Van Gogh to Hell in a Handbasket
The Art of Us had some “odd for Hallmark” elements in it. Some of which were not unwelcome.
First off, yes, Taylor Cole as Dr. Harper Higgins lies about her Dog Walker/Talented Artist love interest being Vincent Van Gogh’s great-grandson in order to advance her career. So that genuinely crossed the line as far as morals and ethics are concerned. It put other people’s careers and reputations on the line. Hallmark heroines usually do have some foibles and faults to grow past, but being unethical and dishonest for monetary gain is usually not one of them. Especially to people she counts as her colleagues and friends. Secondly, she and her artist actually suffer consequences for their bad behavior. She loses her own career and reputation and he has his show canceled and dismantled. The third aspect that was unusual was that the ex-boyfriend is actually a good honest (and very attractive) guy and the only one smart and educated enough to show any skepticism regarding Tom Becker’s pedigree. Taylor broke up with him because, as an art critic, he told the truth about her art (too technical, no heart or passion) in his review. He was saddened when that truth-telling caused her to quit painting instead of learning and trying again. So yes, Taylor is weak character-wise. the fourth thing is that we forego the 15-20 minutes-to-go in the movie conflict that busts the couple up temporarily. There is a crisis but they face it together.
There were also some big questions to get past in order to buy into the main plot. It is not credible at all that a University art department and respected art dealer would buy into Taylor’s lie about Van Gogh. It is well known that Van Gogh had no children. That such a blockbuster revelation would just be accepted at face value with no investigation is simply ridiculous. That a talented artist would be revealed to be Van Gogh’s great-grandson would be headline news worldwide in the arts community.
I had thought I saw this years ago but I hadn’t. When I saw that it starred Steve Lund, I had to check it out because he is a favorite of mine. He is very engaging, you (I, anyway) really buy into whatever emotion he is trying to convey. There is genuine feeling beyond his words. And when the script calls for it, he can be very funny. He elevates whatever he is in. Taylor Cole? Meh. I can take or leave her. Sometimes she’s pretty good, but in this one she is just average. Maybe her character was to blame though. Everything ends on an upbeat note. It is shown that Tom is on the way to becoming a successful artist, and Harper is happily going back to her own painting with a whole new attitude now that her university career is in shambles.
February 12, 2022
Dye, Die, Don’t Bother
I don’t have a bad word to say about the actors in this new Hallmark mystery series. Gonzalo and McPartlin were just fine, and they had a good rapport. But boy oh boy was it dumb. This is a new entry in Hallmark’s spunky female amateur detective line. They usually run their own “womanly” business so they can take off whenever one of their acquaintances or customers gets murdered in order to catch the killer. We have flower shops, bookstores, antique stores, and bakeries. We also have matchmakers(!?), wedding photographers, crossword puzzle editors, and podcast hosts. Strangely, in two of my favorites, Aurora Teagarden and Mystery 101, the spunky female amateur detectives actually have mainstream professions. With the arrival of Cut, Color, Murder, we now have beauty shop owner. What took them so long?
In this one, Julie is taking her talents to the world of beauty pageants in which her younger sister is a participant and she is doing hair. The bitchy showrunner gets murdered and there are plenty of suspects because she was evil to absolutely everyone. Julie is the widow of a policeman who was killed in the line of duty (or was it unsolved cold-blooded murder?). So she has ties to the police department primarily through the chief of police who she has wrapped around her little finger. Enter new guy, Ryan McPartlin, a handsome hotshot detective with whom she butts heads because he is a professional. After Julie meets an anonymous text-messager alone in a spooky abandoned house at night because he/she has info about her husband, it was remote throwing time. Except I had to find it first because I had already throw
n it after all the laws she broke and chain of evidence procedures ignored in the meantime. She is rescued from certain death by Ryan and let’s just say this show leaves no cliche unincluded.
We know this is a series because after the mystery is solved we have a bit of a cliffhanger while Julie is having a pow-wow with her dead husband at the cemetery because she has decided to move on (is that something you just decide to do?) and wants to give him a heads up ( I guess?). We know that there is going to be an over-arching mystery of her trying to solve her husband’s murder and getting into all kinds of trouble. Not a spoiler, because I’m not psychic, but I predict that the murderer of her husband turns out to be the indulgent good-guy/father-figure/police chief in an unknown number of episodes hence.
February 9, 2022
UPtv Gets it Right Again
This was a very well-done little story. Up TV, in recent days, is really showing up Hallmark in terms of fresh faces, well-written scripts, and character development. The three leads were more than half the appeal. Ellen Woglom was appealing and charming as the female lead. She has a killer smile and I appreciated that she did not have a stick-thin runway model body. Carlo Marx was handsome and likable as the vulnerable father who was over-protective and almost needy with his daughter. The young daughter was played by Erica Tremblay. Again, a young actress who was hired for her talent rather than cutesy-wutesy looks and perky sparkles. She is the younger sister of the multiple award-winning film actor, Jacob Tremblay.
The romantic relationship developed naturally and believably rather than a series of “meet-cutes” and fake instalove based on nothing but two pretty people snarking and bickering at each other. The setting looked like a real place rather than a McMansion plopped down in front of a stunning view. I’d stay there and feel right at home. The conflict was the same old same old (workaholic big city girl reconnects with nature while meeting troubled widowed Dad of young girl and presto chango lifestyles are changed and a new family is formed). But Up TV shows once again that this tired plot can be done in an entertaining and engaging way. Hallmark really should be upping their game. I fear they are have become over-reliant on their “big” name stable of actors and actresses at the expense of giving exciting young talent a chance to shine and scriptwriters who work hard to offer a quality product while still falling within the genre’s parameters.
March 21, 2021
The sequel to the Nine Lives of Christmas starts out with a shocker! Marilee and Zachary have broken up! And she’s with another guy! In Miami! And she looks happy! AAAAAIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? Well, it turns out that she wanted more (marriage) and he didn’t want to “ruin a good thing”. She enrolled in a veterinarian school in far away Miami by way of a wake-up call, and he didn’t stop her or come after her. So yes, it was totally his fault.
But there’s hope. She goes home for Christmas, as one does, looking forward to spending time with Miles (her boyfriend) and her family. But he prioritizes their veterinarian practice over family, they have a fight and they break up over the phone. She remarks sadly to her sister that she thought Miles would have fought harder for their relationship. Poor Marilee burned again. But she doesn’t get a complex over it, she goes on and reconnects with Zack over finding homes for 9 adorable kittens. The chemistry is still there.
Kimberley Sustad is great as always. Beautiful in an accessible way, charming, and funny. Brandon Routh is very handsome and does a good job. He works well with Kimberley. She gets some good digs in. She steals the Christmas tree he and Sam (Gregory Harrison the Fire Chief) had their eye on. When he protests she tells him “Well think of it as a teachable moment. The next time you find “the one” don’t drag your feet.” Thanks to good acting, the banter is entertaining.
The only quibble I have with this one is that she seems to do all the work in the relationship. He is very passive. At one point, she grabs him and kisses him and then apologizes and walks away. He lets her. He admits to Sam that the break-up was his fault and it was the worst mistake of his life. Sam asks him whether he ever told her that. Uh, No. He sees her with her ex (yes Miles shows up in Oregon all contrite) and he jumps to conclusions and runs home. She has to call him. He doesn’t answer his phone. When his cat answers it for him, she confesses her love, but he has to think about it and remains silent. Paul Campbell, Kimberley’s frequent partner in past Hallmarks, makes a cameo in this one. At this point, I’m thinking she missed the boat.
Finally, in the end, he says and does everything he should and even puts a ring on it. I am making the decision to have faith that this relationship has a future because I like the couple so much. Plus, breaking up with her now that they’re engaged would take some initiative on his part, so I think Marilee is safe from another heartbreak.
November 26, 2021
All Good Things Must Come to an End, Hopefully.
But I Doubt It. This is the one where Olivia and Mick finally get married. But not before dealing with the wedding of another couple. There was an interesting dynamic going on with them. At first, the guy, who is a fast-rising movie action star(the actor was miscast), seems like an exemplary nice guy and totally devoted to his down-to-earth bride-to-be. As the movie goes on, though, we see that he is a manipulative passive-aggressive jerk while putting self-promotion before his wedding despite promising faithfully to keep it low-key with no hype or publicity. His favorite trick is to tell his increasingly frustrated and unhappy fiancé that this is a one-off and if he doesn’t do the interview/photo-op/magazine spread it will be harmful to his career. And then he tells his bride: “But you decide. It’s all up to you.” Knowing full well that she will go along with it or be the mean selfish bitch.
The sensible bride probably would have drawn the line in the sand long before she did except that at the beginning of the movie, Josie/Olivia advises her to be more flexible to her future husband’s career needs or risk a break-up. And then, after giving her that piece of questionable advice, she lets her twist in the wind while meekly putting up with the groom’s nonsense and continual changes of plan. Olivia couldn’t have taken her aside to amend her advice to “flexible within reason?”
Other than the step-by-step descent of the groom from nice guy to stupid jerk, the rest of the film was the usual string of disasters with flowers, cake, dress, caterers, vows, etc. I think many viewers are tired of this series, including Olivia and Mick’s two daughters who I guess were too busy to attend, or weren’t invited. Plus, the age difference between Jack and Josie is starting to get noticeable. It would have been fine except that they are supposed to be the same age.
I am happy to report, however, that Josie Bisset finally has gotten her hair situation, which has been a source of suspense and amusement throughout the previous 5 movies, somewhat under control. Luckily though, in the end, we are treated to a series of flashbacks from the previous movies which highlight her struggles.
August 17, 2021
Hallmark Takes a Daring Step Forward
It’s not often Hallmark actresses get to portray anguish on camera. Luckily they have a real pro and bona fide actress in Lacey Chabert, who did a very credible job. I can think of very few in the stable of regulars who could have pulled off the scene where she learns her beloved sister and brother-in-law have been killed. I cried. The whole ensemble handled the story very well. You can tell they pulled out the “big guns” to meet the challenge of a script that actually called for a range of emotion: Gregory Harrison and Teryl Rothery as the parents, good ole Peter Benson as the city boyfriend who gets dumped for the small-town coach, who was played by the always welcome Tyler Hynes. I appreciated that they got a normal-looking kid who could act to play the introverted son.
There were very real problems and conflicts that had to be resolved. The father was a good guy, but too controlling. Gregory Harrison managed to keep him likable. I groaned when they were setting up for the customary Hallmark food fight ( or snowball fight if it’s winter) but it was actually funny, thanks to the performances.
It was good to see Hallmark break out of its own box a little bit. Fear not, most of the usual templates were still in place, but baby steps! Kudos.
May 17, 2021
P. S. I just noticed that Lacey Chabert was actually one of the writers. You go, girl! **8 stars out of 10**