As the college daughter of the meddling Abby Knight, Celeste plays the wholesome, caring, and maternal Sydney. While Celeste is only on screen for a brief time, she seems appropriately cast. She is not new to the acting world, nor to the Hallmark brand (you might remember her from Good Witch), and I hope that this young beauty will appear in future episodes and be featured more prominently.
I always believe in featuring as many actors and actresses in my reviews as I can, and the role of the building inspector is small but integral to the development of the story. Lewis (whom I saw featured this Christmas in one of those movies that I ran out of time to review–Last Chance for Christmas), depicts this man whom everyone dreads if they own any kind of business. The moment he waltzes into Abby’s flower shop, the tension soars, but Lewis maintains his character’s demeanor throughout every part of his unsightly task. While Lewis’ career resume seems relatively short, he gives a solid performance to whatever role he is given, and therefore, deserves an honorable mention.
For a moment, I thought this film was a Last Chance for Christmas reunion as Michael was featured in that film as well. Additionally, you may remember him as the waiter in Love’s Complicated, which premiered on Hallmark a little over a week ago. As Detective Blasco, he has been given a somewhat somber and foreboding role, but after all, the detective is just doing his job. And Michael instills all the characteristics that one would expect from just this sort of shadowy personage. Detective Blasco has a responsibility to complete his assignment, and there is no way on earth that anyone is going to impede him from his ultimate objective (even if we are not certain what that might be). Michael has mastered the art of making the police detective seem aloof and even ambiguous while still performing the work that he must do. The audience never knows whether they can trust Detective Blasco or not. And if we go by what Abby thinks–no spoilers on that. You have to watch for yourself.
As another significant cast member, Christian portrays lawyer Dave King with all the elegance and ease a well-respected court official should possess. I have not seen Christian in any other role as far as I know, but as Dave, he is approachable, down-to-earth, and never gets caught up in the questionable parts of the law, if he can help it. He has an uncomplicated relationship with Abby, and unofficially, she does some work for him to help a friend. And to hopefully tidy up some of the strange happenings in her recent life. After all, a divorce case is never a simplistic one, no matter what one may think. And it just may give Abby and Marco the clues they need to decipher the complex conundrum.
As the owner of the local nursery, Ron infuses Tom with all the explosive, cheating, deceitful qualities he can. As the story unravels, we learn more about the unsavory nature and dealings of Tom, and Ron instills the correct amount of plausibility into this repugnant scoundrel. As I watched Ron on the screen, I knew I had seen him before (and recently), but I just couldn’t place him. Then movies in his resume jumped out at me: Christmas Incorporated, Christmas at the Cartwright’s, Christmas With Tucker, and the list goes on. Ron has a varied list of credits, but no matter what role he plays, small or large, one can count on the fact that he will give it his all and be as convincing as possible. To look at that smirk on his face, you just know you can’t trust him. Or at least, you question whether you can.
At first, I wasn’t certain I had seen James in any other role, but as I scanned his list of credits, Northpole: Open For Christmas caught my eye. That’s right–I remember him from that film. And here, he plays the urbane and refined Greg, district attorney extraordinaire. There is no doubt that he has eyes for Abby, and there evidently are a few sparks left over from an old romance, but it would appear that Greg is the one who still holds out hope that one day he will win Abby’s heart. As far as Abby is concerned, Greg is a means to an end who is easy on the eyes and occasionally drops snippets of information that Abby may be able to use to uncover the truth about what is really going on in the murder investigation. James imbues Greg with all the dry wit and tremendous appeal he can muster, but above all, he only has eyes for Abby. While he knows he will probably never win Abby’s affections, James is able to depict Greg in such a way that we can see the hope and sometimes wistfulness Greg naturally exudes.
Definitely a legend in his own time, Beau plays Abby’s retired father, Jeffrey. As Jeffrey Knight, he is genuinely concerned for his daughter’s welfare, since he is a retired police officer himself. I tried to count everything in which I had seen Beau, and I honestly couldn’t as his career has been quite eventful and spanned the decades.
He’s a perfect fit for this role, and I look forward to seeing him in many more installments. He and Brooke (Abby Knight) work exceptionally well together and are the ideal father-daughter fit. I hope to see him featured more prominently in the next installment as we are only beginning to catch a glimpse of his character’s temperament.
