Appetite for Love is a romantic comedy about a corporate executive who is sent to a small town to re-brand a restaurant as part of a strategic acquisition. The only problem is that the iconic diner happens to be in her home town where she hasn’t been in years and the owner is her high school sweetheart.
First of all, this is an incredibly special film to me because I was able to interview both of the male leads–Andrew Walker and Marcus Rosner. Because of this, there is a chance that I will not be as objective a reviewer when evaluating their extraordinary performances. But then again, I was already a champion for both–the interviews merely elevated them in my estimation. Also, don’t search for much (if any) negativity in this review–I can easily declare this my favorite of this year’s Hallmark’s Countdown to Valentine’s Day movies thus far. This is one of those films when I believe everything worked together consummately–from the concept, to the well-written script, to the underlying message, to the outstanding actors and their phenomenal depictions. I simply adore this film, and I hope that everyone tunes in for the premiere!
In my ever-growing determination to feature as many of the minor characters as possible, it is grand to see up and coming actress Kate in the role of Paisley. With a name like that, you can guess that she is highlighted in the small town portion of the film, and though her part is small, it is convincing. Despite the fact that I haven’t seen anything in which Kate has been featured (I have Tomorrowland as one of the next films to watch, so I’ll look for her), she definitely deserves an honorable mention for her role in this film. After all, she does provide competition for Mina. (Paisley is dating Clay, but probably not for long.)
I almost missed this delectable duo. When I first heard the music featured at the “sweetheart dance” scene in the film, I thought I was listening to a country duo from the radio. But when I investigated, I noticed that it was a rising sister country duo. Robyn and Ryleigh are massively talented singers and songwriters, and in my humble opinion, it will only be a matter of time before they become a household name in mainstream country. They are young, classy, level-headed, and just brimming with natural musical talent. Therefore, I anticipate hearing more from them in the future.
Yet another new actress to me, I fell in love with Morgan’s interpretation of Zoe, the co-worker/best friend (at least in the city) of the main character, Mina (played by Taylor Cole whom I will discuss later). No matter how she is depicted, you cannot conceal the radiant beauty and delightful wit Morgan brings to this character. This young and effervescent actress is definitely one to watch for in the next few years as her talent is only beginning to blossom and mature.
No stranger at all to the screen, Benjamin plays the perfect VP in this film. I remember him from Dashing Through the Snow and My Mother’s Future Husband, just to name a few. Although the role is small, Benjamin has an uncanny way of making sure the viewers do not forget his role no matter what. And that is exactly what he does with this character.
I cannot even tell you how many times Christina has popped up unexpectedly in films. She often plays the busybody of the town, the old grouch, and sometimes even the hard-nosed executive. As Maise, she has a remarkably vital role in helping Mina see precisely how wrong her big city business ideas are. As always, Christina has brought her signature wit and impeccable characterization to this seasoned small town resident who appears to have more business sense than any of the bigwigs in the city.
At first glance, I didn’t think I had seen Peter in anything else, but as I examined his lengthy list of credits, I recognized plenty of his guest appearances. This guy has been around, and in the role of Lewis, he is exactly what is necessary. He is the voice of the town, in many ways, and even though he may fade into the background on occasion, that is how his character is supposed to be. He doesn’t jockey for a spot in the limelight–he gives a solid portrayal that causes his character to be an essential fixture in this town where everyone knows everyone else and works together to ensure that all’s well that ends well.
While I may have caught a glimpse of Antonio in one of past appearances, this is truly the first time I noticed him. As Lucien, he is the flawless chef. In fact, he plays his part so skillfully that I genuinely believed he was a chef. There is no doubt that he fully immerses himself into this role, and his conclusive style of cooking is one of the reasons that Mina finally backs down and permits the restaurant to run in the way he and Clay (and the rest of the town) see fit. After all, who can argue with food that is fresh, tastes good, and is prepared by such a master as Lucien?
While I have never seen Jenn in anything before this, there is no doubt that she depicts Grace, the perfect unpretentious waitress, with simplicity and fundamental values. She and Lucien make an indomitable force against Mina and her big city notions, and no matter what, her spirit cannot be crushed. Indeed, she is yet another force within the arsenal of small town America.
