What is the Title? High Flying Romance or Kite Festival of Love?
So kites. That’s a new one. The awkward alternate title is Kite Festival of Love. Which is probably why this very recent Hallmark slipped under my radar. Still, it’s surprising considering it featured two of their biggest stars: Jessica Lowndes and Christopher Russell. They are not the most talented actors, but they interest me. Jessica because she started off so badly in the talent department with nothing but her beauty to recommend her, and Christopher because he is so handsome and likable despite sometimes walking through his part like he is asleep or on drugs. When he’s paired with the right female co-star, he does a great job.
Christopher plays Gavin, a widowed father of an eight year-old who returns to his small town upon the death of his wife to be near family. He meets Hannah (Jessica) a childhood acquaintance and neighbor who is a music teacher. They start a relationship because why not? She is gorgeous, super sweet, has a cute dog, loves kids, loves his kid specifically, his kid really likes her, his parents love her, and she’s single. As for her, come on, Christopher Russell. As a loving father. What could be more adorable? Oh. They both love kites. It was meant to be. Unfortunately, there is very little chemistry or spark between the two. They are very stiff and awkward around each other.
All proceeds very boringly with no conflict, suspense or problem to solve until about three quarters of the way through. That’s when brazen hussy ex-girlfriend starts to get jealous and commences to stalk him and manipulate him into dates and tries to make Jessica think they are a couple. I thought things might get interesting, but right off the bat she tells him she doesn’t like children and suggests his daughter, ably played by Amelie Will Wolf, is being manipulative when he wants to go home to tuck her into bed! Can you imagine? What a dummy. Not that she had a snowball’s chance in Hell anyway. Even though Christopher’s too nice to tell her to get lost.
Christopher is average in this one. Jessica has plateaued as far as her acting is concerned. She’s not bad, but another actress could have done so much more with this part. Her delivery is still a little strange with a California girl cadence and she sometimes slips back into her habit of not enunciating and talking too fast. She is miscast in these girl next door parts. It is simply not believable that, with her glamorous beauty, she would have anything to fear from the only above average looking ex-girlfriend who’s not very nice to boot.
I don’t want to pile on to poor Jessica Lowndes, so I will say that I quite enjoyed her in Christmas at Pemberley. I mentioned in that review that she had toned down her looks a bit. If Jessica wants to continue being a Hallmark staple, she needs to continue to follow the example in the recent movie. Caught about an hour of this earlier Hallmark movie last night. This one serves as a cautionary reminder of what Jessica should stay away from. Oh my Lord. That eye-liner! She looks like a reincarnation of Nefertiti. I am sure if she ever catches this one herself, she will be wondering what she was thinking. Hallmarks are better suited to the girl next door types, not the exotic beauties, in my opinion. I also agree with the commenter that pointed out her rapid fire delivery which serves to make her seem like a line-reader rather than a thoughtful actress who is really inhabiting her character. She also had the habit of speaking from the back of her throat like she was trying to be a ventriloquist. She must have been studying her craft a bit in the year since this movie, because she has really improved. She is not great, but she is on the right path.
Christmas at Pemberley Manor is a shameless attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Jane-Austen based contemporary romances. Unlike Unleashing Mr. Darcy, however, the story and the characters have nothing to with Pride and Prejudice. Zip. All the writer did was tack on various names from P & P on to the main characters. Sometimes quite randomly. For example, Elizabeth’s old boyfriend was named “George” and was a nice guy, the mayor of the town, and trying to win Elizabeth back. The doofus assistant to William Darcy, who wins the heart of “Jane” Elizabeth’s last minute assistant, was named Travis. Why not “Charles?” It was insulting to the intelligence.
If you can set that aside, however, this was not a bad Hallmark Christmas movie. At least I stayed awake. I am not usually a fan of Jessica Lowndes. Her looks are usually too jaw-droppingly glamorous for the rolls she has played. In this one, however, they were toned down somewhat, so she looked like a relatable woman. Her acting, as usual, was not the best, but at least she didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Also, I loved Michael Rady, the actor who played the hero. He had a lot of charisma in this role. The young actress who played Jane had appeal and had a secondary romance of her own. The villain in the piece was “Elizabeth’s” boss who was played by the same actress who did such a great job as the prospective evil stepmother in Lindsay Lohan’s Parent Trap. Although the script and the director in this one did not make use of her comedy chops, it was nice to see her again.
Burning questions: Why would the board of directors of a world wide corporation want to demolish the CEO’s beloved home? Surely it’s but the teeniest fraction of an expense against the mega corporation’s humongous assets? Why would a festival that has attracted press from all over the country and is a mainstay of the town’s budget and beloved tradition, have only 20 people attend the climactic event? These questions will remain unanswered. The former is the fault of the writer the latter the fault of the director. Maybe my 6 stars is a bit too generous. Yep, down to 5. I just remembered the magic Santa Claus, the most tired Christmas cliché ever.**5 out of 10 stars**
I am amazed at all of the glowing reviews for this movie and Jessica Lowndes in her role as the “December Bride”. I had seen it before, and apparently didn’t hate it, but upon catching a few minutes of it here and there last night, I just have to articulate my frustration. Jessica Lowndes is gorgeous, glamorous, and stunning. This role, as a jilted, hurt, insecure young lady, needed a more Sandra Bullock type rather than a Scarlet Johannson or Angelina Jolie type. It needed someone we could feel sorry for and relate to. It needed an actress with some comic timing, not a line reader. Her acting was the worse I have ever seen in a Hallmark movie. She did not inhabit her part, I was just listening to an actress read her script with some expression. I am sure I will get nothing but “not helpful” votes for this. but I just had to get it off my chest.
In fact, I just looked up her resume and she has been in only one other Hallmark movie, Merry Matrimony. Same comments on her acting there, so now I know I am not crazy. Daniel Lissing was quite good, and she was probably the beneficiary of his reflected glory in this one.**6 stars out of 10**
I can’t think of too many Hallmark actors who could have pulled off the tricky challenge of playing two brothers, one straight and one gay, One a nice guy, one an arrogant jerk. Jeremy gives a nuanced and funny portrayal. He never overdoes the stereotypical gay mannerisms and voice inflexions, yet the viewer knows immediately which brother is which. Even when the down to earth nice guy is impersonating the gay brother and then going back to his real self. He also makes the gay brother seem redeemable even when he is being controlling and ungrateful. If Hallmark had their own Emmys Jeremy would win hands down for best lead actor. The script is good with some laugh out loud moments and some both amusing and tense situations. There were some sticky plot developments that I was not not sure how they were going to resolve, but the happy ending was achieved very cleverly. I must say it is certainly refreshing for a Hallmark movie to have the small town country boy end up the big city rather than the big city dude to find his bliss in the country. It’s got to be a first for Hallmark.
Jessica Lowndes was adequate, but another actress could have mined comic gold as a girl who finds herself attracted to a married gay man and confused and hurt by his changing personality. As it was, a lot of their semi-flirtation was just awkward. She unfortunately has gone back to the over-the-top makeup that she does not need as she is so gorgeous. But I will give her a pass this time as it kind of fit the character.
Kudos all around. Great setting, nice acting (shout out to Callum Blue as Julian Northrup’s nice husband), good chemistry, and intriguing plotlines which stepped out of the Hallmark box on several fronts.**9 stars out of 10**