Where Your Heart Belongs

Dreadful

This was dreadful. Jen Lilley seems doomed lately to playing contemptible characters. And contemptible characters that are written poorly. Mackenzie is a top marketing executive in New York City who is losing her clients to a shiny new rival. She is stressed out about that when her best friend moves her wedding up and needs her help to pull it off in their old hometown. She hasn’t been home since her mother died and did I hear right that it’s been 10 years? Her father has health problems and his maple syrup business is failing because he stubbornly refuses to modernize despite the financial support and advice of his “employee”, Mackenzie’s old boyfriend played by Christopher Russell. It doesn’t help that the trees he is tapping are not Maple trees.

Her friend wants a simple hometown inexpensive wedding because that is the kind of down-to-earth person she is. Mackenzie basically hijacks her wedding to promote herself to her rapidly departing clientele. The kicker is that she knows she is doing wrong, but just continues to do it. Her actions are contemptible but Jen Lilley plays it with a sugar coating that only makes her seem like the ultimate phony. She uses her friend’s easygoing nature to run roughshod over her while being on the phone almost constantly to her New York assistant talking about her career problems. She browbeats the bride into going with an ugly over-the-top designer dress instead of the flattering simple gown she loves and gets the lovely little country church trashed by the famous D. J. she hires and his followers who also deface a tree that has a sentimental history to the bride and groom.

Meanwhile, even though she finds out her father’s farm is in foreclosure, she makes no attempt to help or find out what’s going on. She is just too busy and important unless she is flirting with Christopher. Near the end, she goes to the banker/lawyer who tells her that Christopher actually has her father’s power of attorney. That finally gets her attention and she somehow concludes that CR is trying to steal her father’s business when he was really financing it to save it. She pouts and sulks when she isn’t looking panic-stricken and is just generally an A-#1 jerk to lovely Christopher as well as everyone else. But does she try communication? Heck, no. In fact, when Christopher tries to set her straight, “she doesn’t have time” to hear it. No idea why her career is on a death spiral. I don’t mind a character who starts out very flawed but has a character arc over time. Jen Lilley is horrid throughout the whole movie until she ruins everything and she has nowhere to go but up.

To make it all worse, Jen Lilley delivers many of her lines so quickly and incoherently it’s like she wants to get them over with instead of actually acting. She has no connection whatsoever with Christopher Russell. The fact that he, her father, and her friends put up with her throughout the whole movie just made this viewing experience even more unpleasant. The only one who finally stands up to her is the bride. Nelson Wong, (for once not named “Kenny”) who usually is a charming presence in any movie, is annoying and horrible in this, and the ending and resolution made no sense whatsoever. This production is populated with many regular Hallmark supporting players but even they cannot prop this one up.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

January 2, 2022

Royally Wrapped for Christmas

That’s a Wrap!

This took the corny fairytale aspects of the heavily clichéd royal plotline to a new level. It was enjoyable. If you were 10. I checked this out solely because of Brendan Fehr who has had a lot of chemistry with his costars and lots of charisma on his own in the two other movies I have seen in him.

In this one, Jen Lilley plays the head of the New York branch of the royal charity of Veronia. The prince visits one day incognito and they are both secretly smitten. Next thing you know, she is invited to Veronia along with the Dublin head and the Mumbai head to help with the 100th anniversary of the Christmas charity. Little do they know that they are being screened to see which one of these top performers gets the big promotion to the worldwide director of the charity.