As Deacon’s recent former girlfriend, Fiona plays Penny with conviction and a bit of sauciness. I was about to say I hadn’t seen Fiona in anything else, but when I noticed Aurora Teagarden in her credits, I remembered her. Fiona is one of those actresses who brings her own distinctive beauty and quirkiness to every part in which she is cast. She is a gal of many faces, and she has that certain unconventional charisma that just draws the viewer in. As Penny, she is a perfect foil for Mina. She makes it clear that she knows what she wants in life, but she also seems to be a bit of a tease when it comes to another former flame. Her character just cannot help but be noticed by all, and she makes a lasting impression. But the big question is–does Penny find true love? The world may never know.
Seen most recently in Hallmark’s Signed, Sealed Delivered: Truth Be Told, veteran actor Robert plays Deacon with his distinctive style. Deacon knows what he wants (Penny), and he is not going to mince words where she is concerned. He is also a reliable friend of Clay’s, and he is instrumental in guaranteeing a happy ending for the star couple. He is not an overly sentimental guy, but he is a typical, pragmatic guy who speaks his mind as he only can.
More than likely, this actress doesn’t even need an introduction. While Alley is often known as the mother from The Wonder Years, her career is so expansive that viewers will recognize her from a variety of her works. And as Tallulah, she is the perfect person to steer Mina in the right direction. Alley’s persona is so mesmerizing and stalwart that all she needs to do is appear on screen, and the viewers will be riveted. However, Alley’s characterization of the somewhat eccentric lady (and Mina’s aunt) of the town is certain to add humor and genuine heartfelt emotion and understanding as she assists Mina in unraveling the right course of action in all areas of her life, including love.
If you look to the right in this picture, you will no doubt recognize a familiar Hallmark face–Marcus Rosner. He quickly rose to fame as the man who attempted to steal Elizabeth from Jack in last season’s When Calls the Heart. Since that time, we have seen him featured in his typecast role of “the rich snob who never gets the girl.” Now, in real life, Marcus could probably never be evil if he tried, but on the screen, he gives such an imposing performance as the dashing, debonair, and arrogant Reed who is certain of who he is and what he wants. And when he says jump, Mina should have no problem immediately doing his bidding. After all, he is Reed, and he has a five-year-plan that will ensure success in every detail. And since he is in charge and knows what is best for everyone (especially Mina), there is never any doubt in his mind that he will be the victor in the end, no matter what underhanded techniques he has to utilize.
Potential Spoiler Alert in this paragraph (and possibly other paragraphs as well)
Of course, Clay and Reed hit it off until Reed realizes that Clay is a potential threat (you can see the obvious concern and disdain in his eyes in this photo). As I told Marcus when I spoke with him, by the conclusion of the film (in fact, on his character’s last words), I was absolutely done with his character. Marcus plays the role so well that when his character doesn’t get the girl in the end, the viewers will feel such righteous indignation against his character that there will be no sympathy for Reed.
When I watch Marcus in any role, I am consistely impressed with his entire demeanor. Although I have only seen him in these “semi-bad guy roles,” he never fails to produce an intense reaction from me. On the one hand, he is such a good-looking guy, and he always plays the affluent gentleman that should be every girl’s dream. He looks like he’s stepped out of GQ, and he has every material possession he could ever desire. But the moment you glance at the steel in his eyes, you know that he is every girl’s worst nightmare–a pompous control freak who will use anything, anyone, and any means to ensure that he gets exactly what he is convinced is entitled to him. In this case, Mina is not only his intended choice, but she belongs to him, at least as far as he is concerned. He fully persuaded that his money and business sense should authorize him to claim her as his lifelong partner (or until he grows weary of her), and he will be certain to annihilate any independent or freethinking spirit within her.
I am genuinely impressed with actors like Marcus who somehow are able to immaculately portray such detestable characters like Reed in such a deliciously illustrious fashion. It’s so difficult to abhor Reed, and that’s what makes this character work so efficiently. In one sense, the audience wants to cheer him on and see him with the lovely Mina. But as we discover the character’s true depravity, we begin to side with Clay instead. Not every actor can give that kind of masterful performance, but Marcus seems to revel in being the man that everyone loves to hate. Regardless of your feelings for the character he depicts, one thing is indubitable–Marcus is an extraordinary actor who never ceases to connect with his characters as well as the audience no matter what role he plays.
At the very heart of this whimsical story is the love story between Mina and Clay, as portrayed by Taylor and Andrew. While I will examine them individually in their respective roles, I always find it imperative that we examine their chemistry and onstage romance in these kinds of films. I know that I regularly say that there is great chemistry between the two lead actors, but in this case, that is even more apparent. There are not a significant amount of tender scenes between these two that involve physical intimacy. However, with these two actors, that is not needed to demonstrate the developing relationship between them. With Taylor and Andrew, they fit together perfectly in all their scenes. When their characters are grappling to conceal the love and attraction brewing between them, all the viewers have to do is observe their facial expressions and body language, and you know these two are destined for each other. I believe that in this day and age of bedroom scenes and make-out session on television, it is refreshing to see two actors who can convey such deep emotions between their characters without all that superfluous baggage.
