If you recognize Ty as Joe Markham in this film, you might remember seeing him in Cedar Cove and When Calls the Heart. In this film, his part is not so amiable , unfortunately, but he still has that stellar smile that belies his character’s true nature. I won’t give away too much, be even in the role of the son of a pretty questionable character, Ty brightens the screen with his memorable persona and winning charm.
In the role of the nameless circuit director, Keith plays a memorable role who gets stuck in the middle of a squabble between the two leads. I tried to place this man as I knew I recognized him, and although there were a few Hallmark and Lifetime films mentioned, it was not until I saw Crash Site in his list of credits that I knew why I recognized him, as that film is a personal favorite of mine. In this film, his command of his character’s personality and the fact that he is caught between a rock and a hard place make the audience realize yet again that he can play any role with grace and dignity.
In the case of Ryan, he is a new face to me. As Henry, he portrays him as the agreeable guy who only has eyes for Jenna (played by Tammy Gillis). Ryan is able to make his character dashing enough that he doesn’t overshadow Darcy but still fits infallibly with Jenna. His role is rather small, but there’s no doubt that there are beneficial fireworks between his character and Jenna, and so it is indeed a match made in heaven, so to speak.
Yet another one I know I’ve seen here and there, but don’t specifically recognize is Lini in the role of Elizabeth’s mother Linda. And, of course, Linda is the typical mother who is always concerned that her daughter (who has just turned 30) will find a suitable man for a life partner. While the role is small, she and Elizabeth (Cindy Busby) and Jenna (Timmy Gillis) look so much alike that they look like they are related. Every time Linda is in a scene, all she can think about is her daughter’s love life, but isn’t that the way the original is? So she is the updated Pride and Prejudice mother, and Lini enhances her role exceptionally well.
Remember the aloof and calculating aunt from the original tale? Well, welcome to the movie’s villain, Aunt Violet, as played by Frances Fisher. Frances is one whose reputation in film and television precedes her, and as an actress, she is a force with which to be reckoned. As we would expect from one of her caliber, she plays the part of the cunning aunt who does all within her power to see that Darcy only marries the “right” person, and she portrays her with characteristic sophistication, brilliance, and an abundant dose of haughtiness. She is the character whom the viewers will “love to hate.” Every abhorrent detail of Frances’ portrayal is impeccable, and that is why we will always side with Darcy rather than his aunt.
At first, I was hopeful that Felicity would be a somewhat congenial girl. I am unfamiliar with Courtney’s list of accomplishments, but as the woman who expects to wed Darcy, she is well cast. This duo spells nothing but peril for the ultimate and anticipated happiness of Elizabeth and Darcy, as it would appear both characters are cut from the exact same cloth. I wanted to like Felicity. After all, Courtney depicts her favorably enough in the beginning. And sure, she’s glamorous. Regrettably, however, Felicity and Violet join forces to propel Elizabeth to the edge of the proverbial cliff and even give her a “friendly” push over the edge. Furthermore, Felicity enjoys this cruelty so much that I grew to despise her. Like her counterpart from the original novel, she only cares for position, comfort, and ease, and she will stomp on everyone else to get what she wants. The difference between her and Violet is that Felicity is much more subtle in her actions and less caustic in what she says. But give her time, for I do believe that as she grows older, she will be the spitting image of Violet. In the role, Courtney gives just the right air of class tinged with jealousy and superiority towards those whom she feels are beneath her. Sadly, that means Elizabeth will experience her disdain in spite of all Elizabeth’s attempts to quell the envy of this spoiled brat.
If Violet could poison the mind of her grandniece Zara, indeed she would. But thankfully, Zara (as portrayed by Sarah) is not impressed by cruel greed nor arrogance and position. At first, I didn’t think I recognized Sarah from anything, but imagine my shock when I read Kiss at Pine Lake in her resume! As one who loved that movie (I mean, Brennan Elliott was in it, so it’s on my list of great films), I remember her role in the beginning now as the young Zoe. Thankfully, Sarah gets a chance to truly exhibit her acting skills as the typical teenage girl, Zara Darcy. As we discover that her brother raised her, we understand her fierce devotion to him. And, of course, she absolutely adores Elizabeth and the way her brother acts whenever he is in this lady’s presence. Zara doesn’t mind doing what her great-aunt is convinced is the wrong thing (in fact, I think she thrives on it), and her bond with Elizabeth is as apparent as her obvious distaste for Felicity. I sincerely hope that more networks will realize just how gifted Sarah is in the realm of down-to-earth, unspoiled acting, and here is to seeing her in many more roles in the months and years to come.