I won’t go further into the plot, but rest assured it involves a disapproving Queen, an unwelcome arranged marriage, heartwarming interactions with the peasant children, a cheating rival, a supportive friend, a Gala ball, and a public proposal of marriage despite not even a kiss. That’s all fine. I didn’t expect anything different. However, Jen Lilley and the character she played got on my last nerve. I am usually fairly neutral about her as an actress, but this one really highlighted why she is not a favorite. Her character was so humble and self-effacing she came across as more of a spiritless victim who wouldn’t say boo to a goose than an intelligent capable woman. I can’t really be mean about the actress, because that is the part she was playing, after all. But let’s just say she was perfectly cast. No one can do self-deprecating and shy, with those huge goo-goo eyes, like she can. The character was so kind, so sweet, and so gentle that if I had been the prince I would have wondered what she was up to. At one point her colleague says, “Stop making yourself so small!” Thank-you! In a few scenes, she even comes across as disingenuous. GAC had a strong start this season, but as Hallmark is well aware, you can’t win them all!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

November 29, 2021

The Wedding Do Over

Odd Premise

This was not too bad. The only major mark against it was that I couldn’t stand the male lead. Neither the character nor the actor who played him. Briefly, he was stalkery, needy, immature, selfish, entitled and I didn’t like his looks. Or his mother. The subplots were interesting and It was a surprise seeing Jen Lilley, a Hallmark princess, in a smallish role. Is there much call for a wedding planner who only takes clients that have to do their whole weddings over again? Why not just take brides who want to get it right the first time?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 22, 2020

Paris, Wine, and Romance

Richie Rich Wine?

This was a very well-put-together romance. I liked the story of a prestigious wine competition and the underdog Oregonian company taking the snooty French wine culture by storm. The whole setup seemed pretty authentic. And I do love wine, so I appreciated the little tidbits of info. I liked the tour around Paris. I’m not a big Jen Lilley fan, but her acting is OK. I loved the male lead. He was very handsome with a lot of charisma. I just didn’t think he “went with” Jen Lilley. Oh. I see she was pregnant when she filmed this. Nevermind. Lolita Davidovitch was very well cast as the glamorous but gracious loving mother, as was the brother. The resolution to the long-distance romance problem was well set up and believable.

I just wish they had chosen another name for Jen’s wine. “Ricci Ridge” sounded like “Richie Rich.” It was distracting, though it did provide a few giggles.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

May 12, 2019

Mingle All the Way

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**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 9, 2018

Harvest Love

Nothing to Offer except Ryan Paevey

Nothing. Happens. Move on, Nothing to see here unless you are a Ryan Paevey fan, which on the strength of his charming performance in Unleashing Mr. Darcy, I am. Jen Lilley, the actress who plays the female lead is very pretty with huge eyes. Huge. Unfortunately, her performance is distracting to the max. I might attribute this to the vapid script, but she has a smile plastered on her face throughout the movie, usually accompanied by an irritating titter. Someone should do a spreadsheet on how often she completes a sentence by tittering. I doubt it was scripted. I understand her embarrassment, but she made a bad movie worse. Add to this, instead of real scenery we get fake backdrops that look like they have been painted on velvet by Thomas Kinkade. I gave it a 4 due entirely to Ryan Paevey’s futile efforts. Choose better next time, Dude. My patience will not last forever. **4 stars out of 10**

Rating: 2 out of 5.

October 7, 2017

Eat, Play, Love

Loses Steam Quickly

This one started out pretty promisingly: Cute heroine, and appealing, yet not too handsome to be real, hero, and a great pairing of Lindsay Wagner (the Bionic Woman) and Lee Majors ($6,000,000 man) as the older secondary love interests. It also had a hiss-worthy evil rival for the hero’s affection. It did devolve as it went on, though. There was just no reason for the cute vet and the worthy owner of the animal shelter not to be together before the movie was halfway through. The TV reporter rival was thoroughly unpleasant all the way through to absolutely everyone, including the hero. He had an instant rapport with our vet, lots in common, and they were childhood sweethearts. The mean girl did not even like dogs! And didn’t even bother to pretend! There was a lame filler inserted that was supposed to keep the soulmates apart and for the movie to get to the end of two hours. The evil one gets him a prestigious national job of his dreams. But it was all a lie to try to get him to New York and was quickly exposed. The whole thing just lost steam less than halfway through and was artificially padded in order to make it last longer. Would have been a better segment on Love American Style or The Love Boat.**5 stars out of 10**

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

August 22, 2017