Always Amore

The Recipe Needed a New Twist

This was well-acted by the talented and beautiful Autumn Reeser, as always. She has never disappointed and I approach a Hallmark movie featuring her with optimism. The same goes for Tyler Hynes, who gives a warm and natural performance. He plays a kind of restaurant whisperer hired by the primary investor in Autumn’s restaurant to turn things around.  Kind of like chef Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares but super nice and not swear-y. Unfortunately, this one is the done-to-death “save the restaurant” plotline. Autumn plays a still-grieving widow who is struggling to keep her late husband’s legacy, which is his restaurant, alive.  The problem is that doing that means keeping herself, the restaurant, the menu and recipes, and the staff mired in the past. Case in point, as pointed out incredulously by Tyler, despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, they are still expensively importing their tomatoes from Italy because that’s what her husband did. I sincerely doubt that Italian tomatoes are any better than good ol’ American tomatoes. And so does Tyler, who is exceedingly compassionate and patient despite some very trying hostile attitudes. He finally convinces her that there is no legacy without a functioning restaurant. A restaurant emphasizing love, family, and tradition is all very well, but there is none of that if a profit is not being made. Once that pilot light is turned on, it’s just a matter of convincing the bank to give her a loan to buy out her main investor who is going to sell to a big corporate entity. But the bank is not going to do that until the restaurant shows some signs of life. She has to convince her husband’s protege, himself a brilliant chef, to enter a food competition to generate buzz.  He is reluctant because he perceives that as being disloyal to his mentor. After plenty of annoying waffling, he agrees. And Autumn contributes her awesome baking skills to the effort. But what about when intimidating but beloved Mother-in-law Patty “Bad Seed” McCormack finds out what they are up to? Is she going to be like lovely wise “Nonna”, or scary Rhoda?

Besides the talented cast (including a personal fave, Latonya Williams, as the contest head, and the talented child actor, Erica Tremblay, as Autumn’s daughter) the food photography is gorgeous and the menu items look delicious. Or as they describe in the movie, “glorious, stunning, delectable, genius, a miracle, etc.”. Heavy on the tension and distress, as well as the thesaurus, and light on the wit and humor, the script is the same old retread of the same old “save the business” story and with nothing special to set it apart. Autumn’s recovery from grief and finding her own path and a new love was fine, but it was hardly anything new.

Despite the finest freshest ingredients, if the recipe isn’t good, neither is the dish.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

April 7, 2022

Love at Sunset Terrace

UPtv Gets it Right Again

This was a very well-done little story. Up TV, in recent days, is really showing up Hallmark in terms of fresh faces, well-written scripts, and character development. The three leads were more than half the appeal. Ellen Woglom was appealing and charming as the female lead. She has a killer smile and I appreciated that she did not have a stick-thin runway model body. Carlo Marx was handsome and likable as the vulnerable father who was over-protective and almost needy with his daughter. The young daughter was played by Erica Tremblay. Again, a young actress who was hired for her talent rather than cutesy-wutesy looks and perky sparkles. She is the younger sister of the multiple award-winning film actor, Jacob Tremblay.

The romantic relationship developed naturally and believably rather than a series of “meet-cutes” and fake instalove based on nothing but two pretty people snarking and bickering at each other. The setting looked like a real place rather than a McMansion plopped down in front of a stunning view. I’d stay there and feel right at home. The conflict was the same old same old (workaholic big city girl reconnects with nature while meeting troubled widowed Dad of young girl and presto chango lifestyles are changed and a new family is formed). But Up TV shows once again that this tired plot can be done in an entertaining and engaging way. Hallmark really should be upping their game. I fear they are have become over-reliant on their “big” name stable of actors and actresses at the expense of giving exciting young talent a chance to shine and scriptwriters who work hard to offer a quality product while still falling within the genre’s parameters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 21, 2021