In watching the previews for this one, I was irritated to see that Erin’s eyelashes looked very black and furry. Over-the-top false eyelashes are on my list of make-up “no-nos”. Ahem Natalie Hall. Plus I had already yelled at her a while back for this very issue. However, she won me over pretty quickly and I soon forgot about them. Erin was very good in this and I also appreciated that the upper half of her face helped her convey the appropriate emotions unlike some of her peers. In fact, the whole cast was great, and her chemistry with Brendan Penny could not be denied. I normally don’t talk about “chemistry” because I think it’s pretty much in the eye of the beholder, and it’s kind of cliche, IMO. But to me, those two had “it.”
Erin plays Vanessa, a former Wedding Planner who has moved on to writing wedding guides. To promote her first one she has chosen a deserving couple as the winner of a free wedding of their dreams. They want to be married at The Wedding Cottage in Stoney Bridge, Vermont, where her grandparents were married. To Vanessa’s dismay, she soon finds out that the historic and famous Wedding Cottage has been closed permanently for 5 years upon the death of the elderly owners. Advertising a closed venue in her guidebook and disappointing her hand-picked couple would be very bad publicity and a severe blow to her credibility. She goes up to Stoney Bridge to see what she can do and is further alarmed by the state of disrepair the old cottage is in. The owners’ hostile and grouchy grandson appears and tells her to get lost. He is in a bad mood because he is a famous sculptor, and, like all artists and writers in Hallmarks, is blocked and can’t do his thing. And (of course) he has a looming deadline. I loved Brendan Penny in this. He needs to keep the scruffy beard and do more cantankerous heroes. He was a good foil for cheerful and very very animated Erin. He is dead set against a wedding in the Wedding Cottage but finally relents at Erin’s desperation and her offer to restore the old building to its former glory all at her expense. She has to beg him to take this very sweet deal which seemed a little improbable. It isn’t long before Brendan starts to soften towards Vanessa and the project, and even starts to pitch in to help.
I liked the relationship-building in this one. The attraction and subsequent falling in love did not come out of nowhere. I didn’t count them, but I bet there were at least 4 or 5 kissing scenes as opposed to the usual lone smooch at the very end. Although the plot was basically wedding planner theme 101 and very predictable, the script flowed well and made sense with some nice touches (grandma’s paintings), good dialogue (You don’t have to bow!), and funny scenes. Erin and Brendan made the most of these opportunities for comedy. That was not Vanessa wrestling with the leaf blower, but Erin having a ball with it. The new bride and groom were charming and Matreya Scarrwene especially as the bride was absolutely adorable. That smile! The scenery was very pretty. Finally, the plot of Brendan regaining his sculpting mojo by rejecting his old dark urban rebel approach to his art and embracing the peace and beauty of the countryside worked well. His sculpture (in wood rather than metal) was beautiful and even sexy, reflecting his new hopeful relationship with Vanessa. A job well done.
This is a rant about Make-Up. It is Not Really About the Movie.
Erin Krakow plays a ranch woman in this movie who applies her makeup like she is behind the cosmetic counter at Macy’s. She brags that she gets up at 5am to do the chores. And surely one of those chores is getting her face on. In general, I think most Hallmark actresses wear too much make-up. But at least many of the characters they play meet the public as shopkeepers, are on television, or have important jobs in big corporations where professional dress and at least an effort to show an effort to be well-groomed is part of the image you want to project.
But a woman who does physical labor all day outdoors? Who in an average day only meets her 2 employees and their little girl? Why the 3 shades of eyeshadow, lipstick, and heavy blusher? Wasn’t she afraid those false eyelashes put her in danger of toppling over into a haystack? What happened to false eyelashes that looked somewhat natural? The ones these days look like awnings and are so obviously phony they detract and distract rather than enhance. And she has the nerve to mock Ryan Paevey for his inappropriate outfits? And call him a city slicker? Look in the mirror, lady. And what’s with the tops that are so tight, she looks like she’s going to bust out of them any second? Again, OK for some professions, like weather-girl or presenter on ESPN, but a rancher?
We’ve all rolled our eyes at old-timey historical dramas where the actresses’ hair and makeup ignore the reality of the times and circumstances of their characters. Come on, Hallmark. This isn’t Death Valley Days or Bonanza. We know better now, don’t we? Many popular Hallmark actresses are rapidly approaching or have stepped over the 40-year-old mark. That is not a bad thing, unless they are dealing with circumstances more in line with a 25-year-old character. All the make-up does not disguise their age, it just emphasizes that they are trying to hide something. A natural fresh face=youth, to state the obvious.
Other than that, thanks to the gorgeous scenery and Ryan Paevey, this was a fairly pleasant diversion. Erin was OK. She is a pretty good actress despite her usual mannerisms. The plot was right out of the Hallmark “save the _______ from the big corporation” playbook.
Elizabeth is engaged to a fellow dentist, safe boring George, a childhood friend. They go to their old island neighborhood to throw a party for George’s mother and to prepare for their upcoming wedding. George’s brother David with whom she has had a stormy relationship with is also there. When George is stranded on the mainland, Elizabeth and David are thrown together planning the party.
