As usual, I had to a do a little research to discover who played some of the minor characters, and I did ascertain that while this cast has some notable and recognized professionals, there are also several outstanding newcomers. Thankfully, all the actors and actresses work together to make this another of my favorites of the holiday season. In fact, at the end of this film, I declared that this is unmistakably my kind of film.
Emma gives a blissfully magnificent performance as Mrs. Claiborne, the one who is sympathetic to Allie’s plight. After all, her character has experienced true love, and she only wants the best for Allie and Max. Emma is flawless in her role as her character is always at the precise place at the correct time and oversees the blossoming love between the star couple. Her character is the one who stands out on the staff as being kind and sincerely embracing the refreshing change Allie brings to the castle. While her character may often fade into the background, there is no doubt that the viewers will remember fondly her portrayal of this royal staff member.
As Allie’s younger brother and sister, Rollo and Rose are ideally suited. Although their roles are small, their impact is sensed throughout the film. Both actors are still relatively new to the acting community (at least as far as television and film credits), and I can only hope we get a chance to see them featured in the future as I am certain these two have more to contribute. However, even in their minor roles, they suit their respective characters properly. My only question is–what is the rest of their story after the ultimate conclusion of this film? I guess that since they are not the focus of the film, that is a question that may never be answered. I am especially interested in Lisa’s future since it seems she is involved in musical theater.
In fact, this is the last time we hear about Lisa’s aspirations, and the audience is never treated to the rest of her story. But that is just my nitpicking since I am perpetually curious about musical theater; it doesn’t keep me from enjoying the film as a whole.
No doubt the audience will remember Amy Marston’s depiction of Miss Wick because she is the “mean” staff member who never smiles and eternally seems to bring negativity with her wherever she goes. Amy plays her faultlessly, and when her character and Danica’s butt heads, it provides a bit of humor. I don’t think Miss Wick ever smiles, and my hat is decidedly off to Amy for this perfect characterization. I hope we haven’t seen the last of this talented actress.
Unfortunately, Miss Wicks is not the only “villain” in the film. In fact, even worse than that character is this diabolical duo. Both Colin and Alexandra have a plethora of roles to their credit, and in this film, their characters are the ones who labor tirelessly against Allie and her bright perspective. Chancellor Riggs is a massive control freak who wants nothing more than to force the king to do whatever he believes is best for the country. And in his opinion, that is marrying the aloof but exquisite Celia. While the audience never learns exactly what the motivation is in this union, it is crystal clear that money and power lie at the root of it all. Alexander infuses no degree of warmth into Celia’s character, and Colin injects nothing but strict attention to tradition into his demeanor. Neither of these individuals seems to experience genuine emotions, and they have suppressed all authentic humanity from within them and replaced it with greed, avarice, and prestige. Both Colin and Alexandra play their respective roles immaculately, and per typical Hallmark fashion, the viewers can count on the futility of their plans.
Thankfully, there is a voice of reason in the castle, and that is the character of Fergus, played brilliantly by Pavel Douglas. While I’m fairly sure I have seen him here and there, this will be the performance for which I shall cherish him. While Pavel embeds the expected formality that one requires when in the employ of royalty, it is evident that he has not forgotten the essential (and simple) things in life and even the ability to have fun. He is partial to Allie from the beginning, and he never hides his aversion to the Chancellor nor Celia. Although he is merely the royal butler, he is more savvy than most of the people in the castle. Pavel is able to characterize Fergus in such a way that he becomes a confidante and a fount of wisdom for both the king and the charming woman who is wooing the king’s heart. I was thoroughly enthralled with Pavel’s prowess, and I actually think I need to look up more of his works in the months to come.
Making her film debut, Ellie is positively enchanting as the precocious, mischievous Princess Theodora. I know that Hallmark seems to have become an expert at featuring gifted child actors in their movies, and this is decidedly the case with this young talent. I love her “under her breath” laugh that reminds me of children who get a fiendish delight out of playing pranks, and indeed her character is just that. While her character acts like a princess when she is supposed to…
…I think it is clear whom she prefers.
In truth, she expediently warms up to her new governess, and before long, Theodora discovers the joy of childhood again with the understanding, direct, and fun-loving Allie. I do believe Hallmark has uncovered yet another gem of a young actress in Ellie. Here’s hoping we observe her talents again very soon.
