The Gift of Peace

There is Hope

Although at the end of this movie, there is hope and expectation that the two leads, Brennan Eliot and Nikki Deloach will have a future together, this is not a romance. There is not even a kiss at the end. Good call. It is about how grieving people start healing and find a path forward out of darkness. When we first see Nikki she is struggling in her artist studio. She is very sad and has lost love for her art and inspiration. It has been two years since her beloved husband and creative partner died and she is still struggling. The story is told partially in flashbacks and we learn that she and her husband were committed Christians. When her good friend and manager reminds her of her annual Christmas art exhibition that she skipped last year due to her grief she knows she has to produce this year. She is finally persuaded to go to a grief support group at her old church. But as soon as they bow their heads in prayer, she gets up and leaves. Nikki Deloach was fantastic in this. You can feel her every emotion with every twitch, blink, gesture, and look. She finally tries again and her journey begins in earnest. Brennan Eliot as the kind-hearted leader of the group who is not as together as he seems is also excellent. All of the members’ stories are told and well integrated into the central plot in a very balanced and smooth way. They are all very involving, if not as heartbreaking as Nikki’s. We wonder why Brennan, who has also lost someone, does not open up and share along with the others.

We know from the flashbacks about her and her late husband’s strong Christian faith and mutual love. When she finally shares her story with the group, we learn her husband died from a brain tumor. While he was in the hospital, she was strong. It is she who comforts the others. When she tells the doctors that she knows he will be OK because she has been praying for him along with her whole community, it is heartbreaking. You can hear the calm confidence in her voice, but see the slight worry and panic in her eyes. When her husband dies, despite her prayers, she loses her faith and is full of rage.

I won’t detail her path back to believing in God and prayer, but it seemed very authentic. I will say that it involves sharing and helping others. This could be called a Christian movie, but though unapologetic, it is not heavy-handed. Unlike the Candace Cameron Bure movie on GAF (which I couldn’t resist checking out.) I didn’t feel like I was being sold to or taught at. It just seemed like this is the personal story of one woman’s grief and how her love of painting and her faith was restored. Take from it what you will.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Eat, Drink, and Be Married

Why? What? Huh?

Billie is consulting with an engaged couple, Jess and Max, about their wedding. Jess is being a bit of a control freak in her strive for perfection, and Max could care less. She even has a diagram of the exact dimensions of the flower vases she wants. Right away I’m on Team Max. After the meeting, they decide (rightly) to take a break. When Max’s brother hears about it, he storms into Billie’s place guns a blazing (figuratively). He blames Billie for the breakup because she was the last person the couple talked to. Meanwhile, Billie learns that the beloved old building that her family had had her business in is being sold after being in her family for 3 generations. Which begs the first question. How could her beloved building be sold? Don’t they own it? If not, why not? Did they forget to? Anyway, Charlie enlists Billie to save the wedding, and in return, he will save the building because he’s in real estate. And his Uncle’s company is the one that is going to tear down the building and put up a parking lot (literally). Everything goes as expected from there, including Charlie being unsuccessful in handling his end of the bargain. By the end of this, I was left with more than several nagging questions.

She makes a living how though? Takes old after wedding detritus and gives it to charity? I must have missed something? I guess she’s also a wedding planner? Are weddings the only event that has leftover flowers, decorations, and food? (Might has a problem with the health department there, though) and what charity needs flowers? I’m sure this was addressed, but I missed it, I guess.

What was with that long cheesy speech Charlie made to Billie after she gave him the boot encouraging her to let her true self shine through because she is such a spectacular person and has no reason to be so closed off, insecure, and damaged. Huh? As far as I could see she was a cheerful, confident, successful, very together woman. I was very confused. Was he trying to gaslight her into thinking his “lying and deceit” was her fault?

Why didn’t Charlie help Billie with her presentation to the committee-who-decides-what-buildings-to-protect-from-mean-developers after sending an email giving her the advice to apply for protection? He wasn’t doing anything else after quitting his job. Why not pitch in with a helping hand and get back on her good side?

Why should the committee save her warehouse despite the fact all were in agreement that the place held no historical value due to burning down in 1910? Even Billie? Because Billie loved it and lots of nice things happened there. Sounds like an investigation is in order especially since Jess was on the committee and didn’t recuse herself.

Why did Billie wear a prom/bridesmaid floor-length formal to Jess’s dressy-casual daytime wedding? Oooof.

Lastly, Joceyln Hudon, who played Billie, was cute but was robotic in her line delivery and it caused me to lose focus and interest. I might have even dozed off for a minute. Maybe this is why I didn’t catch all of the subtleties in the plot. I was curious and looked up her resume and sure enough, this is strike two for her, from me. She needs to do better, as do the writers who wrote this thing.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Raise a Glass to Love

Subtle Overtones and a Smooth Finish

I went into this one without too many high hopes. Wine has become the new desert food as far as Hallmark food themes go. Also, I have not been overly impressed with the female lead, Laura Osnes. She’s been OK, but just kind of  “meh.”  I liked her in this, and I loved the male lead, Juan Pablo Di Pace. His chemistry with Laura was definitely there, although in truth he would probably have had chemistry with a fence post.

