“Dater’s Handbook” Hallmark Movie Review

By Ruth on January 30, 2016 in movie, review, television
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1390009Realizing she has a recurring habit of picking the wrong type of guy, Cassandra Barber (Markle) turns to relationship expert, Dr. Susie, and her latest self-help book, ‘Dater’s Handbook’ to help with her ailing love life. She follows the advice in Dr. Susie’s book to evaluate potential suitors, and then must ultimately choose between reliable George (Scarfe) and fun-loving Robert (Palaha). It’s hard to change old habits and place your faith in the experts, especially when your heart tells you something different.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUdaU7QWf90[/embedyt]

Welcome to the first of Hallmark’s Countdown to Valentine’s Day movies, and this one is such a pleasure to view.  While the films included in this collection are the typical romantic comedies that follow the prescribed Hallmark brand, the audience can be assured of two hours of positivity and a reminder that true love is rarely simple but always worth it.

Willie Aames (Kyle) and Winnie Hung (Cissy)

Willie Aames (Kyle) and Winnie Hung (Cissy)

Don’t blink or you might miss these two in the film. Willie and his wife Winnie make a special appearance towards the beginning and the end of the film and it is such a gift to see them. If you are unfamiliar with Willie, you might remember him from Harvest Moon as the father, or you may remember him from Eight is Enough. As far as I know, I have never seen his wife in anything else, but I think the grandest thing of all is that they are getting to be featured together in a film. While their roles are simple and straightforward, their appearance made me smile. Here’s hoping to see them both in more substantial roles in the future.

Teryl Rothery as Dr. Susie

Teryl Rothery as Dr. Susie

Yet another familiar face for us devoted Covers–Teryl plays Dr. Susie, and let me just say this was a genuinely delectable treat. Not only does she look absolutely fabulous, but she just suits this role in every detail. Everything I love about Teryl–her wit, beauty, charm, and gentle way of speaking–she imparts to her character of Dr. Susie. The intriguing thing is that her character appears to be so immaculately poised and sagaciously self-controlled, but all too soon we discover that looks can be deceiving. No spoilers, but just rest assured that the truth will be exposed, I promise. I am so jubilant to see Teryl, and here’s hoping that Hallmark will continue to feature her in more films (and maybe even their shows) for many years to come.

Matt Hamilton as Peter

Matt Hamilton as Peter

I actually thought I recognized the actor who plays Peter, and as I examined Matt’s credits, I discovered I was correct.  You may have seen Matt in recent Hallmark films such as The Bridge, the most recent installment of Garage Sale Mystery, and Novel Romance. In this film, Matt is the typical non-committal guy, and he is extremely insensitive to Cass’ needs. While he does not appear for very long in the film, it is beneficial to know that Hallmark is enjoying and valuing his talents.

Brittney Wilson as Dana

Brittney Wilson as Dana

As Cass’ friend who is so very exhilarated to get married, Brittney is enchanting. Her character, Dana, is filled with all the exuberance that would be expected of a bride who has found true love in spite of the cruel reality that often keeps one from being fulfilled in this life. Brittney portrays her role as outrageously “over-the-top,” which is exactly what she should be. If Brittney looks familiar, you may have seen her in Harvest Moon as well as other Hallmark films over the past few years. Additionally, she has landed several recurring roles on various well-known shows, most recently Bates Motel and Rogue. While she may only have a minor role, I can assure you that her dynamic depiction will ensure that she is not overlooked.

Lynda Boys as Gloria

Lynda Boyd as Gloria

Hearties may recognize Lynda as Elizabeth’s autocratic mother from When Calls the Heart, and although she plays yet another mother in this film, viewers are going to see a much gentler mother in the character of Gloria. While Lynda plays the ordinary mother who wants to see her daughter married off and happy, she is much more supportive of her daughter’s choices. In fact, she and her other daughter keep butting heads concerning Cass’ ultimate choice of a life partner. Lynda brings all the energy and forthright qualities we love about her characters to this new role, but she is much more even-tempered and even more tech savvy. Wealth and security do not impress her. She longs for her daughter to find true love, even if it means that Cass is not luxuriating in revenue and prestige.