The obvious competitive nature between the two brings such a measure of levity to the film that is a pure rapture to witness. It is unmistakable that the characters are doing all in their power to downplay what is occurring within their hearts, and when Reed is added to the mix, those feelings are even more heightened. After all, Reed knows there are sparks between these two, and that seeks to ruin his ideal plan. When Mina and Clay are finally together, there couldn’t be a sweeter couple. Their physical intimacy is reserved enough so as to not cause the viewers to want to vomit, but it is fervent enough to appear organic and realistic.
No wonder Reed is worried, right?
Poor Marcus Rosner–boo-hoo-hoo!
With a smile and a bubbly personality that could thaw the most frigid of hearts, Taylor has brought everything ambrosial to this role of Mina. I will admit that I have never seen Taylor in anything else, but she has rapidly ascended to become one of my favorite leading ladies.
From her noteworthy comedic timing with the cows (I absolutely adored that scene) to her interactions with her co-stars and the way in which she permits Mina to grow and become the person she really should be, Taylor is the only one who could have brought such flavor, appeal, and even a bit of a spunky ambitious spirit to this character of Mina. And I was even more exhilarated when I discovered that she is an Arlington, Texas native (I spent many years as a resident of the Dallas/Fort Worth area). Taylor depicts the matchless contrast between the city slicker and country girl in Mina (or Willie, as she was known when she was growing up).
Taylor knows how to keep an aura of modishness with her character…
…but come on, we know she simple cherishes the backwoods and the simple things in life.
A veritable romantic at heart, we know she could never truly embrace the lifestyle that Reed offers her, right?
Do I even need to tell you what I think about Andrew? Of course, since I interviewed him, my respect for him as an actor and as a person has only intensified a hundredfold, but there is no doubt that Andrew is the unparalleled choice for the role of Clay. Andrew suits the country lifestyle–in fact, in his first scene, he looks just like a down home but decidedly handsome cowboy–and unquestionably his character still has feelings for Mina who broke his heart so long ago. Add to this the sorrow at losing his father and the daunting responsibility of continuing the family business, and categorically, Clay is a man with inner turmoil that he doesn’t necessarily want to face but is compelled to face. Moreover, Clay is a character who avoids emotions and difficult situations, but Mina’s return impels him to confront these psychological demons.
What I love about Andrew is his meticulous attention to detail when portraying any character. Additionally, he doesn’t ever play the “cookie cutter” guys that we often see in films like this. He brings immeasurable depth to what some would call a basic character and engenders understanding for this character no matter what. Granted, Andrew is undeniably handsome, but he demonstrates to the viewers that he is more than just a “pretty face.”
The reason that viewers so easily connect with Andrew is that he is never artificial when portraying any of his characters. He immerses himself fully in his roles, and no matter what the, the viewers are always rooting for him. He seems as approachable as the “guy next door,” but he is not afraid to let his character delve into the profound and sometimes perilous things of his character’s past.
In this role, it truly appears that Andrew in his element. He plays the subdued, robust, ethical man who is wrestling with lost love and a lost father. He is attempting to discover who he is, and he encounters situations he genuinely does not want to tackle, but the chain of events makes the confrontation unavoidable. He acquiesces to keep the peace (and it seems he has no alternative), but when it comes to his livelihood and his philosophy, he digs his heels in and will not budge. He is faced with the woman he lost so long ago, and old wounds that never healed correctly are ripped open. While he doubts himself at times, he is surrounded by townspeople who treat him like family. They are the ones who rush to his aid when the going gets rough, and because of them, he is able to realize all of his dreams and then some. Andrew is uniquely suited to this role because it suits everything about him–his looks, his personality, and that inner conflict that will not disappear until ultimately dealt with. Andrew brings such an air of credibility to this role that in my humble opinion, no one could have played the part with such heart, passion, and soul. Andrew has the uncanny knack for causing the viewers to connect with his characters on a deeper level than so many actors today, and this role is in a virtual tie for my favorites of his–right on par with Dash from Dashing Through the Snow.
No matter what you are planning to do on Saturday, February 6, be sure that you tune in for Appetite for Love on the Hallmark Channel. It is the perfect way to spend a quiet, winter night with friends and family.
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