It is a genuine gift to see Kate as Abby’s partner in the flower shop. As Nikki, she adds so much spunk to every scene in which she is highlighted. I knew I had seen Kate in something fairly recently, but I couldn’t recall until I looked up her works and saw Lead With Your Heart on the list. However, in this film series, she has been given a role that allows her to demonstrate her versatility and capabilities in an incredible way. She and Brooke interact exceptionally well together, and she plays her role in such a way that she pushes and prods Brooke’s character to consider love again and to stay safe as she snoops around in police affairs that could really get her in trouble. Nikki is well aware Abby capabilities, and she will be the one who is there to make certain that Abby is grounded in all things. And if she has any say in anything, she’ll see that Abby more than notices the handsome bar and grill owner next door.
Hearing the name Brooke Shields took me back to my childhood when I used to hear about her on television. In fact, her name brings back the commercial jingle that was associated with her doll–in fact, as I write that, I am singing the song in my head. As I was growing up, I never watched anything in which she appeared, but I knew her name and that she was a glamorous, young actress. I will also admit that I hadn’t thought about her in years until I began to see the promotions concerning this mystery series. And the first thing I found myself thinking is, “Wow, she looks really good.” But I still don’t believe I had seen her in anything (As I have mentioned, I am way behind in television and movies.). So I went into this film, expecting a marvelous performance from Brooke, and she didn’t disappoint.
From the moment Brooke appeared on screen, I was captivated with her character. For the first five minutes, as the details of the story are being established, the film seems minimally slow (not boring, but remember this is the first film in the series, and it often takes awhile for things to get underway). Brooke was fully in character as Abby from the start, and I was quite taken with her portrayal. Brooke has a knack of immersing herself so much in her character that the audience finds her entirely credible. But she makes it look effortless. Every mannerism, tone inflection, hand gesture and more adds to the overall persona of her character. Add to this fact that she has that quality about her that makes her instantly relatable and likable, and you have an actress who has created a role with which audiences will immediately connect. Abby is down-to-earth, but she is also quite astute. Abby is regularly underestimated because she never is overbearing nor arrogant about her ability for solving mysteries and seeing those details that professionals might overlook. Well, I suppose her attorney background does assist her in this process, and although Abby has attempted to give up her love for the law, there is no doubt she cannot. She is quietly relentless and always scheming the best way to uncover those facts that the police have somehow neglected. She thinks differently from others, and that is why I relate to her. I always applaud those women (especially) who seek to be unlike everyone else. And indeed, Brooke has saturated Abby with intelligence, beauty, subtle wit, and naturally flawless beauty. There is no doubt that she will quickly become one of the favorite amateur super sleuths.
While it is no secret what I think of Brennan, it was a veritable feast to see Brooke and Brennan together. Someone asked me if I thought he and Brooke had better chemistry than he and Lacey Chabert (a definite fan favorite). My answer to that is rather complicated. I have never seen a co-star of Brennan’s who has not had fantastic chemistry with him, but I tend to have my favorites. There is no denying that I adore Brennan and Lacey together, as they have that instantly sweet chemistry that excites and inspires fans to no end. With Brooke and Brennan, the chemistry is just as heavenly, but it is not the same. I would say that he and Brooke have a chemistry that transcends romantic ties. The interactions between their characters Abby and Marco are always as equal, co-competitors and co-conspirators. Both have been married before, and neither one is looking for any romantic complications. Their primary focus is to resolve the mystery that the professionals cannot decipher, and each one wants to best the other. From the moment Marco and Abby meet, there is a mutual respect between them, but there is also an underlying competitive perception. Each one wants to unmask the clue before the other does, and this makes for some delightfully subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) humor between the two of them.
Of course, there is no need to fear. There is some romance between them, but it is elusive and reserved–almost like watching the kind of romance between a couple from a few decades ago when much more was implied, and looks exchanged said more than torrid and sultry kisses do today. The competition between them is almost reminiscent of Hart to Hart, but Abby and Marco are even more restrained than that couple (after all, the Harts were married). Interestingly enough, that enchanting reserve between them makes the scenes appear more ardent than other similar films where the main couple is all over each other. When a couple actively keeps from doing or saying too much, it only results in raising the bar on intrigue and passion. And I think it is a look at what is yet to come in this film series. We can be assured that things are not going to happen too quickly between this couple, which furthermore ensures many more installments.
