Fake boyfriend is one of my favorite tropes. Ok, it is my favorite. And this one ups the ante by making it a fake husband and baby. A talented but struggling interior design and lifestyle store owner tries to boost her business by winning a social media contest. To increase her chances she needs a husband and a baby. Her best friend, Brant Daugherty, Max, who of course has been in love and longing for her for years is designated as the husband and her sister just happens to have a baby handy. Clare Bowen as the female lead was a bit of a mixed bag. She brought a lot of energy and commitment to the role, but at times she came across as over the top and a tad hammy. As Jen, she is commitment-averse due to her mother’s parenting. Mom is played by Karen Kruper who is a hoot. Her name is Liz Taylor and she lives up to that name. When Jen’s father died, instead of avoiding romance and focusing on her children like all good Hallmark widows and divorcees do, her mother went in the opposite direction and went looking for love in all the wrong places. By the time we meet her, she is on her 4th husband and 4 times is the charm, because he is a great guy and they are happy. But stability came too late for poor Jen. While on the way to the Bahamas with her sensible new husband, Jen’s mother sees her daughter’s video with her “husband” and “son”, and she is shocked and dismayed. “Honey, just give her some space.” “She got married and had a baby without telling me! How much space does she need? Outer space?!” Yes, there was plenty of sharp dialogue and funny lines. And she scraps her tropical Christmas getaway and returns home to bond with her daughter post haste.
Also adding some interest was the successful couple who are mega stars in the business and are holding the contest. Outwardly happy, they are struggling in their marriage. For a generally light-hearted and funny movie there’s a lot of angst in this one. In addition to Jen’s issues with her mother, and her issues with her relationship with Max, we have her guilt over the deception and her fear of exposure. When the inevitable happens, we have that drama as well.
I really enjoyed seeing Anna Van Hooft sporting a gorgeous new look in a “good guy” role for a change. She plays the happily married supportive sister instead of the evil girlfriend she often excels at. It all ends as it should with lessons learned, families reconciled, and a particularly great kiss. If I have a quibble, the ending was a little too abrupt. I’m probably getting a little too used to final wrap-up scenes or “One year later”s.
A royal on a road trip. What could go wrong? This one was ripe for every cliche in the book being a mash-up of two popular Hallmark tropes. But it was actually pretty good. Yes, we had a festival, S’mores at the fireside, save the Bed-and-Breakfast, and a ranch family reconciliation, but thanks to excellent rapport and chemistry between the two lead characters it was slightly above average for me.
The Princess of Bundleberry? Burberry? (obviously not an eastern or southern European country because it doesn’t end in “ia”) falls for the Chicago, America artist who is painting her portrait. When he goes back home, she schemes to follow him by visiting her Uncle in California. Once in California, her passport is confiscated (S.O.P. for royals in case they want to fly the coop) and she is forced to drive instead of fly to Chicago where the supremely barely interested artist is having a showing. Meanwhile, she is assigned a bodyguard/watchdog. Her Uncle sympathizes with her predicament and gives her his blessing to follow her heart, as he once did, and hires the reluctant (he’s about to go on vacation) bodyguard to drive her across the American west to Chicago (in a gorgeous vintage Mustang) to see if there is a future with this artist fellow. Of course, the alert viewer understands that there is no chance of this thanks to many clues.
A couple of things pulled this out of the mire. First, the princess, played by newcomer Philippa Northeast, who started out stiff and boring, really opened up once she started experiencing “typical” American culture. Her enthusiasm and embrace of diners, food, festivals, salt of the earth Americans, and the beautiful expanse of the United States was very endearing. The romance going on between her and the bodyguard was well constructed. In addition to the fun they have along the way, they also have a few serious conversations that contribute to their friendship and understanding. He always maintains his professionalism despite being friendly and nice so there was a slow burn thing going on. There is the anticipation of her reunion with the artist and what’s going to happen. We know he was just casually flirting with her in Buttleberry and he is more involved with his career than with a relationship with her. His cavalier treatment was a stretch since he probably owed his current popularity to painting her portrait, she is beautiful and nice, and he is single. We know he is not gay, because that role is filled by the understanding Uncle. Yet he disses her every step of the way, not even returning her calls. You gotta kind of admire his chutzpah, actually.
I need not say more about how this all plays out except to say it is a much better ending than Roman Holiday.
Two sisters wake up in a Christmas Movie. One sister loves them, one doesn’t. There was a lot to like in this movie. It joyfully includes every cliché in the Hallmark repertoire including the “token adorable child’s” surprise reunion with her home for Christmas deployed military parent. I won’t list them all because I might forget one. But trust me, nothing was missing. I love the reviews complaining that it was too predictable and had too many clichés. Oblivious much?
