Note: This is an updated review from almost a year ago. I was only a novice reviewer in those days, and as the DVD is now available, I thought it high time this review received a “face lift.”
A young caterer’s life suddenly changes course when she inherits a country home and learns she must share it with a career-obsessed Wall Street trader. At first, these opposites do not attract, but feelings begin to change when they find themselves having to work side-by-side to restore their newly acquired home.
Before reviewing this film, permit me to say I was privileged to be a part of the live tweeting session that occurred on Valentine’s Day when this movie premiered on Hallmark. If you ever get an opportunity to tweet live with Brennan Elliott and Lacey Chabert, it is a stimulating experience (and it’s great to tweet with all of the Hallmark actors and actresses). I was never a Hallmark aficionado until I discovered what a dynamic class act their film casts are. And when I say they are the best, I mean it.
First of all, it was an absolute treat to see Ed Asner in this film! He is a veritable television legend, and even for someone like me who didn’t see him in his heyday, I know what a respected actor he is. He plays his part brilliantly in this film–even though the role is small, it is memorable. In fact, upon rewatching, my family and I were reminded of that fact that all Ed has to do is merely appear on film and the viewers are captivated. Not many actors exist with that kind of reputation, but what a blessed luxury to be added to this captivating film.
Although Paul has a small role in this film, as Chef Oliver he presents the consummate balance between boss and father for our heroine, Jenny (I will elaborate on Lacey’s role in a moment). When I first saw this film, I was not familiar with Paul’s work, but upon rewatching, I remembered him in Ice Sculpture Christmas, where he played the model father. The wonderful thing about Paul is that his role is significant because of his substantial presence when on the screen. In every one of his scenes, I found myself drawn to his imposing presence. Additionally, you may have seen him in When Calls the Heart, as well as a variety of other notable roles for various networks. It would appear that Hallmark has realized his talent, and my hope is that we will continue to see him in more of their films in the future.
Yet another vibrant and darling woman featured in this film is Barbara, and as Alice, she is an incredible fit. While this film introduced me to her competent acting and relatable wit, I was so thrilled to see her in another film last year, Harvest Moon. The way in which Barbara plays this deliciously meddlesome but genuinely considerate neighbor to both Jenny and Brian is enough to make me wish she lived in my neighborhood. She is natural and effortless, and I hope to see her highlighted in many more roles just like this one.
Also not to be forgotten is Heather, who plays the waitress at the local diner (and is Alice’s niece). As Casey, you might think she would be unexceptional. Waitresses and waiters seem to ebb and flow in films, and all too often, they are tedious and monotonous. Not so with Heather’s depiction of Casey. Her facial expressions demonstrate that this lady will be an impressive waitress, and when you examine her resume, you know exactly why that is the case. She glistens in the role, and I believe I may just have to check out her vast list of credits. Of course, her role is remarkably pivotal, and the fact that Brian gives Casey a kiss of appreciation will definitely make her the envy of many Brennan Elliott fans.
Unfortunately, Greyston plays the “other guy,” Daryl, for whom efficiency and organization seem to be nonexistent (not to mention tact). As a typical character in these films, he bungles an opportunity to have Jenny for his own, and that error costs him ultimate happiness with her. Greyston gives a fantastically humorous performance as the bumbling, clueless former boyfriend (and the entire female audience wonders what on earth Jenny ever saw in him), and his comedic timing is immaculate. We don’t ever pity him (even though in other roles Greyston might be charming), and it’s rather rewarding to see Jenny send his character packing.
And this guy provides plenty of humor for the viewers as well. Daniel plays Tommy, the all-around handyman in the little town. At first, his character appears arrogant, but in time, we get to see a character alteration as Brian comes to Tommy in an effort to procure the carpentry, plumbing, and other skills that he needs to assist Jenny in her quest to transform the old home into a proper bed and breakfast. While I have yet to see him in anything else, he has a commanding presence with a relaxed way of acting, and that combination is exactly what is needed in this business. I will have to watch out for his name in the future.
Now onto Lacey Chabert, who plays Jenny, the want-to-be entrepreneur who is more than ready to leave her safe job in the city (and a boyfriend who won’t commit) in order to open her own bed and breakfast in her newly inherited home in the country. This film was how I became a devoted fan of this talented lady’s (I had seen in her in a couple other Hallmark films, but I was unaware of her prowess). Lacey is a true artist who is as sweet as “the girl next door,” but she will not kowtow to those who would attempt to ruin her nor hijack her dreams. Additionally, her beauty, wit, and treasured chemistry with her co-star is outstanding. No matter what role she is given, she is effortlessly authentic. Add to that her winning smile and infectious laugh and you have the perfect recipe for a viewer’s engaging feast.
For those who only know Brennan Elliott from Cedar Cove, this may have been a departure from the conniving but beloved businessman whom viewers “loved to hate.” Since this film’s premiere, most viewers have discovered Brennan’s “good guy persona,” and most viewers tend to prefer seeing this softer side of his character. But lest the viewer be unaware, this is not the first time he has played such a role (see my Nanny Express review). My mom made the comment (and she stands by it nearly a year later) that she would rather see him in this role as the congenial Brian than the role of the diabolical Warren (but Warren did grow on her in season thee). And yes, Brennan is able to dexterously portray the financial wizard who seems so out-of-place in the country but for the lovely Jenny. He immersed his entire being into this role–well, Brennan always does that anyway–and I never questioned the credibility of his character. It is charming to see his comedic timing through many scenes, and as the love begins to bloom between the two of them, the mood is electric. And after all, who wouldn’t be attracted to such a handsome and debonair guy who revealed a sensitive heart once all the barriers were broken down?
On screen, the two make unequivocal magic together. When asked, it seems that one of the favorite scenes centers around an entertaining paint fight (indeed a memorable scene). Since I live in the country, it was very appealing to see (and hear) the goat (and the kids). I can’t recall ever seeing goats in a Hallmark film (or most films of any kind, come to think of it), and those animals truly steal the show. Add in Brian’s “not-so-handy” home repair skills, and the humor continues to be entrancing. Lacey and Brennan bring this witty script to life in their outstandingly clever, congenially audacious, and simply signature way.
Well, these pictures should come as no surprise as this is Hallmark after all. However, the story never comes off as sappy nor contrived. And with these two as the stars, you just can’t go wrong. My take on whether Brennan should play nice guys or evil ones? I’ll be honest–I love to see him in these parts. I mean after all, in all my interaction with him on twitter (and now, the phone–he was my first ever interview after all), I have received nothing but kindness from him. In fact, let me modify that. I have received such overwhelming generosity that defining the way in which Brennan has inspired and encouraged me defies this or any language.
However, I have to admit that the way in which he plays the “bad guy” (Warren in Cedar Cove) did eventually win me over. For me, I find him so versatile that I’m willing to watch him in any role. And the artistic side of me can understand how challenging, intriguing, and fun it can be to play a role that is opposite from whom one typically is. But no matter what, you can always count on a compelling performance from Brennan. Oh, and a heartfelt performance from Lacey (she is a true paragon as well–sweetness personified). Together, it is sheer rapture that makes Hallmark the warm and inviting network that it is. Quite sincerely, this is a film I plan on making an annual Valentine’s Day tradition (as well as other times of the year).
And if you are interested in purchasing the film for yourself: