Welcome to Valentine

Christmas in February

This lost me in the first 15 minutes when struggling artist Olivia tries to corner the gallery owner who is hosting a fancy art gala Olivia is waitressing at. She barges in on the hostess while she is talking with one of her guests in order to show her her paintings on her cell phone. With the help of the soon-to-be love interest, who is an invited guest,  she tips over a tray of soup all over her. Wow. What a clodpole, boorish, unprofessional, and fired.

Since her best friend who has been letting Olivia camp out on her luxurious N.Y.C. apartment’s couch is moving to Chicago and she is no longer employed, she decides to go home and help her sister set up for the big Valentine’s Day parade. Her friend’s cousin (who turns out to be a rich important kinda nationally prominent successful person and who also was the handsome guest at the gallery who bumped into her causing her to douse her potential benefactress with cream of mushroom soup) is driving his Dad’s vintage car to Los Angeles. They all get together to share a ride. But it’s not a road trip romance. First of all, her friend is occupying the back seat, and as soon as she is dropped off in Chicago, they arrive in Olivia’s hometown with over 90 minutes to go in the movie including commercials. In honor of Valentine’s day, her hometown is named Valentine, and it is famous for loving Valentine’s Day and having a parade. It is like a Christmas movie, except in February! I don’t think we’ve ever had a Hallmark set in Nebraska before, and apparently, they say “Hiyah” instead of “Hi” or “Hello” there. It’s a thing. The hero is set to leave for California when his car battery fails. The mechanic screws up the jump start (I mean really?) frying the car’s electrical system. Our hero rightly loses his temper and is rude. I liked him. Since it is a 50-year-old car, it will take a while to get parts, and yadda yadda yadda, you know the drill. It was boring and there was nothing to distinguish this one from all of the other below-average Hallmarks, except it was pretty diverse. Gay pride flag in the diner and lots of black people, which Nebraska is known for (not).

I didn’t like the heroine. Although she didn’t do anything else that was as spectacularly stupid as the disaster at the beginning, she didn’t do anything to win me over from my bad first impression either. And I was not a fan of her false eyelashes or her acting either, for that matter.  I did like most of the secondary characters as well as the hero. Her friend was funny and cute, the hero was as good as the script allowed him to be, and Olivia’s sister was nice and sensible as well. And the diner lady too.

There were two imponderables in the script that further annoyed me. The wicked old witch who was the jealous former chairman of the parade disables the main parade float for sheer spite. Throughout the movie, she has been sitting outside the parade headquarters in the middle of February staring balefully at all the activity. Her time to shine arrives and she gives the float’s vintage alternator etc. to George so he can get out of town. This under-the-hood sabotage is discovered on Valentine’s day morning while George is probably well into Wyoming. To solve the mechanical problem Olivia and her sister make the old harridan the grand master of the parade, which miraculously gets the float running again. Huh? Is the old bat the equivalent of the magic Santa only female and mean? Meanwhile, our hero has pulled over to the side of the road to join a conference call with his Dad and the board of directors. He quits the family business or at least turns down the CEO position he has been elected to.  He wants to “follow his heart” and recover the “soul” of the company by going against his father to establish a charitable arm for the business.  But how is he going to do that if he is no longer with the company or at least not in a position of power? Huh? Huh? He heads back to Valentine to reconcile with Olivia with whom he has had a fight over something or other.

One year later, Olivia is a successful artist working out of Los Angeles, New York, and Valentine, Nebraska. She is the star attraction with the same gallery whose owner she assaulted and embarrassed. George is there too. His employment situation remains unknown.

Rating: 3.5 out of 10.

Six Degrees of Santa

Free the Tense

I will always prioritize movies that star Steve Lund, so I gave this a chance. Also, I wanted to exorcise the memory of the horror that was his other 2022 Christmas Movie in which Steve was dumped by the widow that wasn’t.

I liked the concept of this Lifetime movie and our heroine Steph’s personal Christmas project, Six Degrees of Santa. It’s kind of a Christmas gift chain letter. Santa#1 buys a gift that is meaningful to them and gives it anonymously to a stranger or a friend who in turn does the same. The sixth recipient gets to keep it. Steph’s own Santa#1 gift eventually reaches a tech mogul she despises. But he is touched by the gift which is a book that meant a lot to him as a child. He reaches out to Steph, who is easy to find because her project has gone viral with people all over the world. He wants to find the person who bought the gift originally, thinking that they will have a real connection because of the book they have in common. Steph wants nothing to do with him so she lies and tells him the original buyer is her shallow social media-obsessed next-door neighbor. She sets him up with her.

I loved Steve Lund in this but didn’t care for the actress who played Steph, or her character. Firstly, the choice of cosmetics for this movie did not suit her looks. I read her impressive bio, and Kathryn Davis appears to be a beautiful and multi-talented performer. I even liked her in another movie, but just didn’t care for her or her character in this one. Her delivery seemed anxious, tense, and high-strung. She talked in a too-fast staccato manner. I just wanted to tell her to calm down. As for her character, Steph’s whole relationship with Steve was based on a lie. She started to fall for him and see his true self underneath the surface, but wouldn’t tell him the truth. That premise for a plot is boring and is used far too often. Plus, her character is not too bright about how to make the most of her idea. She was blind and stubborn until the very end. Her mother accuses her of not being able to see the forest for the trees and she was absolutely right. It was too frustrating. I liked her family, including her ex-husband. Full disclosure: I fast-forwarded through much of this because I saw exactly where this was going and I didn’t have the patience for still another “just tell the truth!” plotline. Also, the premise that any single woman, let alone two, would not want to date a handsome billionaire who is also a nice guy played by Steve Freaking Lund was just too ludicrous.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Christmas on 5th Avenue

The Grinch and the Good Fairy

Eva runs a concierge business and is very busy during Christmas. When one of her most important customers offers her son’s penthouse to live in while he is in Vermont in exchange for decorating and filling his freezer with home-cooked food, she jumps at the chance. But surprise surprise, the grieving reclusive best-selling author shows up unexpectedly. Romance and reclamation ensue.

I’m in the minority in thinking Olivier Renaud’s performance as Lucas was right on the money. He was supposed to be a cold fish, harsh, and stiff. Eva was so perky and sunny that it made a nice contrast and upped the chemistry between them. As the movie went on he started to grow on me. When she made her move and he rejected her it was kind of a shocker. We know he had feelings for her, but his issues ran deep. When he finally did warm up, it made it all the more affecting.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

November 27, 2021