When Jenn’s old pal Sandra becomes the prime suspect in a murder case, it’ll be up to her to discover who done it before time runs out.
I have had the honor and privilege of watching all the movies in this film series, and I can conclusively state that this one is possibly my favorite so far. Of course, I love everything that Lori Loughlin does–with me, she can do no wrong. And as far as these films are concerned, the acting, storyline, and everything else are unquestionably spot on. I promise not to reveal “who dunnit” in my review, and I apologize in advance to those who do not have access to this channel.
I cannot even begin to count the volume of works in which I have seen Jay featured. And yet again, he returns as everyone’s favorite coroner. In fact, I had a particular question about the murder that confused me, and right as I was asking the question, his character answered it. I adore the relationship his character has with Jenn (Lori Loughlin) because she is continuously able to wheedle out of him more information than he should dispense. He is never on screen much in these films, but I invariably smile whenever he is on screen as he is an exceptionally likable actor (and typically plays a genuinely pleasant guy).
This “unholy trio” are responsible for an interesting subplot that has nothing to do with murder. Although all three are new to this series, they are not new to acting. I do not recognize any of Casey’s works, but the other two are a little bit luckier in that respect. Hearties will recognize the new “Logan” actor as Bo Grady, and Nick was most recently featured in Angels in the Snow. These three play typical teenagers, but it is Logan who has to make a tricky decision when the other two want to participate in questionable activities. I will maintain that the clever way in which the issue is resolved is ingenious (but I doubt I would have been able to pull it off). I will discuss Connor’s performance in more detail later, but understand that Casey and Nick do a fabulous job of playing modern teens who aspire to do everything they can to overcome the system. Unfortunately, there are way too many teens out there just like these boys, but at least the conclusion of their scheme demonstrates that honesty is still the best policy.
Of course, Hearties are going to surely wish for more of this dynamic actress, but we can applaud the fact that Johannah is at least featured as the wife of Detective Lynwood. Johannah has played such a wide variety of roles, and she is never one to be typecast. I appreciate Hallmark’s commitment to highlighting her as she makes an impression every time she appears on screen. Of course, she has that signature red hair and flawless beauty, but she is infinitely more than that. I hope that she will get a more prominent part in the next chapter as she illuminates the screen with her stunning smile and fantastic acting in a way few actresses can.
Another actor whom I have seen in The Bridge and A Novel Romance, (but I didn’t remember right away) is Matt, who plays the personal trainer, Duane, and he assuredly makes an impact on Jenn and anyone who happens to meet him. His character has severe anger management issues, and there is the chance that he may have been involved in something nefarious. No spoilers, but keep your eye on this guy lest he turns out to be involved in the murder.
Also introduced at that same gym is Mandy, who is adroitly played by Lindsay. She has quite a few credits to her name, but I am most familiar with Love on the Air where she was featured in the role of Janey. As Mandy, she is able to resolve some murky issues for Jenn, but in so doing, Mandy raises another question or two. Lindsay portrays Mandy exactly in the way one would expect a person on the gym staff to behave. She is direct and knowledgeable, and nothing seems to unnerve her. And she warns Jenn about Duane (good she did, by the way).
If you blink, you might miss David in the role of Cliff. He is Sandra’s love interest, and I was about to state that I was unfamiliar with anything else he has done. However, I was astounded to learn that he appeared in one of my favorite films, Criminal Intent, as a police officer. I may just have to go back and watch that film again so I can see his character. Nevertheless, in this film, his part is small but satisfying, thus deserving an honorable mention.
Yet another familiar face (that I didn’t recognize straightway)–Aliyah plays Kim in this episode of this series, and she was featured most recently as Brooke in Ice Sculpture Christmas. In this film, she has a more meaningful role, and she executes her part impeccably. She is a disconsolate widow who is desirous of contracting business with Jenn, and there is no doubt Jenn is fascinated by her vast array of antiques. Additionally, Kim becomes instrumental in assisting Jenn in her quest to uncover the true murderer. Hence, we can be grateful she is there to lead both Jenn and Sandra to the correct conclusion, because without her, Sandra probably would have been convicted of her fiance’s murder. As far as depicting her character, Aliyah infuses mystery and requisite helplessness and sorrow into her character. She is just what one would expect a grieving widow to be.
Yet another new face for me–Valerie–who portrays the snooty Elena Derosa. In this role, Valerie is exquisite as she owns and operates the exclusive art gallery in town, and in every interaction she has with each character, she always looks down on them. She does try to persuade Dani to come to work for her, but I won’t tell you how that ends. She wields money like a sword, and she figures that all should be dazzled merely because of who she is. Every mannerism, tone inflection, and facial expression is precisely what would be expected from a conceited, wealthy dowager, and I was thoroughly captivated with Valerie’s portrayal.
As it is always desirable to see a familiar face return, I am so glad that Kevin came back as Detective Lynwood. I realize now that I also saw him in Hitched for the Holidays as well, and each time I see him, I acknowledge the talent and energy that he lends to his characters. I also embrace the fact that his character does not necessarily mind Jenn’s meddling with the police cases. Detective Lynwood recognizes the ability Jenn has for solving these cases, and although he wants to protect her, he appreciates all she does.
And Sarah has returned as well to play Dani, and I am so glad she did. In fact, her character has a complicated decision to make during this installment, and I can only have faith that she chooses correctly. While Jenn’s business is struggling financially, it would make sense for Dani to move into a more prosperous place, and we know Jenn would never stand in her way. But I would miss the common sense wisdom that Dani dispenses (even if Jenn doesn’t always listen) as well as the sometimes quirky personality Danie bestows upon the series. No matter what part Sarah plays, she consistently immerses herself in the role, playing it to perfection. She is a seasoned professional who is versatile and is never typecast. But this is one of my preferred role for her.