Yet another name and face I do not recognize is that of Liviu who plays the sophisticatedly suave Mr. Bingley. While the role is tiny, the fact that he fits right into the framework of the film (and plays yet another character with a recognizable name) makes him supremely cast. While some may find his character insignificant, he is deserving of an honorable mention due to his more than sufficiently suitable look and mannerisms.
I planned on saying I didn’t recognize the actress who plays Gabrielle, but then I read her credits and discovered that she was on When Calls the Heart once, and I think I may even remember her role. As Gabrielle, she is a kind of benefactor to poor Elizabeth. As the one who offers a way out of Elizabeth’s predicament, she is that generous person who only wants the best for Elizabeth. And since she is the dog handler who is able to impart much wisdom to Elizabeth (who also has a passion for dogs), she is a great fit. While some may consider her role lacking in screen time, there is no denying how much of a confidant her character becomes for our heroine. She may have a bit of matchmaking in her blood, but at the end of the day, there is no one she regards more than Elizabeth. Indeed, it is a joy to see Elizabeth portray a solid, calm woman who is so certain of who she is that she never kowtows to Violet or anyone else who would attempt to make her feel inferior. We can only hope that Elizabeth will learn this skill from her.
How can you not love Tammy in the role of Elizabeth’s sister, Jenna? I couldn’t remember where I saw her recently, and then it dawned on me–Signed, Sealed, Delivered. How nice it is that we got to see more of her in this film as she portrays the tender, sympathetic, and almost always smiling Jenna. She is not searching for love, but it practically falls into her lap. She is kind of like the “girl-next-door,” and she only has one thing on her mind–Elizabeth’s happiness (it seems like that is a theme in this film, doesn’t it?). But she is the loyal sister and will gladly rebuff anyone (Violet and Darcy included) who gives Elizabeth a difficult time. She has a smile that brightens the screen every time we see it, and I believe she is a perfect fit for the Hallmark brand. Let’s hope this is the beginning of seeing her in more roles, including a lead role (I think she deserves it and would do an amazing job).
Interestingly enough, I think Hearties will recognize the man who plays Grant Markham as Ken did make an appearance on a couple of shows. I didn’t instantly place him there, but there was no doubt that this man’s character was bad news from the start. He is the father of Ty Wood’s character, and as far as I am concerned, he and Felicity deserve each other (except that Grant is married so that could be an issue–maybe he and Violet can get together). He is yet another character who has it out for Elizabeth, and he plays his part delightfully wickedly. He is so handsome and refined, and yet he is so despicable and vile–indeed a true blackguard, I would say. I didn’t even like to hate him, and anything he has coming his way is decidedly deserved. Indeed, the story hit too close to home for me (I am a teacher, and I will explain more in detail a bit later), but I would say even the lynch mob is too good for his character. Regardless, I know my strong reaction to Grant Markham was only heightened by Ken’s incredible portrayal of him.
Of course, I just have to make mention of the dogs in this film. When I talked with Cindy about this role, she told me there were such wonderful dogs in the film. Now, I love dogs as much as the next person, and I was thinking maybe there were a few dogs. I was astounded to see just how many beautiful, darling, and so doggone cute canines there are in this production! I couldn’t help but call out more than once “Oh how cute” in those lovely baby voices we reserve for infants and animals. If you have any kind of affinity for dogs, prepare yourself for a virtual feast of pooches! (If you want to see pictures of the really cute ones, check out Cindy’s twitter page as she has posted many: http://twitter.com/cindy_busby)
Of course, the story wouldn’t even begin to work without these two, Cindy and Ryan, who play the couple who seem to always bring out the best (and the worst) in each other. In order for a film to work like this, the appropriate level of chemistry must be attained, and this couple has the method down to a tee. Now that doesn’t mean that their interactions are apathetic and formularized–quite the contrary. With these two, it is safe to say that their chemistry and interactions are electrifying. If you have ever been anywhere near a thunderstorm, you know that they are both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Furthermore, you probably know the benefits and pitfalls of a thunderstorm. And this couple is definitely in the midst of one as far as their relationship goes. Elizabeth believes that Donovan is nothing but a rich snob who is immensely preoccupied with his money that he cannot see the intense suffering of humanity around him. She believes his wealth and prestige always protects him from harm. However, Donovan has built a wall around his heart and does nothing but resist anything he might feel for a woman such as Elizabeth. He sees who she genuinely is, and it unnerves her. She attempts to be stalwart and autonomous, but it is clear that having someone on her side like him can only benefit her–that is if he genuinely believes in her and loves her for who she is.
Whenever in each other’s presence, things go from zero to one hundred immediately, and the humor between them is positively incendiary. The way in which they speak and interact is a dream come true for a romantic such as I, but there is enough reality in the story to keep it from ever being sappy. As the passion grows and sparks between them, I found myself captivated with the natural but volcanic chemistry between them.
If that doesn’t say chemistry, I’m really not sure what does. But again, I applaud the Hallmark brand of kisses because it means that my daughter can watch, and I can be assured that nothing inappropriate will go on.
Since I am a not a soap opera aficionado, I was not familiar with Ryan until I saw him in this role. When I learned it was his first lead, I was dumbfounded. I say that because Ryan is an ideal fit for the role of the misunderstood prosperous man whose passion is dogs, supporting charities, and taking care of his sister. With the introduction of Elizabeth Scott into his life, he suddenly discovers a part of himself that he concealed for so long. In fact, he assumed his heart was impenetrable before she came along. His overwhelming task is to try to make her see him for the genuine person he is below the surface of society. And his aunt certainly doesn’t make that daunting task any easier.
I know I often find myself saying that the leading man in a Hallmark film is perfectly cast, but in Ryan’s case, that is doubly so. He is astonishingly handsome, and yet he makes his character so pragmatic while still being the immaculate gentleman. Every piece of his wardrobe is in place, but when he is with the dogs or Elizabeth, none of that matters.
The masterful way in which Ryan commands the scenes in which he appears is the sign of a true professional with a substantial career ahead of him. He always lets his co-star shine, and he does not monopolize the limelight in any scene like some actors might. All I can say is that I do hope this will be the first of many films in which Ryan will be featured as he has earned the title star with charming ease.
What else can I say about this enchanting actress that I haven’t already? I’ll be honest here. I started screening the film late one night, and I only got halfway through (I had to go to sleep as I had to work the next morning). I sent Cindy a message telling her how marvelous she was. I tweeted to her the next day. Then I finished watching, and I just couldn’t stop telling her how exceptional she was in the film. Sincerely, it is as though the role of Elizabeth Scott was written and intended for her. And after interviewing her, it just seemed to make the watching of the film that much more pleasurable. I know how much she loved making this film, and she gave the most impeccable performance of her career. And all those dogs–could there be much better than combining two passions together and then sharing those passions with others through the medium of television?
Of course, Cindy’s character had me at the opening scene because I am a teacher, and I have even taught at a private school before. And to see Cindy portraying a teacher (and doing it delightfully and quite realistically) was a veritable treat for me. I could empathize with her on more than one occasion, and I believe most teachers will know exactly where Elizabeth is coming from.
However, there is more to it than that. Seeing Elizabeth not once, but twice be accused falsely struck a chord within me. I know exactly how it feels to be unjustly blamed, and even more so, to have the right to appeal thrust from you. You are at a loss because no one comprehends the truth, and furthermore, no one cares to hear the truth. Thankfully, this is Hallmark, and we can count on an ending where vindication is expected. But don’t think you know exactly how it will end. But for me, I praise Elizabeth’s stand, and I can only hope that I would have the gumption to do exactly what she did.
As a woman myself who easily jumps to conclusions without knowing all the facts (although I am getting better at that fault as I mature), I also empathize with Elizabeth’s dilemma. The way in which Cindy depicts this tough, self-sufficient woman who truly wants to find love but is hesitant to take the risk lest she be thought weak, or worse still, get hurt, is with a veracious sensitivity that shows just how much Cindy has immersed herself in her role. I can genuinely find no fault at all in her characterization, and as this is her first lead, there just have to be more to come. She has certainly come into her own, as they say, and I believe her career is going to soar higher than the hair immaculately piled atop her head (which is a stunning look for her), and she is only going to grow more beautiful within and without as the years pass for her. She is a gifted artist who ranks high on my list of gorgeous women with even more gorgeous soul,s not to mention she is indeed a gifted artist.
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