both experience a needed change of attitude towards how to approach life. Ashley really nailed both the comedy and the serious stuff and her good-humored rapport with Ryan was spot on. Yes her too famous for her own good grin was front and center, but somehow it was just fine. Great Scenery, well-played secondary characters, and topped off by a nice satisfying “One Year Later” scene. I love those.
June 27, 2022
All About Emilia (or Trudy or Jan)
This one started off extremely well. The writing was intelligent, and Melora Hardin (A.k.a. Trudy Monk) delivered her lines with verve and vivacity. It was clear that this was going to be one of the Hallmark 2.0s that the network has been flirting with lately that eschews the usual fill in the template set-pieces and characters. Paul Campbell in a cameo appeared as a bartender who serves to introduce the main character, Emilia, played by Melora. So I was set to enjoy this. We later see an uncredited appearance by Ashley Williams and a welcome cameo by Michael Kevin Anderson. And Steve Bacic is a big favorite of mine as well.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the mother, Emilia’s, past abandonment of her children after the death of her husband. Yes, people make “mistakes”. But a 5-year absence is not a “mistake,” it is a heartless, selfish, cowardly choice. And while I know that health crises do cause people to rethink the importance of family and old ties, I thought it was significant that she didn’t come back to see her children until she felt personally vulnerable. Apparently, when everything was going well, her children were not very high up on the priority list. And as for self-centeredness, her hurt daughter was a chip off the old block. She was very unlikable. I don’t fault her for her feelings towards her mother, but I didn’t like her childish acting out, especially towards her very faultless and innocent love interest, Her mother’s doctor. Her son, on the other hand, handled everything perfectly. He was cautious about his mother’s reappearance in his life but willing to give her a chance. When she (predictably) was set to run away again, he called her out on her propensity to run from trouble and conflict instead of sticking it out. I liked his anger.
As the movie went on, Melora Hardin’s performance started to grate on my nerves more and more. Her over-the-top emoting was just hammy. Her speech at her book signing was just cringe-inducing. The self-involved airing of all of her bad behavior and embracing her children’s successes was not an apology to her children, it was another “all about me” TMI performance. So, what promised to be a more sophisticated (lesbian romance front and center instead of a brief hint in the background) version of family-friendly fare, just fizzled, for me. Stars for the good things about it.**6 out of 10**
April 24, 2022
This one fell flat primarily because I already knew the plot from watching the companion movie a week ago. There were a few elements added that we were not aware of and some more details, but they were not enough to save this for me. In fact, it made it worse. I really thought the Ashley character was way out of line as she tried to take over her sister’s successful, smart, and sophisticated restaurant and proceeded to make it over the way she thought it should be. She just steam-rolled over everybody with the small town homey vibe she wanted to project. Some of her ideas worked out, but that wasn’t the point. She was a loose cannon. Because of the first movie, I knew a crisis was coming and I couldn’t wait for Kimberly to yell at her.
The other reason was that I am just so tired of Ashley Williams, and I take no pleasure in saying that. I used to think she was a breath of fresh air. But now she comes across like a manic-depressive without the depressive. I really wanted the depressive. A few times she stopped smiling and bouncing off the walls but the respite didn’t last long enough. It’s probably not about her as a personality and actress but the parts she has been cast in lately. She needs to play a serial killer or something. Actually, she probably would be good at that. Especially if was one of those clown ones.
December 13, 2021
Take a Chill Pill, Jill
Jill Wagner is usually very natural and believable in whatever type of role she takes on. She is always a beacon of maturity and balance. Not so much in this one. She was a bit over-caffeinated and somewhat exhausting. Could it be the influence of being in holly jolly Evergreen?
Lisa, a big city real estate stager decides to briefly go home to Evergreen, the Christmas capital of the world, or at least Hallmarkland. She is disappointed to see Daisy’s Country Store out of business and up for sale and learns that the VIP citizens of the town are scared that a big conglomerate will buy it and put up a McDonald’s or something in the middle of their picturesque little Christmas village. Haven’t they ever heard of Zoning laws? And how to use them? Lisa decides to stage the store to make it a more attractive investment for someone who will keep it the way it was. And presumably, everyone else who won’t as well? She hires handsome Kevin, a famous contractor, who is visiting his morose Dad in Evergreen to help. They transform the dilapidated store, but the prospective buyers fall through. Eventually, she gets her and Oliver, her business partner and BFF’s number one client, Polly, to visit and hopefully buy the store. Polly OOhs and AAhs but doesn’t bite but wants Oliver and Lisa to work for her exclusively. They are thrilled at the opportunity. Kevin hears about it and decides to leave town. Also, Kevin, who doesn’t realize Oliver is gay, thinks Lisa and Oliver are “together.” Of course, Oliver’s sexual orientation is not stated because it is way back in 2018 before Gay people existed in Hallmarkland. But when Lisa falls in a snowbank laughing hysterically (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! NONONONONONONONO!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!) at the prospect of her and Oliver hooking up, we get the idea.
Anyway, Lisa and Kevin reconcile and Lisa buys the store herself. Christmas miracles abound but not without the help of the magic snow globe (see movie #1) a mysterious key to something or other, and a 25-year-old letter to Santa that went astray and didn’t make it to the North Pole.