Unfortunately it kind of lost it’s way towards the end. Not sure why. Maybe it got kind of old, or maybe it started taking itself a little too seriously? Also, even alternate reality themed shows usually try to reground and explain the path forward after the heroine has returned to the real world. But in this one, the dream love interests just showed up again after the girls woke up. I don’t know, maybe that was part of the joke?
Kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Daugherty for writing and starring in their own movie. I hope they do it again. Kudos to the Gran Gran actress; I really enjoyed her performance. Did not enjoy the casting of Ryan Merriman, he looked like he had let himself go, a bit. Also did not enjoy Lana Mckissack. Personally, I did not find her appealing. Just my opinion, and why I didn’t give this a higher rating. I wish I had known this was filmed in Frankenmuth Michigan when I watched this. We used to visit every year in my childhood.
Megan wakes up from a coma and learns the life she dreamed of wasn’t real. Or was it? Or will it be? Time-slip movies can be difficult as well as entertaining. This one left me with too many questions. This woman dreams up 2 children and they weren’t real? Did she dream the pregnancy and birth as well? If it was just a dream, what was the deal with the clock? Did she go back in time? Were the first couple minutes of the movie just a sneak peak into her future? If it was just a dream why did she meet the dream husband in real life? If she hadn’t had that dream would she have met him anyway and felt the same way about him? Did she have the same kids eventually? Would her real life be forever influenced by her memories of her dream? What about the dream kids? Did they have thoughts and feelings? Souls? Would she have to still live in that same house? decorate it it the same way? So many questions. Rachel Skarsten did a great job, and I did enjoy the movie despite it all.
Eloise Mumford was in my one of my worst reviewed movies of 2018 but it totally was not her fault. I like her, as well as her co-lead, Brant Daugherty. He’s not a favorite of mine, but he gets the job done. The friends to lovers plot was good, and I didn’t mind the magical bad bread-good bread-bad bread plot line. It was something a little different from Hallmark. I liked the setting and Brenda Crichlow always does a great job. I even thought the mayor was funny.
Here comes the shallow part.
What the heck was with Eloise’s lank hair and harsh make up? Her hair was a dull mousy brown and looked like it was chopped off with an ax. And her make-up! What was she trying to convey there? Or hide? Did she get a rash? She is a natural beauty and probably needs only subtle highlights. It aged her at least 10 years. Her foundation seemed to crack at every laughline and crinkle. Terrible choice of lip color through much of the movie, and too much eye stuff. Make-up tip #1: Bold Lip or Dramatic eyes, but not both. And as usual, Hallmark actresses do red carpet level make-up for an ordinary workday at an ordinary modest job. Eloise’s look was a bad choice and totally fixable. I would not comment otherwise.
P. S. Upon further investigation, I see her hair was probably due to her role as Trudy Cooper in The Right Stuff. So maybe I was a tad too harsh. About her hair. But Gosh, couldn’t they have put in a pony tail? Or something?
Mom gets Burned by the Boyfriend, Sees the Light, and Drinks Eggnog
I love the Hallmarks where a hero or heroine we like is not appreciated by their family or their boss and is not treated as well as they deserve. We know that, with the help of the love interest, they will finally be appreciated and valued. It always makes a nice satisfying sub-plot to the romance, which is, of course, the main event. Thinking back, many of my favorite hallmark movies have this element. Mingle All the Way does, and they do it very well. I guess I’m just a sucker for comeuppances and nice people prevailing over mean people.
I loved the chemistry between Jen Lilly and Brant Dougherty. The plot device used to get them together was clever and really worked. Molly has to personally test out her new app which, instead of matching couples interested in romance, it finds the perfect “plus-one” for functions for those with no time or interest in a relationship. The writers did a good job of making the viewer understand their initial antagonism with the fight over the angel ornament. They really invested me in their situations by making you root for them by well-written antagonists that you loved to hate. Also, the viewer sympathizes with them being focused on their goals, while all their family and co-workers are interested in is whether or not they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. How disrespectful!
The scene where our hero really tells off her mother was a gem. And I loved the way the angel came back into play in that scene as well. He was truly a knight in shining armor. Lindsay Wagner did a great job with making us really dislike her. She was terrifying. And then, after the hero told her a few home truths, showing us a sincere change of heart. I loved the way the eggnog played into that: very good writing. That whole scene at Molly’s house was worth the price of admission. I wish we had had more of it.
And the same goes with Jeff’s work troubles. She took a less proactive approach with helping him in that department, but she had his back as well as he had hers. And it did the trick. I love the way his rival was taken down. What a jerk and contemptible human being! Good writing and acting on the villain’s part. I just wish Molly had done the taking down.
The only low point was Molly’s silly petulant overreaction to Jeff meeting his ex by chance at a party. But that’s par for the course in Hallmark romance. It’s a plus when it’s avoided. All in all, though, one of the best this year.**8 out of 10**