I used to be a huge Ashley Williams fan. Her perky cheerful demeanor really energized many of the Hallmarks she starred in. I just couldn’t help smiling whenever she came on the scene. Then I got a little tired of her. Instead of perky, she came across as over-caffeinated and exhausting. Instead of cheerful, she came across as manic. And she started to wield that mega-watt smile like it was a weapon. So I approached this latest Ashley Williams vehicle with caution. I did look forward to how she would pair with one of my fave Hallmark actors Ryan Paevey.
I would like to renew my membership to the Ashley Williams fan club, please. At least on a movie-to-movie basis. She plays a happy bride who is dumped the morning of her wedding. Sitting on the floor of the church toilet stall Boo-Hooing hysterically with Mascara running all over her face, she was hilarious. I never liked her more. “I never should have forced him to watch The Sound of Music!!!!,” she wails to her mother and sister frantically pounding on the bathroom door. Out she tumbles from the window of the church in full wedding regalia and meets Ryan Paevey, who has been similarly dumped. They engage in some banter and Ryan talks her into going on her Hawaiian honeymoon by herself. She is taken under the wing of a sweet resort manager and starts having a good time. “ Mango-Lime Mimosa? Sounds Gross. I’ll take it!” Ryan later shows up at the resort himself (Are you following me?”). No, he has a good friend on the island and also needs a break. They become friends, go on adventures, start to recover from their trauma, and the inevitable happens. Yes, that. But also her ex-fiance shows up.
The dialogue was funny and the rest of the scripting was good too. Ryan and Ashley’s relationship develops naturally and they both experience a needed change of attitude towards how to approach life. Ashley really nailed both the comedy and the serious stuff and her good-humored rapport with Ryan was spot on. Yes her too famous for her own good grin was front and center, but somehow it was just fine. Great Scenery, well-played secondary characters, and topped off by a nice satisfying “One Year Later” scene. I love those.
Reliable Lacey just didn’t do it for me in this one. This movie was made 8 years ago and Lacey Chabert hasn’t changed a bit. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Same hairdo, same lipstick, same signature eyeliner. Honestly, couldn’t she even wash her face before going to bed? On the other hand, If she ever wiped that eyeliner off, I don’t think I’d recognize her. Same affected giggle: It would make a good drinking game. I didn’t think she had much chemistry with her co-star, and the plot was tired and dull. Cupcake maker Lacey is invited to her bosses home for Christmas and she is hoping for a marriage proposal. On the way to meet him she meets a magic santa claus and is picked up by her bosses really nice friend/assistant. They are stranded on the way to her bosses vacation home. While Lacey and the assistant are falling for each other with the help of magic santa, her boss meets an old flame. And that ties it all up and puts a bow on it.
Maybe I just need a break from Lacey, because she can be a good actress, and is great with comedy when comedy is in the script. Unfortunately that’s a little difficult, since watching Hallmarks is kind of a silly hobby of mine. On a promising note, I have seen her in more recent efforts and she has been fine.
Florence Henderson, John Ratzenburger, Robert Pine, and Lin Shay, of Insidious fame, add some credibility. And I did like her love interest. On his own though. I’d like to see him pared up with someone else.
The plot wasn’t anything much. It follows the usual formula:1) successful career-woman with useless boyfriend gets fired and goes back to small hometown to recharge. 2) Meets Old Boyfriend she has been avoiding for 10 years due to misunderstanding. 3) 2 interfering mothers, sensible father 3) A festival is saved after the 2 exes are forced to work together. 4) they fall in love again only to have another blow-up which sends heroine back to the big city with terrible boyfriend. 5) they come to their senses and reunite for a happy ending. Not to mention: 6) black actors relegated to the best friend zone. So why does this get high marks from me? The Acting and Appeal and Chemistry of Bethany Joy Lenz and Luke McFarlane. Luke has long been a favorite of mine and they both breathe life and humor into unremarkable lines that in less talented actors’ hands would result in a snooze-worthy cookie-cutter romance. The 2 love scenes were emotional and steamy, especially the slow dance near the end. Their break-up was tense and sad, and in-between, they were funny both together and apart. The end scene was cheesy in the extreme but at least it didn’t end with the smooch, and some loose ends were tied up.
The story in this one was pretty lame, but I loved the male leads: Nathan Parsons at the male lead was very sexy and appealing. Loved his voice. It was so great to see Robby Benson again. He has certainly aged well and is even more attractive than he was in his youth. Both of these actors are responsible for the relatively high rating from me. Although, sometimes Robby Benson delivered his lines like he was a trifle constipated. Sorry Robby, I saw what you were trying to do there character-wise, but…. I also liked the acting of Shannon Chan-Kent as Gina. Unfortunately, I was not impressed with the character of Abby. She struck me as needy, whiny, and not too bright. I don’t think it was the actress so much as the way her character was written. As others have mentioned, the depiction of farm life was silly and ignorant. Talk about lazy. But it did provide some laughs.