For anyone who knows me, it will come as no shock that Brennan Elliot is one of my all-time favorite actors, and I say that unabashedly. And in this household, I am not the only fan, as I was just talking with my mother about his work. And in her words, she told me exactly what she loves about Brennan’s acting. “It is that he identifies with the character so much that you believe he is that character. Not every actor can do that.” That is from my mother (who is not always so easily impressed with people, but there is no doubt Brennan’s characteristic charm has affected her as well), and I agree wholeheartedly with her assessment. Brennan is the kind of actor who gets inside the head of each character, whether good, bad, or anything in between. And he never judges any of the actions of his characters. Instead, he decides to portray each one with understanding and true credibility. It is rare to see an actor of his caliber anywhere in the world of entertainment, and Hallmark is quite fortunate to have someone who is so gifted in their corner, so to speak.
As to this new character of Marco Salvare, he warned us that this fellow is very different from anyone he has played before. After all, one of Brennan’s true trademarks is his unparalleled versatility no matter what role he is given. And in the case of Marco, I was completely thunderstruck by how uncommonly deep and quietly mysterious this character is. I kept sitting there studying this character and attempting to figure him out, but that’s almost impossible. Marco is quite possibly the most complex character I have ever seen Brennan play, and because of that, getting inside the head of this ex-private investigator is a task that requires more than just a two-hour film. I believe that in this installment, the audience will only be able to scratch the surface in attempting to comprehend the inner workings of this man. Every time Marco was on the screen, I watched with intense scrutiny, and I realized what a daunting task it was to venture much more than a generally vague description. The best way I can describe him is that he shrouds a deep-seated arrogance beneath the veneer of dark charm and over-confidence (that appears genuine on the surface until you examine its source). He assumes that he will always win the power struggle, no matter who his opponent is, and he is not about to divulge any secrets that will betray his vulnerability. Because, you see, he honestly does construct a wall of bravado, especially when consorting with Abby, lest he betray any of the weaknesses he has nestled deep within his soul. For him, appearances are everything.
What I relish about Marco is what Abby’s character is able to bring out of him. From the moment Marco meets Abby, he is in competition with her, but it is clear he is attracted to her, even though he strives strenuously to conceal that from her. Because they are equally matched, strong personalities working together, it is a true pleasure to see them pull together and even make each other better, kind of like the old adage “as iron sharpens iron.” While both of them can be tactless, the audience knows they are on each others’ sides. While at one point Marco’s sarcastic wit really does go too far, he is forgiven easily because he is Marco. I mean, can you really stay mad at a gentleman who just oozes such smooth charm? It is in one of his dealings with Abby that we get a brief glimpse of the “little boy” who really does want Abby to like him, but it’s not for long as he has to go right back into defense mode. No matter how nonchalant Marco appears about any danger Abby may experience, the audience never doubts how much he cares for her, and the ending is indicative of this fact as well as the slowly budding romance developing between them (that neither one is ready to admit). Actually, the last few frames of the film had me cheering for Hallmark’s masterful conclusion to this installment, and I greatly anticipate the next film in the series.
As for Brennan, the fact that I was able to deduce so much about Marco’s character through his clever and heartfelt portrayal speaks exactly to his phenomenal prowess. However, there are still so many unanswered questions concerning Marco Salvare, and I greatly anticipate what I will learn in the next installment. I am a great lover of mystery films and shows anyway, but rarely is there a main character like this who is so complex and has so many layers. The fact that Brennan plays Marco in such an easygoing but restrained fashion speaks to his mastery of the art of his craft. While I often say the film in which he is currently featured is my favorite, I may have to hunt far and wide to find another such captivating character as Marco Salvare. While I shall always adore Warren Sagest of Cedar Cove and Brennan’s sensational portrayal of that misunderstood man, I can honestly say with his presentation of Marco, I have another new and favorite character of his. Indeed, all the acclaim Brennan receives for this role is so well-deserved.
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