Christine Chatelain as Nadia

Christine Chatelain as Nadia

As a double blessing for Hearties, they might recognize Christine as Laurel Miller (I had to look it up too). I was additionally gratified to recognize her from one of my current obsessions, the Canadian sci-fi series, The Collector. In the role of Nadia, Christine is Cass’ contented sister (she found her lifelong love already), who is doing everything in her power to lead Cass to the man she is convinced will provide Cass with a permanent, dependable love. Christine’s character willingly goes head to head with their mother, and there is no altering her character’s mind about who is right for her bewildered, hapless sister. Christine infuses much stubbornness and independence into her character, and this even carries over to her marriage.  While her husband is hopelessly devoted to her, it is also clear that she tends to be the dominant partner.

Adam Greydon Reid as Michael

Adam Greydon Reid as Michael

I kept wracking my brain trying to remember where I had seen Adam before, and finally, I happened to see Finding Mrs. Claus in his list of credits–of course! Adam is a veteran actor, and you will no doubt recognize him from his broad variety of series regular roles as well as guest star and television film characters. As Michael, the placid and somewhat submissive husband of the feisty and determined Nadia, he is well-suited to the role. It takes a very secure man to be able to allow his wife to be in charge and still not lose his identity nor feel emasculated. And in this case, Adam is able to inject just the right amount of everything that is needed. We never question his character’s dedication to his wife, and somehow they make their marriage work. It’s nice to see a “modern” marriage where it is acceptable for the woman to be in charge and the husband to blend more into the background. We don’t often see this on Hallmark, but it’s a gratifying departure and demonstrates how Hallmark is keeping up with the changing times, so to speak.

Jonathan Scarfe (George) Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Jonathan Scarfe (George) Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

I will admit that this was the biggest surprise for me. I have only been a fan of Jonathan’s for the past year, and customarily, he plays the role of freethinker, nontraditional, carelessly winsome guy who is disregarded by the heroine and her family since he is perceived as being unstable.

Jonathan Scarfe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Jonathan Scarfe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

I had assumed that this was the role the network would always bestow upon Jonathan to play as it seemed to fit with his look and possibly even his personality. So as I began to watch this film, I was expecting to see Jonathan’s character of George perform like those other characters.

Jonathan Scarfe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Jonathan Scarfe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Well, I have to admit I was wrong. In this role of George, Jonathan demonstrates that he can portray the affluent, snobbish, and sometimes too perfect gentleman.  There is no doubt that he has infused George with vibrantly aloof charm and impeccably righteous regard for the rules and the way it is expected to be.

 Jonathan Scarfe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Jonathan Scarfe Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

There is no uncertainty that George is the trustworthy choice as a suitor for Cass, but is he the one who will provide her with ultimate bliss that lasts a lifetime? Well, it would appear that Nadia thinks so, but to Gloria’s credit, she is not overly dazzled with this virtuous man.

 Jonathan Scarfe, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Jonathan Scarfe, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

In any Hallmark love story, chemistry is always paramount. So, what about Jonathan and Meghan? Do they have the necessary chemistry and harmony between their characters to ensure a happily ever after for their characters?

Jonathan Scarfe, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Jonathan Scarfe, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Well, he seems to know how to create an elegantly romantic atmosphere in spite of the surroundings. And there is no reservation in stating that Meghan’s character wants to love him with reckless abandon. But because George is so conventional, he is a “tough nut to crack” in the area of chemistry and true love.

Meghan Markle, Jonathan Scarfe, Mr. T. Rex Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Jonathan Scarfe, Mr. T. Rex Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

 Jonathan Scarfe, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Jonathan Scarfe, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

It is clear that he doesn’t always appreciate Cass’ frivolity and eccentric behavior. But he doesn’t want to be unduly critical, so what’s a man to do? He has never met a woman like her, and she does provide a semblance of the love that he has somehow eluded him his whole life. Or does she?

