The Art of Us

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

February 12, 2022

A Mrs. Miracle Christmas

“Isn’t that Fortuitous!”

The Mrs. Miracle Christmas movies, based on books by mainstream novelist Debbie Macomber, were a cut above typical Hallmark Christmas fare. I was very happy to see a new one in the series with Caroline Rhea taking over the eponymous character. I was not at all surprised that she brought her own comedic talents, warmth, and energy to the role. I am certain that this will be a yearly event now that they have their new Mrs. Miracle. And we got an extra bonus with the appearance of her daughter, “Mercy,” charmingly played by Jordan Ashley Olsen.

In this one, Mrs. Miracle comes to the rescue of a school teacher and her husband, and the young woman’s “Nana” who are all finding it difficult to move forward from grief. Lauren and Will from the loss of their foster child, and Nana from the death of her husband. Lauren also harbors hurt and abandonment issues because of a dead mother and an absent father. Although certain aspects are as predictable as usual, it does avoid some usual Hallmark conventions. For one thing, money is an issue. Lauren and Will started living with Nana because of financial problems. Loss of religious faith is touched on. The big 20-minutes-to-go-in-the-movie conflict over a new foster child is in no danger of escalating because the couple is married and love each other. So they communicate.

Once she settled into the role, Lauren is ably played by Kaitlin Doubleday who is a dead ringer for a young Kelly Ripa.

Steve Lund who is usually in lighter fare, is effective as her husband who is trying to get his wife to look forward and try again.  It was no surprise that he was great in this more dramatic role and they couldn’t have cast anyone better than Paula Shaw as the funny, feisty Nana. All three are caught up in the force of nature that is Mrs. Miracle who is a firm believer that “Sometimes we don’t know what we need until it is placed right in front of us.” It is all capped off with a very satisfying “3 years later” epilogue.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

November 11, 2021

Secret Millionaire

A Park, A Food Truck, and a Secret Identity

As usual with non-Hallmark TV romances this one strays from the formula just a bit. First of all we have a lack of a festival or small town/big city conflict. This one is the “save the park or whatever” plot. Hey, I didn’t say it was a complete departure!

An indulged son of a real estate mogul has been drifting from one thing to another, while his father wants him to settle down and work with him at his company. He gives him an ultimatum that he has to find a job within a week or he will be cut off from his financial support. Leaving the building he runs into some protesters who are trying to rescue their beloved park from his fathers evil development plans. He conceals his identity and gets a job as a chef in the cute one’s food truck.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before it will be discovered that he is none other than the son of the person who is trying to take the park away. Thus the suspense and tension. The predictable story is enlivened by the cast. Siobhan Williams is a fresh face and is a perfect spunky girl next door type. Steve Lund, a Hallmark regular is as attractive and reliable as usual. And yes, Steve Lund, I saw you in that Allegra commercial. A little side hustle? Good for you. The secondary couple have a sweet courtship, complicated by a rival love interest. Both of the guys are appealing until one of them turns out to be a big phony.

There is corporate-type other woman for our hero to provide some drama, and the Dad learns something about his own grandfather that leads to a happy ending for all. Of course.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

September 14, 2021

Love Upstream

“I’m Too Busy Being Fat and Mannish!”

A funny script, interspersed with good drama and suspense makes this an above-average tv romance. There was great chemistry between the two leads, Kimberly-Sue Murray (perky and effervescent Charlotte) and Steve Lund (dry and cynical Rob). There were several laugh-out-loud comic scenes between the two antagonists turned lovers, as well as tension and eventual tenderness. Each of the actors made the most of the script with their excellent comic timing. And that also goes for Nadine Whiteman Roden who played Tina, the owner of the Wilderness retreat’s wife and eventual friend of Charlotte, our fish-out-of-water heroine. Her opening scene shaming an elderly “Karen” was classic. Charlotte is a devoted city girl who writes books giving relationship advice. When her fiancé dumps her, it puts her career on the verge of shambles. She changes focus and decided to write a book about how to survive in the wilderness. Just go with it.

Her showpiece scene is her panic attack while caught in an elevator with our eventual hero. He is not impressed, to say the least. His big scene is when the couple meets her snobby ex-boyfriend at a fancy restaurant who superciliously asks him what he does for a living. He replies in all seriousness that he is a Prince. So funny. And I loved how he had her back and put him in his place. The actor who played the cheating ex was a dead ringer for Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) which made the take-down all the more satisfying. I also wanted to give props to Tenika Davis who played Charlotte’s affected snotty city friend, who inadvertently shows Charlotte that her heart is not in Chicago after all.

After her adventures, when Charlotte submits her manuscript, her editor changes it to cruelly mock her new friends. They are hurt and betrayed. Tina won’t speak to her, as she yells across the yard, “I’m too busy being “fat” and “mannish!”

Of course, it all gets straightened out, and Rob’s declaration of love was sweet, romantic, and touching. Like I said, the chemistry between these two actors was the best I’ve seen in a long time. Steve Lund is now an official favorite.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August 30, 2021

Baby, It’s Cold Inside

Bait and Switch

I signed up for a Hallmark movie and got an infomercial for the Ice Hotel in Canada. Except the script would have been better in the infomercial. The lead actress, Jocelyn Hudon, droned her part out in a monotone like she couldn’t get the words out fast enough so she could be done with it. Not that I blame her. Meryl Streep couldn’t have created any interest with this lifeless script. She was pretty, blonde, and boring. Her main personality trait was being cutely clumsy. I’ve liked Steve Lund in other parts, so I’ll just move on.

This travelogue consisted of jumping from one cold-weather activity to another. Baking authentic Nordic food, sliding down ice slides, hot-tubbing, touring the hotel, snowshoeing, glass-blowing, maple syrup making, and northern lights viewing. After about an hour of this frantic activity, the heroine actually asks the hotel owner what there is to do in the area. I kid you not. The most exciting thing that happened was the influential hotel reviewer got a maple syrup pop stuck on his hat. There was a bit at the end where the dead-eyed jealous hotel manager (who actually was pretty scary with her coiled hostility masked by her friendly courtesy) said some mean things to our heroine and briefly scared her off the trail of a new career path and a cute boyfriend. But by that time it was too late. Thanks to that hotel hat guy (who reappeared in one of the strangest caps unless you were impersonating an Army Ranger, ever) disaster was averted.

This is the second Hallmark movie starring the Ice Hotel. I think an investigation is in order. **2 stars out of 10**

May 13, 2021