As I mentioned earlier, Connor is new to the series, but thankfully, Eva has returned. Connor plays Logan, Hannah’s younger brother, and he does an excellent job fitting in with the established cast. However, Eva reprises her role as Jenn’s daughter, Hannah, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. This duo also appears together on When Calls the Heart, so it is a treat to see them together in almost the same relationship in this series as well. As I mentioned in the season three premiere of When Calls the Heart, Eva has found her footing in acting and has matured into a beautiful and incredibly talented actress. While I knew she was gifted before, now that she is more experienced, she has an air of effortless dignity about her, and any awkwardness that may have been apparent before is gone. And that is a good thing since her character is maturing as well. I am convinced that Eva is a rising star who has only begun to demonstrate her prowess. I look forward to continuing to witness her growth as she becomes an even more accomplished actress (it’s difficult to improve upon perfection, though, isn’t it?). She is not on the screen much (nor is Connor), but both seem to interact well. I would say that Connor follows Eva’s lead, and the end effect is complete credibility and audience connection.
As the long-suffering husband of Jenn, we are treated to the talents of Steve yet again. While his character often fades into the background behind the colorful personality and sleuthing of his driven wife, he is the perfect foil to her high-strung nature that seems to always have a penchant for danger. There is always plenty of comedy between his and Lori’s character as his character is ceaselessly imploring her to terminate her crime-fighting and investigative activities. Jason only has Jenn’s best interest at heart, but he also knows there is no actual stopping his wife from her precarious activities. It’s good that she doesn’t always tell him everything, and he knows that any promises she makes about abandoning her snooping are impossible for her to keep. At the end of the day, Jason loves his wife with all of his heart, and he can only hope and pray that she will survive all of her parlous escapades (well, this is Hallmark after all). Steve plays this role with such efficiency, and he never attempts to bring undue notice to his character. He is content to remain the husband of the super sleuth, and he is confident enough in his acting abilities not to attempt to upstage Lori in any of the scenes. Instead, Jason is Jenn’s “soft place to fall,” and that is exactly how Steve plays him.
Now, I will admit that I did not recognize Kirsten at first. She plays Sandra, the hapless woman who is accused of killing her fiance. She also has a wealth of antiques that she wants to sell to her old friend, Jenn. While I may have seen her here and there, as she has quite a resume, I was absolutely thrilled to find out that not only did she guest star on First Wave, but I remember the episode clearly, and I remember her! As Sandra, she is ideally cast. She plays opposite Lori with sincerity and plausibility without ever taking away from the main story or her character. Actually, in this case, poor Sandra has an incredible amount of disappointments, pain, and discomfort with which to deal, and Kirsten acts her part skillfully. Her character goes sleuthing right along with Jenn, and towards the end, I was riveted. I will not give anything away, but she and Lori have to confront a type of crisis that has not been seen in this series as of yet, and she is the perfect match for Lori. She permits Lori be in the lead, but she follows her every step with extraordinary timing.
I have been reviewing films/shows for nearly a year and a half, and I am sure that Lori has found her way into a good many of those reviews. Lori is definitely one of my favorite actresses–probably in the top three–and if I happen to hear that she is going to be appearing in a film or television show, I make it a point to watch. No matter what part she is given, and no matter how small her role, she always entirely engrosses herself into the role and gives a new meaning to the words authenticity and effortless.
In this particular installment, Jenn is again facing ultimate danger to attempt to solve a murder and clear her friend of the charges filed against her. Against the odds, She absolutely believes Sandra, and there is literally nothing Jenn won’t do to accomplish her objective. Fortunately, she is able to charm information out of the police (and others) when necessary, and although she puts herself in positions I never would, we know that this is Hallmark, and no matter the turbulent ride her characters takes us on, the ending is guaranteed. The veritable murderer will be discovered, and Jenn will overcome the treacherous situation, no matter how dire it may seem.
When Lori is on screen, her prowess just emanates from her. It is rare to see any actor who can accept any role and portray that character as approachable and credible. Lori has that knack for instantly making any character she depicts meaningful and genuine. When she is on screen, your eyes cannot help but be drawn to her as every nuance of her character is displayed through her mannerisms, expressions, and inflections. While there is a plethora of astounding actors out there, Lori takes acting to another level. She is able to make a connection between her character and the viewers in such a way that we cannot help but be on her side, even if her character happens to bend the truth or do something that may not necessarily be legal.
In this film, Dani describes Jenn as a “murder magnet,” and there is no doubt that she is. Lori’s characterization of this beloved character appears to be as natural as breathing for her. And somehow, on the side, Lori is still able to make Jenn a wise mother, a loving wife, and a capable businesswoman. While Jenn may never be a character who could exist in real life (because superwomen just don’t exist, and if they do, they are not pleasant people), Lori brings that plausible quality that makes us believe this character does exist. As far as the viewers are concerned, Lori is the one who has infused life into Jenn, and it is her depiction that has caused us to connect on a profound level with this sensational sleuth. Lori has that indescribable ability that brings characters to life in such a way that the viewers will go out of their way to watch and even defend her characters. If anyone else played Jenn, I doubt we would be looking at the fifth installment.
Lest I appear neglectful, I also realize the importance of the crew in the background whom we often take for granted. I salute director Peter DeLuise and writer Walter Klenhard for entrusting their skills to the success of this phenomenal film. Here’s to many more in the future.
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