December 10, 2021
This is the first of a two-parter which will conclude next Sunday with Sister Swap: Christmas in the City. Presumably, we will be treated to the antics of Ashley Williams who was running her sister Kimberley’s restaurant while Kimberley was having her own adventure in their hometown. It was a good idea to have the real-life sisters in the same movie as they are both very popular. They were both a little frantic and over-caffeinated in this, but at least Ashley, whose smiley perkiness is almost legendary, was off-stage through much of the story.
Kimberley, a widow and busy restaurateur with a teenage son returns to her hometown for Christmas for a short visit. The family movie theatre is being sold, and she gets involved with providing one last movie night for her family which turns out to be for the whole town. I won’t go into it much, but I was initially very confused over who dead Uncle Dave was, who her parents were, was the guy in the wheelchair her father or her grandfather, Was Uncle Dave the husband of the older lady, who were Nan and Pop, etc. This was probably my fault for not paying better attention at the beginning? I did get it straight pretty quickly, but it was a distraction.
I thought this one was pretty decent with a plot that seemed to hang together pretty well, with a believable solution to the problem of saving the vintage theatre from a modern renovation or worse. The resolution will provide a reasonable foundation for the story to move forward in part 2 unless part 2 will be solely contemporaneous with part 1. I appreciated that the corporate overlords were not portrayed as evil or unreasonable, and the sisters did not overdo the sacrifice the future to “save the past at all costs” mentality that is so prevalent in these things. I have always liked Kimberley Williams and the romance with her old school friend provided the main appeal for me. This was largely due to the actor who played him. He was very attractive and charismatic, I thought. He reminded me of the old-time movie star, Richard Egan. I also appreciated the character of her teenaged son as well as the actor who played him. He provided some calm balance and sense.
I don’t have as high hopes for the sequel because Ashley Williams, although once a favorite, has worn out her welcome with me over the years. I remain open and hopeful but the second part with her taking the lead could be a little too much for me to take. Stay tuned.
One Actress Makes this Watchable
This was enjoyable due entirely to Rukiya Bernard. I’m pretty sure that this is the first Hallmark that she has been the principal character, although even in this one, there was an abundance of supporting players. There were also a lot of stories. But like I said. Rukiya Bernard. I have been a fan of hers ever since I first saw her in One Winter Weekend. I love her energy: she has charisma to spare.
The multiple plots were not that interesting. Holly Robinson Peete’s fiancé gets snowed in and can’t make it back to Evergreen in time for his wedding or worse, Christmas. The actor might have been busy and couldn’t make it to the set, but we did see him on Zoom. Peete’s sister arrives for the wedding that is not to be along with her father. Sister is mad at Dad and cold to his nice new girlfriend. Rukiya’s story is that Elliot, her boyfriend, is opening a branch of their store in Boston and they will be separated. He didn’t check with her first. The other story is that she is now the head of the Evergreen museum but the eccentric Cooper Twins’ brother never signed off on using the building which puts the kibosh on the museum. He was horrible and mean. Rukiya did absolutely everything to get his cooperation but to no avail. How anyone could resist her charm let alone be so mean to her, I just did not understand. His inevitable epiphany was very weakly supported. He saw a video of his twin sisters saying the same thing Rukiya (and they) had been telling him in person throughout the movie. His change of mind made no sense.
So the whole thing was weak, but I enjoyed you know who.
November 5, 2021
It Wasn’t Bad, But Nothing Out of the Ordinary
I’m a fan of both Ashley and Niall. They both bring credibility to any project they are in. However, lately Ashley has apparently heard or read once too often about her own famous megawatt smile. Some of her scenes have a definite “insert smile here” feel. This was well made and Hallmark pulled out their A-Game for two of their most popular stars. They put a little more work into the plot, this time. Not one of their cookie cutter jobs, although they couldn’t resist the usual flirty snowball fight. However, truth be told, the story was a little boring, and Ashley’s character was a little too sweet and good. Sometimes her behavior with grumpy-pants Niall was kind of cringeworthy. She just would not leave him alone. For me it did not rise past the slightly above average rating. Kudos for having her ex-husband and his wife make appearances and her daughter was very appealing. Oh, and I do like Brendon Zub. He needs more starring roles. Oh Oh. The search for the out of print book was true to life and exactly right. Loved that.
November 9, 2020
No Surprises Here. And that was OK in this Case
This one had every freaking Christmas cliché in the book. Country good/city bad, specious current boyfriend/fiancé versus Christmas-phobic single Dad, Save the festival, magical Santa, frolicking in the snow, Christmas Cookies, and Christmas-centric small town. And… the boyfriend who appeared like a jump-scare in a horror film. I still liked it. I am one of the majority that really likes Ashley Williams. The screen loves her and she is never less than a sweetie-pie. This entry also featured two other shining stars: Jaida Lily Miller and Rukiya Bernard. Young Jaida is a Hallmark regular for good reason. She is a great little actress and a charming presence. I wish Rukiya were more of a regular than she is. I have seen her as a supporting player in 3 other Christmas Hallmarks and she quite simply lights up the screen. She needs to move over to Lifetime, Hallmark mysteries, Up, or Ion and start starring in her own movies. Move over Tatiana Ali. All this goodness was marred by the irritating mother who was a little too dependent on her beloved daughter. She needed a little therapy, as does many of these Hallmark mothers. As did the town, which couldn’t seem to function without the capable heroine.
December 5, 2019