Romance in Style

Go Ella!” Literally, Just Go.

This was good for the first 70%. The premise was intriguing and anytime Hallmark resists the urge to fall back on their go-to templates, it always feels fresh.

Ella (think Cinderella), a sewer (I guess I should have said seamstress) in the fashion industry, has aspirations to be a dress designer specializing in clothes for the average woman, such as herself, both in price and size. She has already gotten some love from a premiere designer who has seen promise in her designs (think Vera Wang). She has a meet-cute with a seemingly entitled self-absorbed (but handsome!) man at a coffee shop on her way to is doing some freelance sewing work for the fashion magazine her friend works at (think Vogue). We meet her friend’s mean-girl bosses who are very much like Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt from The Devil Wears Prada. Lo and Behold, it turns out that the charming gentleman (Prince Charming, that is) whom she traded good-natured barbs with at the coffee shop is the son of the new owner of the media company who has been sent to turn things around for the struggling magazine.

I really liked that the powerful love interest, Derek, played by Ben Hollingsworth, and our heroine were aligned on the same side against Meryl and Emily who did not want to expand their fashion coverage to include anyone over a size 4. He likes her and he likes her ideas. Recognizing her talent and knowledge, he relies on her to tutor him in the ins and outs of the fashion industry. They work together to develop the digital version of the magazine to appeal to a larger audience. No pun intended. He decides to feature her and her designs much to the resentment and anger of the mean girls. The stage is perfectly set for drama, sabotage, confrontation, and a hopefully massive take-down of Meryl and Emily, the wicked stepsister and stepmother.

The precarious current state of print media and its challenges are not ignored. Usually, with Hallmark, successful independent bookstores abound and magazines and newspapers are super successful and legion to provide gainful and glamorous employment for our heroes and heroines. The set design and graphics were stylish and imaginative and the fashions actually looked fashionable. The pace was energized and the dialogue snappy.

Unfortunately, the ending was extremely weak and brought my final rating down a whole star. The big misunderstanding at the end was too dumb for words. It entailed Ella swallowing the obvious lie from mean girl #2 that Derek really didn’t care anything about her and was just using her. Why would she even stay in the same room with the nasty venomous bitch let alone listen to and believe her? Ben had never been anything but kind and supportive. Anyway, she does, and leaves the big launch party in a huff before Ben can introduce her to the fashion world as a hot new designer. She simultaneously disses the Vera “fairy godmother” Wang character and embarrasses everyone into the bargain. She not only potentially tanks her romance with the rich, powerful, and nice Ben but her dream career as well. Talk about self-hatred! Of course, the happy ending can’t be denied. All is forgiven. But then we are robbed of the pleasure of seeing the wicked stepsisters being taken down by turning them into nice girls at the last minute for no reason other than expediency. (“Go Ella!”, they cheer.) If you’re going to do Cinderella, don’t leave out the best part.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 16, 2022

Love Under the Olive Tree

At Least You Can Learn About Olive Oil

Even though this Hallmark has a relatively high rating all of the reviews seem to be very negative. So I feel like it’s my duty to give it a good review. First of all yes, yes, yes, it does incorporate many many many of the Hallmark clichés and stock storylines. What a shocker! Alert the media. First of all, I liked the Olive Oil making plotline. It was certainly different and I enjoyed the fresh setting other than chocolate, wine, and cupcakes. It was interesting, unlike blueberries or pumpkins. The two leads had good chemistry. The family conflict and rivalry kept my interest. I liked that the grandfathers who started the feud were actually more reasonable than their offspring. It was realistic. I also loved the secondary romance of her best friend and the coffee shop owner. It was sweet. I was invested in the outcome of the olive oil judging and wager and happy that there was a clear winner and it was the one I was rooting for.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 27, 2020

Can’t Buy My Love

Small, Medium, and Large

As is typical with PixL movies, this has a lot more going on than the typical Hallmark. In this one, we have 3 romances: Small (the dad and his housekeeper), Medium (the black sidekick), and Large. Large being the main story of a spoiled entitled rich boy who falls for a hardworking EMT with her eye on medical school. Because of the juggling of 3 plot lines, plus the getting into medical school story, this story percolates along at quite a good pace and kept my interest. I must say this 2017 story was a bit ahead of its time. The worthy EMT was denied a place in med school once because she was jumped over by someone way down the waiting list because of his/her large donation to the school. She is understandably bitter about that. This plot point provides the conflict when she thinks the rich boy did the same for her. It’s a good thing Hallmark didn’t make this one with their one time regular Lori Loughlin as a cast member.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 7, 2020

Lucky in Love

I Change My Vote!

When I first saw this movie 4 or 5 years ago, I gave it a 5. I just rewatched it and I am bumping my grade up to an 8. Unfortunately, this is a sad commentary on how mediocre the current crop of Hallmark-type movies are. They now churn them out so frequently, that the quality of the acting, plot, chemistry between the leads, directing and writing has inevitably suffered. Consequently, when I see one that is half-way decent or has one great thing going for it, it earns at least a 7 from me. This one features some actors who have since made it pretty big in Hallmark-Land. namely Benjamin Hollingsworth, Ryan Kennedy, and Peter Benson. And low and behold Cindy Busby in a bit part as a friend of our heroine and barely recognizable with brown hair. I loved Jessica Szohr in the lead role as a girl who achieves the life of her dreams due to a series of coincidences. She was very exotic looking and a far cry from the pageant ready looks favored by most hallmark heroines. Her acting was top notch as well, and I loved the ups and downs she goes through to achieve her happy ending and the right man for her. All in all, it was very entertaining, especially since they didn’t cling to stereo type black or white characterizations. The guy who was the initial “villain” turns out to be a great guy, and our good girl heroine turns into a bit of a bitch before she sees the error of her ways. It looks like Jessica has gone on to other projects besides Hallmark. Hallmark would do well to groom more female leads with her range and interesting looks.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 1, 2020

A Wish Come True

Lazy and Weak.

This was a very sub-par entry in the Hallmark romance line-up. Nothing to recommend it except Ben Hollingsworth and his performance. Very lazy production. I liked Megan Park’s looks (not your typical ex-beauty queen thing going on…thank-you for sparing me that at least), but her character was boring and charmless. The whole story consists of her getting all of her childhood wishes. Utterly predictable “Be careful what you wish for” scenario. All of these Hallmances are predictable but the better ones have some good conflict, maybe a little suspense, an evil nemesis to hiss and boo at, a nice learning curve, some good humor, nice performances, great chemistry or, golly, something to entertain and keep your interest. This one had none of these in addition to an incredibly annoying father and ex-boyfriend. The rival for her hand was a nonentity. The scene at the end where the doggie put a mysterious note in the trashcan was bewildering. **2 out of 10 stars**

February 1, 2015