This one centered around a  female character dealing with feminist challenges. Jenna is studying for her 3rd try at passing the notoriously difficult sommelier exam to become a master sommelier. In the United States, there are only 172 of which only 28 are women. One of these real-life women has a small but important role in this movie. The background provided was interesting and educational.

Jenna is the daughter of legacy vineyard owners and a lifelong wine lover. She has a long-term relationship with the owner of a 3-star Michelin restaurant (Matthew James Dowden). Her dream is to become the restaurant’s sommelier. But to become qualified for that position, as in any Michelin-rated restaurant, she must pass her master’s exam. She goes home to her parents’ vineyard to study and meets our hero, her family vineyard’s innovative new Argentinian winemaker. As they spend more time together, she realizes that not only is she attracted to him but that his attitudes and dreams are more of a match to hers than her current boyfriend’s are. Aiden does not respect her opinion on wine and when his master sommelier quits for a better opportunity, he does not even consider her for the position. He apparently has no faith she will pass her master test. In a bit of a twist, when she finally lays all of her feelings and dreams on the table, he changes his mind and hires her whether she passes her test or not. This was actually pretty big for him. Despite this hiccup that separates the potential soulmates, it soon becomes clear that he still doesn’t trust or respect her judgment fully. He depends too much on outside validation such as diplomas and awards on the wine he wants in his restaurant rather than her infallible instinct and taste. His number one concern is the success of his restaurant. Ultimately, she realizes he is a follower, not a leader, and she rightly leaves him and her job. He wasn’t bad, or even wrong. They just did not have the same priorities. The reunion of the two wine lovers is romantic and even touching. They are a perfect match.

It is not rare that Hallmark champions women pursuing their professional dreams over romance (as long as they can have both), but this one was handled with more sophistication and subtlety than the usual Good vs. Bad Boyfriend trope. It added some complications, real-life challenges, and hard decisions that women are faced with when finding their best path to happiness and fulfillment.

P.S. Speaking of sophistication, kudos to the design team on the fresh approach to the promotional poster. Nice to see some whimsy for a change.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

September 24, 2021

High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love

What is the Title? High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love?

So kites. That’s a new one. The awkward alternate title is Kite Festival of Love. This is probably why this very recent Hallmark slipped under my radar. Still, it’s surprising considering it featured two of their biggest stars: Jessica Lowndes and Christopher Russell. They are not the most talented actors, but they interest me. Jessica because she started off so badly in the talent department with nothing but her beauty to recommend her, and Christopher because he is so handsome and likable despite sometimes walking through his part like he is asleep or on drugs. When he’s paired with the right female co-star, he does a great job.

Christopher plays Gavin, a widowed father of an eight-year-old who returns to his small town upon the death of his wife to be near family. He meets Hannah (Jessica) a childhood acquaintance and neighbor who is a music teacher. They start a relationship because why not? She is gorgeous, super sweet, has a cute dog, loves kids, loves his kid specifically, his kid really likes her, his parents love her, and she’s single. As for her, come on, Christopher Russell. As a loving father. What could be more adorable? Oh. They both love kites. It was meant to be. Unfortunately, there is very little chemistry or spark between the two. They are very stiff and awkward around each other.

All proceeds very boringly with no conflict, suspense, or problem to solve until about three-quarters of the way through. That’s when brazen hussy ex-girlfriend starts to get jealous and commences to stalk him and manipulate him into dates and tries to make Jessica think they are a couple. I thought things might get interesting, but right off the bat, she tells him she doesn’t like children and suggests his daughter, ably played by Amelie Will Wolf, is being manipulative when he wants to go home to tuck her into bed! Can you imagine? What a dummy. Not that she had a snowball’s chance in Hell anyway. Even though Christopher’s too nice to tell her to get lost.

Christopher is average in this one. Jessica has plateaued as far as her acting is concerned. She’s not bad, but another actress could have done so much more with this part. Her delivery is still a little strange with a California girl cadence and she sometimes slips back into her habit of not enunciating and talking too fast. She is miscast in these girl next door parts. It is simply not believable that, with her glamorous beauty, she would have anything to fear from the only above average looking ex-girlfriend who’s not very nice to boot.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

September 14, 2020

Along Came a Nanny

It’s the Script, Stupid!

**3 out of 10 stars**I watched this all the way through so that earns it at least 2 stars. but man oh man was this Manny,(Cameron Mathison) though cute, the dumbest detective ever? His whole methodology consisted of A) writing all the of the names of the people in the neighborhood and drawing arrows from one to another and then studying his drawing in bed night after night like it was Holy Writ. B) congregating on the sidewalk with the other Nannies and asking if they’ve seen anything unusual. And C) flirting with the pretty Nanny(Sarah Lancaster) on walks while they are pretending to be sleuths. The perp was entirely obvious, though the motive for the robberies was so dumb, I kept saying to myself “No, It couldn’t be…too lame.” Plot holes a mile wide. The big clue is a pen with the burglars fingerprints on it, yet they just had to match the prints found at the crime scene with the suspects prints on file as he had a previous record. If you are watching this for the romance, forget that too. Not a bit of charm or chemistry. Lazy and lame, the scriptwriter should have been ashamed to take a paycheck for this drivel.

October 13, 2014