I did not like the relationship between Tyler Hynes (David) and Erin Krakow who played Elizabeth. Tyler Hynes was his usual rough around the edges attractive self. I really usually like him. But his character in this one was irritating. He was out of line about things that were none of his business. The whole relationship bordered on the inappropriate and stalkerish. She was engaged to his brother and he needed to lay off and leave her alone.
And why did the fiance brother not just get a boat over to the island when the bridge was under repair? Ridiculous.
I disagree with the apparent majority opinion about Erin’s hair. I liked the different cut from the way her fans are used to seeing her on When Calls the Heart, which I’ve never seen, (with the inauthentic modern flowing locks in 19th century Canada). It gave her an edge that improved her usual placidly wholesome look.
I did like the end. I’m a real fan of the “One year later” endings. I like that Erin followed her dreams of travel. Tyler’s childhood note to Erin was really sweet and romantic. And I liked that the stick-in-the-mud brother had finally loosened up with the right woman.
There is one scene in this movie that makes it worth watching despite its problems. Or better yet, when it comes up again on TV, fast forward to around the last 45 minutes.
Two elementary school teachers have been engaged in a rivalry since childhood when one horned in on the other’s song solo. From then on, whatever one does, the other one has to better it. Each cannot stand the other to be in the spotlight. It’s fairly harmless until a handsome widower with a daughter comes to town. The story is mostly told through Erin Krakow’s character, so we know that she is the one we are supposed to root for with the actress’s trademark sweet, gentle, and sincere demeanor. Despite her questionable behavior throughout, we know she is a good person at heart. Her rival is effectively played by Miranda Frigon best known for playing the grumpy police chief in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries.
Skipping to the scene in question. Miranda has invited all of the festival (there’s a festival) volunteers to a party at her home and is forced to invite Erin (“Your invitation will be shoved in your In-box”) Miranda is very proud of her singing ability and announces that she is going to favor the group with her solo rendition of Silent Night, snagging the handsome widower to accompany her on the piano. She has no shame, but as soon as she starts singing Erin starts sneaking up to her side as if she is under the Confundus charm and joins in. I’m like, “Oh no she is not going to….” But she did! Silent Night gets louder and louder as the two try to drown each other out, to the total befuddlement of all the guests, and the horror of Erin’s mother. When they get to the last line “When Chri-ist was born”, “Christ” comes out so loudly and aggressively as each of them vies for supremacy, that it’s almost sacrilegious. Then Miranda ends with a pose like she is the Madonna cradling Baby Jesus in her arms. It is the most irreverent and intentionally funniest performance I have ever seen in a Hallmark movie.
It provides the turning point in Erin’s journey. She walks out of the party with her deer-in-the-headlights look thoroughly shocked at her own behavior. She has finally gone too far. After some skullduggery on Miranda’s part to get through, the two former friends make up, and Erin gets her man.
I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books and seen all of the films and series based on her books numerous times. I’ve read a lot of Austen-based modern interpretations as well. I am drawn to the numerous modern riffs on Austen and enjoyed many of them. My favorites are Clueless and Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice. So of course I’ve seen the previous attempts Hallmark has made to capitalize on Austen’s current popularity. They were shameless exploitations because neither the plot nor the characters had anything to do with Jane’s works.
This one was different. Like Sense and Sensibility, we have two sisters who have an “Us against the world” mentality. One is flighty and starry-eyed, and one is practical and down to earth. They run a party planning business together. They are a believable version of what a modern Marianne and Eleanor might be. The love interest is a reserved button-down and shy corporate head who is dominated by an over-bearing parent and romantically linked to a childhood sweetheart. There is also a secondary love interest called Brandon. But here’s where the scriptwriter wisely mixes it up. Instead of All-business practical Marianne (they also switch the names of the two sisters) being paired off with the Corporate stick-in-the-mud, It is the lively Ella who takes him by storm and shakes up his life and attitudes. It is very cute and more suitable for the modern Rom-com. The chemistry between the two couples and the sisters was romantic and touching. The acting was some of the best I have seen in a Hallmark lately. Erin Krakow was wide-eyed, energetic, and outgoing as her character called for. Erin surely has been doing these Hallmarks for 2 decades, but she hasn’t changed a bit. She was charming. Kimberley Sustad, a Hallmark stalwart, made Marianne likable and understandable despite her buzz-kill personality. Even though the two characters had conflicts and conflicting world-views, their love and loyalty to each other were touchingly done and affecting. Luke McFarlane was superb. He usually plays cardboard cut-out romantic heroes. In this one, he started out as a real pill who slowly and realistically melted and opened up. I was very impressed by the job he did with the Edward Ferrar personality. He was funny. I loved the chemistry between Luke and Erin, and couldn’t wait for the final chaste clinch.
So yes, I give this a 10. Overgenerous? Perhaps. But with this one, I’m grading on the Hallmark curve against a singularly lackluster couple of years of Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m amazed at some of the sour and overwrought reviews this one has gotten. I can only think that their experience with modern Austen takes is pretty limited.