 Jonathan Scarfe, Mr. T. Rex Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Jonathan Scarfe, Mr. T. Rex Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

For me, Jonathan has proven what a versatile actor he is in this role of the conservative yet immeasurably attractive George. I found myself overwhelmed at various times throughout the film as I realized what prowess and skill he has, and I can hardly wait to see him cast in many more films on Hallmark, as well as other networks.  He is a consummate professional just oozing natural talent from every part of his being.

Kristoffer Polaha (Robert) Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Kristoffer Polaha (Robert) Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

“So, what about the other guy?” you might be asking. Well, Kristoffer is a new actor to me (even though he has an impressive resume), and as Robert, he was instantly amiable. He plays the impish, nontraditional, and often quirky guy who is completely enthralled by Cass the moment he sees her.

Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

When Kristoffer’s character makes his entrance, he is at the “children’s table” at a wedding. And his disarming nature puts this overlooked group right at ease.

Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Not every actor can relate so well to children as sometimes, the actor is anxious that their cuteness will upstage him or her. In Kristoffer’s case, it is apparent that nothing could be further from the truth.  He ensures that his character is relaxed in every situation, and this is a truly sweet scene–one of my favorites. It is this engaging child that convinces him to pursue Cass.

Kristoffer Polaha, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Kristoffer Polaha, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

And how does Robert hit it off with Cass? From the moment she sees his darling interactions with the children, she is completely calm and willing to jump in and be herself.

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

As their friendship evolves beyond “just friends,” it is obvious that he is fascinated by her penchant for competition, her tomfoolery, and her obvious disregard for customary behavior and observance of the rules. Indeed, they seem ideally suited, and there is no doubt that Cass is falling just as swiftly for him as he is for her.

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

The chemistry between these two characters is humorous, quirky, and often rather ardent (but in a good way). He is not interested in conventions or how things may look. He is a free thinker, and he believes he has found a kindred spirit in her. Sometimes she resists, but he seems to know exactly what buttons to push to get her involved in his schemes.

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

It is clear that Meghan and Kristoffer have such an effortless chemistry, and even though their characters often combat the urge to be entangled in each other’s arms and become absorbed in each other’s lips, all the viewers have to do is look at their eyes and body language to know for what their characters desire.

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Most of the humorous moments in the film occur between these two and because of their unusual antics. Seeing her with George was absolutely fine and safe, but there is no doubt that Cass and Robert are equally suited on so many levels.

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha, Mr. T. Rex Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha, Mr. T. Rex Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Kristoffer Polaha, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Kristoffer Polaha, Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

You have been warned, viewers. Their sometimes unorthodox (but appropriate) humor will keep you laughing and thoroughly savoring this film. You never know what they will do next–of that I can assure you.

Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

As for Kristoffer, he portrays the kind of guy I’m used to seeing Jonathan portray. However, Kristoffer is just flawless in this role in every aspect. He immerses himself in the role and infuses every carefree quality imaginable. Joi de vivre exudes from every pore of his being, and there is no doubt that his exuberance is infectious. Oh, maybe once in awhile, he might be described as cheesy, but who doesn’t like cheese after all? And doesn’t his dexterously rugged handsomeness make up for any cheesiness?

