I’ve never been a member of the Danica McKellar fan club except when she was Winnie on The Wonder Years. I also like her advocacy for girls and math in real life. I’m a little troubled about why she signed an exclusive contract with GAC Family. A network that, apparently, is an alternative for those who are uncomfortable with Hallmark’s new commitment to diversity, and their more inclusive view of “family values”. Personally, I like Hallmark’s more friendly view of “Family” better these days. We’ll see. Anyway, Danica always looks troubled or worried about something or other. She has a resting frowny face. Although I recognize that she is accounted to be very attractive, her looks have never appealed to me.
Danica aside, this was a big miss for me. Although the science was kind of interesting at first, the whole process drew out way too long. Do your scientist thing, solve the problem, and move on from the rather boring problem of falling tree needles. Both of the leads’ crises were of their own making. I mean, his only use for his land was to grow evergreen trees which had no monetary value except at Christmas time? What did he do the rest of the year? It’s not like trees need a lot of care. He kept saying he did not want to diversify because the advice from his father was to do one thing well rather than many things poorly. Well, he didn’t do his “one thing” very well, did he? Farmer Ben Ayres did not have a backup plan, as Danica relentlessly pointed out, and Danica was not open and honest with her mother, preferring to be a victim, I guess. I admit Danica is pretty good at conveying victimhood. I do usually like Ben Ayers. He is very good at playing masculine, kind of grouchy men. So he was pretty well-cast as a stubborn loner-type farmer whose Christmas Trees were dying right before Christmas.
Taking a page from a trend of reuniting actors from old shows, Jason Hervey, also, like Danica, of The Wonder Years, played the bad guy. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
This is a mature and well acted offering that explores what it takes to have a happy marriage despite the challenges. Nikki DeLoach and Ben Ayers were fantastic and have wonderful chemistry. They play a separated couple, who have to pretend to have a solid marriage because they are publicizing their small town festival which will promote their family business for a TV show. It was like they were really married and falling back in love. They were a perfect match. Nikki is so sincere in her delivery, you really believe that everything that comes out of her mouth is from her heart. The whole cast was great, except for grandma who was a little teensy bit over the top. Sorry Grandma. The script was excellent with humor, heart, and a few tender moments. And it managed to avoid most of the Hallmark set pieces. Even the big misunderstanding near the end was handled with maturity and aplomb. The challenges to the happy ending were complex and real. No phony silliness at all. A breath of fresh air.
Thanks to the excellent acting of all concerned, especially the two leads, this was a very enjoyable little movie. The gimmick in this one was amnesia. This is not one of the usuals. A stressed-out and manipulated best-selling young adult author makes her getaway right before she is about to be interviewed on TV. Yes, she leaves everyone in the lurch at the last minute, very unprofessionally, I might add. She has an automobile accident and gets amnesia. In order to give her a week or two without her memory for a story and a romance to develop, the viewer is called upon to suspend their disbelief for a bit. She is a world-famous author who was about to be on the red carpet for a world premiere of a movie based on one of her novels. And no one except her sister and her boyfriend/manager knows she is missing. Add to that, the police do not search for a car which should have been found in hours as a tree fell across the road where her car drove into a gully. Big red flashing arrow there, officers. Of course, her cell phone and all the clues to her identity are left in her car.
Oh well, these are the little things you just have to roll with when looking at a Hallmance. The degree of watchability rests largely on the appeal of the leads and secondary characters, and, based on this, it was a win. The actress, Julia Gonzalo, reminded me of another actress, and it was driving me crazy until I figured it out: A little-known in America English actress, Charity Wakefield. Looked just like her.
I liked the widowed doctor as portrayed by Benjamin Ayers as well. Very likable guy. Pleasant scenery, gentle romance, nothing much to mock. The amnesia trick added some suspense and interest as well. I loved the way the set decorators stuck fake orange leaves in random places as well to convey the Fall theme. Very amusing. Well worth watching.**8 stars out of 10**