Sweeter than Chocolate

“Love is Worth the Grief.”

I wasn’t exactly bowled by Dan Jeannotte in the previous movie I remembered seeing him in (turns out I’ve seen him in 4 movies) and was not looking forward to this one. Chocolate. Again. Save the little Shop. Again. But he won me over right away.  He brought humor and charm to his character who started off a little smarmy and full of himself but ended up quite warm and sympathetic. And his chemistry with the female lead, Eloise Mumford, was almost tangible.  She has done an excellent job in several recent Hallmarks. She tends to star in more emotional serious scripts, rather than light comedic fare. Probably because she almost always looks like she is going to burst into tears at any given moment. This movie is sweeter and lighter in tone and she handles the banter and romantic comedy vibe pretty well though it’s not her forte.

The plot wasn’t much and has been done before quite recently (eat magic food-find true love). But despite that, thanks to the pairing of the two leads, and some entertaining side stories, I enjoyed it. Lucy and her mother own a chocolate shop that features their magic chocolate cupids. According to the family legend, anyone who is open to love and eats one of them on Valentine’s Day will meet their perfect match. When her best friend does just that and ends up getting engaged to her boyfriend, she is so over the moon that she posts about it. It goes viral and the little family legend gets the attention of a TV producer who sends her ace investigative reporter to do a story on it. In a little twist, she wants a happy feel good story, not an expose. Unfortunately, too used to looking for scams everywhere, he offends and insults Lucy and her shop and gets thrown out. When his editor tells him that a promotion to the anchor position he covets is riding on his ability to branch out from hard-hitting takedowns of scam artists to include more fluffy morning show-friendly pieces, he convinces Lucy to give him another chance. The publicity would boost sales and save their shop.

The romance between ambitious and cynical Dean Chase and shy and vulnerable Lucy is engaging. Lucy has never tried one of her own chocolate cupids because she does not want to open herself up to love and romance. She was painfully affected by how the death of her father devastated her mother for so long. Despite themselves, Dean and Lucy grow closer as the one story has led to a whole series featuring interviews with couples that the magic chocolates have brought together. She needs the sales that Dean’s stories are generating but the orders become more than the shop can handle. Things get overwhelming, a few things go wrong, Dean may be moving to New York, and Lucy does not handle any of it well. She starts to think that the magic chocolates are cursed, and generally gets all weepy and starts to go off the deep end, which Eloise Mumford is very good at. Luckily for the happy ending, Lucy’s mother steps in with her insights, wisdom, and her own backstory, and helps Lucy to understand that even though opening herself to love may sometimes lead to grief and pain, it is worth the risk. And Grandpa “Opa” would approve.

This Hallmark had a nice balance of emotional struggles, humor, character arcs, and romance. A dash of magic and a good message made for a winning recipe.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Presence of Love

Coats of Many Colors

In many ways, this one reminded me of some of the gentle English Family-oriented romances written in mid 20th century that are such a comfort and joy to me. Or some of the later stories by a favorite author, Rosamunde Pilcher. A fragile, introverted, and very nice young woman escapes to Cornwall to recover from some trauma. There is usually a granny involved, as well as a young child, a dog, a cottage, a close rural community, and an upstanding but grouchy love interest. This one fit the bill except the love interest was just nice, not grouchy.

This one largely deserves the very positive reviews it has gotten. Eloise Mumford is wonderful in this as the panic attack prone Joss. She is seeking tenure as a professor of English but her paper has been rejected. She is still grieving the death of her mother a year earlier and takes pills to stave off a life-long anxiety problem. Her best friend discloses that Joss’s mother had planned to take her to her childhood home in Cornwall as a surprise for her birthday and insists that Joss go anyway and work on her paper there, which she does. Everything proceeds very predictably as usual, but as Hallmark devotees know, if a Hallmark Romance appears on Hallmark Murders and Mysteries, it is going to go a little deeper than the usual rom-com shenanigans.

Famous British Actress (Downton Abbey, etc., etc.) Samantha Bond plays the mother of Daniel, the owner of the farm/B&B and Joss’s love interest. She is fighting with her son who wants to put Wind Turbines in one of their sheep fields for the sorely needed income. Underneath her polite façade, she is cold, rude and hostile, change-averse, and old-fashioned despite her snazzy sweaters and chic haircut. She was so remote and scary that when she breaks down and kindly helps Joss with her grief, it is genuinely touching. Meanwhile Joss mentors Daniel’s dyslexic daughter. So there is quite a lot going on, including a mysterious woman that may or may not be a ghost or a figment of Joss’s imagination. There is lots of English poetry quoting which was nice. The scenery and photography were beautiful.

The moral of the story is that security and safety are over-rated and sometimes taking chances and living a little is the path to take. Instead of pursuing tenure (security and safety) which was only adding to her stress, she decides to live in the moment and move to Cornwall to be with Farmer Dan and his little family and also travel. We have a “One Year Later” epilogue in which we see she is happily in charge of the literary festival and happy in her relationship with Daniel. Speaking of the epilogue, I was going to refrain from adding to the general criticism of the vast number of coats that Joss crammed in her suitcase to wear in Cornwall. (Blue, Pink, Red, Houndstooth, and a Puffy Jacket.) But when she was sporting still ANOTHER DAMN COAT one year later (Tartan) I couldn’t resist.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 16, 2022

A Veteran’s Christmas

A Cross Between “Get Out,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and “White Christmas.”

I agree with the reviewers that point out the overall creepy vibe to this film. This has to be the gooiest super cheerful town in the United States. I kept waiting for Captain Super-Cute to discover the microchips in the backs of the necks. Starting with the young bachelor Tom Cruise look-alike judge who seemed like he was competing for Gilderoy Lockhart’s Most Charming Smile Award. Sean Faris, the actor, can’t help what he looks like, but he was obviously trying to channel the Scientology fave with the haircut and the constant smiling. He was very phony and came across as though he were hiding something evil. As did everyone in the town. Don’t get me started on Aunt Nellie and Judge Joe’s scary sister. When Captain Cutie finally escaped on the bus (“I’ll get my car later!”), the local “policeman” brought her back and took her to a house with all of the townspeople waiting for her. It had all the makings of the horror trope of the innocent virgin getting sacrificed by the local coven.

She almost got away…

If I didn’t know better I would think Hallmark was spoofing its own Christmas Movies and mocking their fans. This includes me, by the way. I’m not a hater. As I write this I am wearing my “Do not disturb. I am watching Hallmark Christmas Movies” socks. Oh. I forgot to mention my favorite part. Innocent virgin Marine Captain gets a knock of the head and has blood streaming down her face. She is lured to the isolated house of the judge by a dog. Tom Cruise takes her inside, and, while she is still streaming blood (wipe your face, girl!) applies antiseptic cream to her bloody wound without even washing her cut with soap and water or washing his hands. Blech! Come to think about it, maybe that’s when she got chipped.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

March 26, 2019

The Baker’s Son

I Apologize in Advance for such a Shallow Review

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?


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 14, 2021

Just in Time for Christmas

Back to the Future

Lindsay is at a crossroads in her life. She is a professor at a small local college who has just been offered a professorship and a book deal from Yale University. The same day, she has a date with her long-term boyfriend on which he proposes marriage. It was an elaborate proposal and when she doesn’t jump at the chance they have an argument. On her way home she is offered a carriage ride (William Shatner) that turns out to be magical. She is transported 3 years forward in time and her life is going forward as if she had accepted the offer from Yale. She is a respected Yale professor, best-selling author, a local hero, and her book has made her 2 million dollars richer. But woe is me. She still loves her petulant childhood sweetheart and her mother had a heart attack. BUT Mom is now happily remarried and living in Sweden, so that is all right then.

Overall this was an entertaining movie but for me, there were a few problems. First off, in this 2015 (before the quantity over quality directive) movie Eloise Mumford was excellent and cute. I have seen 2 of her later movies with which I had major problems with: One with the movie (she was fine) and one with her. Specifically her hairdresser and makeup artist.  I loved Christopher Lloyd as her grandfather and the winks at Back to the Future and A Wonderful Life. William Shatner is always a hoot. Also, I liked the compromise solution of the ending. Much of the entertainment value rested in the suspense of whether she would choose her professional success or her love life. My main problem was with the boyfriend’s childish personality. The two just didn’t match. My second problem was with her flirty behavior with him throughout the movie, until near the end where she actually flies back home to break up his impending marriage to another woman. Excuse me? No. Just no. The small problem was that she got $2,000,000 as a first-time author of a self-help book published by a University press. Bestseller or not, come on now. The epilogue is totally unnecessary and I love epilogues.

Like I said before, the ending managed a big win for everyone, unless, like me, you wish she would have ended up with the astrophysicist that is mentioned as her Yale love interest instead of small-town coffee shop dude.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

July 4, 2021