Meghan Markle (Cass) Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Meghan Markle (Cass) Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Now onto our astounding heroine, Cass, who is portrayed by the refreshing Megan. Now, Meghan is a new actress to me (I honestly thought I had seen her before, but I don’t recognize any of her credits). But regardless, I sincerely fell in love with her character from the moment I saw her on screen. Hallmark was smart in including a dog (a beautiful one at that), and they also created a character to which I (and many other women, I think) can relate.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

In today’s society, everywhere we turn, we are inundated with advice to nab the perfect guy or new app to navigate the ever-changing dating landscape.  We single gals are so exhausted with all the messages that encourage us to change ourselves, try out this technique, or find a man with a specific set of compulsory qualities. Hallmark has recognized this, and they are sympathetic to our plight.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

True love cannot be found in the pages of a book, even if it is written by a well-respected and intelligent person who has studied it for decades. True love cannot be dictated, and it does not follow prescribed formulas. True love is something that often comes out of nowhere and slaps you across the face with a force that you cannot ignore and often at an inconvenient, unscheduled time. It often arrives when you least expect it.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Most importantly, true love accepts you as you are.  If it is genuine, you do not have to change yourself to satisfy the other person. While love will transform you (and it will be a welcome transformation), no one should demand that you change to make you lovable.  And this is what our spunky heroine realizes in spite of so many messages to the contrary.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

I can fully relate to Meghan’s character in this film. I can remember having a similar experience as I ingested all the advice out there and endeavored to obtain true love. And at the end of the day, I permitted myself to be modified by the man I thought I loved.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

And Cass attempts to do the same thing. She wants a reliable relationship, and so she is willing to surrender everything that comprises her who she is. The biggest question is–will she realize her mistake and follow her heart instead of remaining on the sheltered side of love? No spoilers here–you will have to watch for yourself.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

I absolutely adore Meghan’s depiction of the misguided Cass. While I do not have nearly the zany style of humor her character does, I fully comprehend her character’s dilemma, as I have been there more than once. Meghan meticulously immerses herself into this character of Cass, and there is no doubt that she fully understands her character and seems to sympathize with her. I think most women have been in similar positions, but Meghan has the knack for fleshing it out so that we can experience the character’s journey with her.

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle, Kristoffer Polaha Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

As she has to retreat from the one she truly fancies, Meghan is able to manifest the conflict on her character’s face and through her body language. The audience witnesses this struggle, and we just cross our fingers and hope that Cass makes the right decision.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan is able to make us cherish Cass and truly empathize with her plight.  She is an infallibly relatable actress, and I hope to see her featured in many more Hallmark (and other networks) films in the future. She has quickly become a favorite leading lady for me.

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Liane Hentscher

So be sure to tune in Saturday, January 30, to the Hallmark Channel,  and see who Cass chooses for her life partner!

For more info:

http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/daters-handbook

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

Meghan Markle Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Katie Yu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

7 Comments

  1. Jan February 7, 2016 Reply

    I loved this movie. I thought it was great and love your review.

    Meghan Markle was in another Hallmark movie (not one that I enjoyed as much though: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3512900/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_4) as well as a Reitman’s commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MgADRovxuU) which is where you may have seen her.

    🙂

    • Author
      Ruth February 10, 2016 Reply

      Thx for the kind words & information Jan

  2. Cynthia Mercado February 24, 2016 Reply

    I am looking forward to watching this movie! It sounds incredibly me!

  3. Dana Matthews March 1, 2016 Reply

    I hate now that I missed it the other night….but I know I’ll be able to catch it later! Sounds amazing!

  4. Carol Landfair March 2, 2016 Reply

    I would like to know how we can ask, beg, cajole, HALLMARK to NOT play music all through the movie. It seems they have gotten a lot worse in this! Do they have a contractual obligation to play music through even the speaking parts? I have considered no longer watching HALLMARK because of the CONSTANT music. DATERS HANDBOOK was cute. I enjoyed it and it DIDNT have constant music. Thank you! I don’t know who to send my “complaint” to, so thought I would start here!!

    • Author
      Ruth March 5, 2016 Reply

      Carol, if I were you I would begin with contacting Hallmark on their facebook page. They are very responsive, and they do listen to their fans. That’s where I see most complaints posted. I guess I haven’t noticed or been bothered by the music. But that is the best thing I could offer.

  5. shannon fowler March 16, 2016 Reply

    I haven’t seen a Hallmark movie in quite some time, but they are always pretty good. Thanks for the review.

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