Of course, it is no secret that at the core of this romantic Yuletide tale is this unlikely but precious couple, Allie and Max as played by Danica and Rupert. From the first time they lay eyes on each other, it is evident that some spark has been passed between them. In an uncharacteristic singular fashion, Max almost cannot speak, and he surely cannot take his eyes off the attractive maid. Similarly, poor Allie is fully tongue-tied and completely nonplussed by the attention of this handsome man (and she doesn’t even know his true identity). Allie speaks her mind to Max, and as he tells her later, “not many people speak their mind around here.” And that is something he appreciates about her. In Allie’s case, it is more the fact that she looks past who he is on the exterior and sees the authentic man who has been shrouded for so long by doing what is “right” and “keeping up appearances.” In truth, a vibrant, spirited, charitable man lives beneath the frosty exterior of King Maximilian, and it is Allie, who almost instantly slices through the icy layers to reveal the man inside. This is demonstrated through all their interactions together, but my favorite is the snowball scene–hands down.
With these two, the chemistry is undeniable, but it remains somewhat restrained and formal most of the time. However, once it is clear that Rupert thinks of Allie as more than a mere governess, there is no doubt that these two have an electrifying chemistry that cannot be squashed by any outside influences, even if it means that Max has to break tradition.
All one has to do is compare his chemistry with Celia to that of Allie, and there really is no contest.
Rupert himself is a seasoned actor with plenty of credits to his name, and I am quite certain I have seen some of the works listed. However, this will be the film for which I shall remember him. As Max, he is the ideal vision of royalty that consumes every girl’s fantasy. There is something about royalty, and he portrays Max with such a debonair and sophisticated air sans being too stuffy. His character has never been opposed to bucking tradition, so it should come as no surprise who soon becomes the object of his affection. Their love blossoms so rapidly, but with Rupert playing the lead, I doubt any leading lady would object.
Rupert’s character doesn’t always know what to make of his daughter, but in so many ways that rebellious nature is so like him that attempting to force Theodora to be who she is not is in direct opposition to his nature and character. And it is Allie, who recognizes that. Furthermore, without exception, every interaction Rupert has with each character radiates his overwhelming prowess.
The way in which Rupert’s character relates to Ellie’s character grants the viewers some of the sweetest scenes in the film. Through the eyes of Max, we travel the sometimes bumpy journey that ultimately ends with his being reminded that doing what is best for him and his family far surpasses doing what is “right” for everyone else. If he cannot live with his choices, he will not be able to live with himself. And at the end of the day, if you can’t live with yourself, life really becomes an insufferable existence.
At the heart of this congenial tale is Danica’s performance as Allie. While I have seen her here and there (I never watched her in Wonder Years), there is no doubt that this lady is talented. And if I didn’t know who she was before, I will forever remember her irrepressible, engaging performance in this film. Danica is one of those actresses with whom the viewers fall in love the moment they see her. She has a smile that illuminates the screen, and in this role, she has been handed a role that is so uniquely suited to her talents that I was completely mesmerized. She is the main reason this film took me by storm, and I would never have dreamed that I would be announcing this as one of the best new holiday films this year.
Wherever Danica’s character goes, she takes her New York attitude, idealism, and free-spirited thinking with her. Like me, her character does not see the point of maintaining the status quo–change can be an energizing thing. Just because it has been done like that for hundreds of years doesn’t make it valid. And it is all these qualities and more that cause me to thoroughly revel in Danica’s performance. In addition to this, Allie always puts everyone’s needs ahead of hers, even if it costs her transcendent pleasure. I will mention that Danica’s character is never more radiant than when she appears at the ball looking like this and chances to dance with the king (just like a fairytale, I know–but aren’t all of us suckers for this kind of story at Christmas?).
Although Allie feels like a fish out of water, she never fails to be who she really is no matter the circumstances. And Danica is able to saturate her character with all of these qualities and more with graceful effortlessness. There is no doubt in my mind that Hallmark needs to feature Danica in more films all year long as she is indeed a treasure with more than enough effervescence and ebullience to immerse herself into any role that Hallmark would choose for her to portray.
Danica’s interactions with Ellie’s character are somewhat reminiscent of Fraulein Maria from The Sound of Music minus the guitar and song. Allie is able to befriend this lonely, little girl in such a way that “Teddy” begins to trust her. I absolutely adored watching these two actresses together as it is a reminder of what a benevolent person can do to change the life of a child (or anyone for that matter). Allie is all about understanding Theodora rather than merely enforcing the rules and insisting that she behaves. It is about relationships more than anything else, and that is what causes Max to fall for her as well.
I will admit to being somewhat reticent when I began watching this as the story sounded a bit hackneyed and too predictable. But as I got caught up in the story, it was the prowess of Danica, Rupert, and even Ellie that caused me to set my preconceived notions aside and watch with increasing interest. It wasn’t long into the film before this trio had my undivided attention, and the story had enough pleasant surprises to make the time I invested in it worthwhile. For a treat your entire family can watch together, don’t miss out on this film. It is sure to be a new Christmas hit that will be watched again and again.
For more information: