Abby Knight (Shields) is a beautiful ex-attorney and proprietor of Bloomers, a quaint Illinois flower shop. Abby and Marco (Elliott), a handsome bar owner and former private investigator, discover the body of Jack Sutcliff, an unscrupulous grifter who attempted to crash Abby’s cousin’s wedding. Abby’s curiosity gets the better of her and she sets out to conduct her own murder investigation and solve the case. With Marco’s help, Abby assembles an eclectic list of murder suspects – including her “black sheep” relatives, various wedding party members and even the groom’s socialite mother.[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocd8vpNfGuI[/embedyt]
Note: In this third installment of what has become my favorite mystery series, I was compelled to watch this film twice for two reasons. First of all, I wanted to make sure I covered everything in this film as extensively as possible. And secondly, when the film premiered, I labored arduously to tweet like crazy, and in so doing, I missed a few key elements. I do make it a point to do my best to not include any spoilers, and I promise not to reveal the name of the killer.
Well, since this is a wedding, let’s begin with the pitiable Reverend in all this. At the hapless wedding, we see Jim portraying the minister, and this actor definitely deserves an honorable mention. He is almost afraid to say anything as several sources (mainly Abby) are whispering directions to him, lest the bride call off the wedding right there in the middle of the ceremony. Although I have not seen Jim in anything else, he is up to the task of making us remember the unfortunate minister who may have joined two people together right as a murder was being committed.
Speaking of the bride and groom, indeed we have the “happy couple” pictured here by Chad and Dani. Hallmark viewers may fondly remember Chad from films such as Hello, It’s Me, or even more recently, Good Witch. Indeed, lamentable Claymore figures into the murder investigation more than he would like to, and there is no doubt that Chad has infused all the wealth and privilege into his character, while still making him a dubious lad more often than not. In fact, the conclusion of his auspicious story is somewhat inconclusive even at the end of the film, but I somehow disbelieve that he may return to future stories.
But then again, he is married to Jillian as played by Dani–another Hallmark veteran. Her recent Hallmark spottings can be found in Good Witch and On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, and she plays the incomparable younger cousin of dear Abby with amazing credibility. Jillian is definitely enticed by affluence, but she is ambivalent when it comes to making decisions–the very reason why she almost cancels the wedding right in the middle of the proceedings. The surprise that Jillian springs on Abby at the end of the film does tend to ruffle a few feathers, and I wonder if we will see her in the next installment. With someone as unstable as Abby, one may never know, but her talent and wit are such that I wouldn’t mind seeing her make a notable appearance in the next film.
With a fascinating arsenal of credits to her name, Sonja waltzes in as the prestigious Glory, one who is disconsolate that her son is marrying beneath him. Yes, she is Claymore’s mother, and as we discover, she and Abby’s father have a history.
I’ll let you be the judge of what kind of history these two have had. But regardless, Sonja plays Glory with impeccable decorum and immense snobbery–exactly the way a wealthy dowager would be expected to conduct herself. She looks down on all those without eminence and money, but there is no doubt she is lonely and miserable in the life she encapsulates within her outward prickles. I have not seen Sonja in any of her other works, but there is no hesitation on my part when I declare she has the bearing, breeding, and imposing presence to be able to fill her role with veracity.
Of course, Abby and Marco do have a way of unnerving her just like Jefferey does. Desperate women do desperate things, and in this case, that just might include murder.
And the victims of circumstances keep rolling in. Poor Josiah and Melanie, played respectively by Richard and Kimberly-Sue, are the next ones to be shamed. Both probably had no business attending the wedding. Josiah merely wants to protect the daughter and grandson he loves with all his heart and would defend no matter the cost. And Melanie just longs to be with the man she still loves, the father of her child.
And Jack Sutcliff, as played by Mark, is in attendance at the wedding–a despicable character if I ever saw one. Of this unholy trio, the only one I have seen previously is Richard–he is a Hallmark alumnus of films such as Northpole and A Merry Mix-Up. The other two, I have not seen previously. Mark doesn’t have long to immerse himself in this character, but the moments he is on screen are enough to cause any woman to distrust him and any father to contend for the honor and dignity of his daughter by any means possible.
After all, Melanie has a young son, and she is living with her father, Josiah. She still loves Jack, even if he abandoned her after making all sorts of promises to her. Josiah will fight anyone–including Marco (trust me, that is a favorite scene of mine in the film as Marco is pretty handy with firearms–no surprise there), and both of these two are unwittingly embroiled in the investigation in ways they never imagined. I seriously doubt either of them will find their way into another installment, but it’s not their lack of skill that keeps them away. Both Kimberly-Sue and Josiah give exceptionally convincing performances, and I earnestly hope we see more of them in the future.
Playing the staunch and sometimes irascible Sergeant Dunn is Dru, a man whom I had the pleasure to interview. This policeman goes head to head with Abby more than once and only wants to do his job without her interference. Every scene in which he appears is spectacular in the extreme, and I hope to see more of him in the next films to come as his imposing presence has earned him a conspicuous place in the storyline–at least, in my opinion. And he truly demonstrates his acting prowess when he becomes more adversarial towards Abby–anyone who can hold their own against Brooke Shields on screen deserves my high praise (not that she is a diva–quite the contrary–just that she is the very epitome of a pro). He may need to “eat crow” next time, however, as Abby is responsible for ultimately solving the crime. I wonder if Dunn’s chauvinism will permit an apology.
This was kind of a nice surprise. We finally meet Nikki’s husband, Richard, as played by Doug. No doubt Nikki is devoted to him and he her, but there are a few bumps and deceptions that cause a bit of a potential rift between the two (and a considerable amount of worry). Doug has some fantastic credits to his name, but I have only seen him in this one. (However, he will be seen in another film with Dru very soon–interesting, isn’t it?) Doug plays Richard in exactly the way one would expect. We know opposites attract, and anyone who can handle the explosively vivacious Nikki would need to be level-headed and pragmatic, and he is. I do hope to see him more in the future–this can’t be the only time we see Nikki’s husband. There is no uncertainty in my saying that Doug and Kate make a sincerely cute couple on screen as their personalities tend to mesh quite well. Of course, the falsehood could end in some genuine trouble for this couple–no spoilers, but I do hope he does not become the number one suspect in the crime.
Yet another character who is put in a difficult place due to where and when the murder takes place–Marie as the wedding planner, Bethany. Marie is one I have seen in one or two things without realizing it, but mostly, she is new to me. And in this film, she appears to be such a victim. Of course, Abby unearths a few potential skeletons in her past, but it would appear like everyone else, she is just endeavoring to start a new life for herself. As Bethany, Marie comes across as sometimes suspicious, but mostly just unfortunate–exactly what she appears to be. Interestingly enough, however, she is instrumental in the ultimate solving of the heinous crimes that take place, and I’m sure Abby is grateful for the unsolicited aid she gives.
Making a few notable appearances is Celeste yet again playing the beautiful Sydney. It has been so glorious to see Celeste truly embracing this role, and in this third one, she gives her best performance to date. She even has a moment that unexpectedly interrupts a “non-date” (or is it a date?) of her mom’s. Although I have adored her from the beginning, as the returning characters are finding their groove, so to speak, she is right up there with the rest. She is integral to the story, and maybe in time, she will take a more active role with her mom’s crime-fighting skills.
I would be so incredibly neglectful if I didn’t step in here and acknowledge some of the crew who have tirelessly worked to make this film what it is. Recently, I interviewed Joanna Syrokomla, the costume designer of the series, and I must say, I was quite taken with the lovely costuming–even down to the “hideous” bridesmaid dress Abby wears. I admired all the tuxes, the vibrant colors we saw on Abby and others–everything created just the atmosphere to which the viewers could relate. A lovely ambience indeed. I tip my hat to all of the crew involved from make-up, to hair stylists, to decorations, and not forgetting the director (Bradley Walsh) nor the writers (Neal H. and Tippi Dobrofsky) who have crafted screenplay masterpieces from the dazzling stories written by Kate Collins, author of the original mystery series. One thing I have learned about Hallmark (and any production, for that matter) is that as crucial as the actors are to the story and film, without an exceptional crew, we would not have such a phenomenal film to view.
Although I have already mentioned Jefferey, I didn’t mention the unparalleled talent who plays him–Beau Bridges. The man is a legend, and he never ceases to amaze me in any of his roles, let alone this one. As Abby’s father, he is a joy to watch, whether he is interacting with Marco or comforting Abby or even denouncing that other character, Glory, I mentioned earlier. With an actor like Beau, I can’t even begin to devise the vocabulary to describe his effortless, immaculate performance. He’s just one of the master actors who can do it all, and he still has the stamina to continue to bring such dauntless characters, such as Jefferey, to life with relatable warmth, kindness, and humor.
Now, of course, I cannot even begin to put into words just how much I have come to adore Kate. She and I are practically kindred spirits (I interviewed her a while back, and there was this connection that caused me to love her even more than I already did.), and when I saw the somewhat new look they gave her in this film, I was delightedly blown away! The girl is a knock-out already, but now she’s more like drop-dead gorgeous! Furthermore, seeing the way she interacts with Doug as her husband thrilled me even more. Nikki is not quiet and sober-minded like Abby. Indeed, she jumps in and does things without even thinking about the potential consequences. On the other hand, Abby jumps in and does things in spite of the hazardous consequences she is certain to face. They are perfectly matched to be best friends, right? Kate has found her stride even more so in this film. She is the precise epitome of the doting friend who only wants the best for Abby, and she will even resort to matchmaking if she must (not like she really MINDS stepping into Abby’s love life and meddling a bit). She is aware of the attraction brewing between Marco and Abby, and Marco already has won her over. Kate has become such an inherent part of the story as she has breathed limitless vibrancy into Nikki that I cannot wait to see her in the next installment and see how she improves upon her flawless portrayal of this character!
Unquestionably, at the very heart of this series is Brennan and Brooke who play that uncanny duo of Marco and Abby. I could wax eloquent on just how much I adore this couple, but I have done that in previous reviews. What I really appreciate about these two this time is the impeccable banter between the two (I just loved the ongoing coffee joke as well as the herd vs. flock comments). They were already finding that rhythm during the last film, but now they have fine-tuned it to such a level that it merely flows out of them as naturally as breathing.
As a crime-fighting team or as embryonic lovers, these two are incomparable. In this one, it would seem that maybe Marco and Abby finally have a chance at romance, but I am so grateful that they are taking things slowly (even if Marco appears to never catch a break). A leisurely romance between the two will ensure a bounty of films in the series to come. Their relative alone times are quite exhilarating to view, and the partnership they have developed and espoused is a true marvel of casting and acting.
But I decidedly doubt anything could captivate me more than these two dancing together. I know the backstory how Brennan couldn’t dance, and he took lessons, and he followed Brooke’s lead. That’s all well and good. However, I know that it takes “two to tango.” Speaking as one who could not dance to save her life, but who enrolled in dance classes, and then moved on to become a chance choreographer, Brennan did a miraculous job, and I mean that sincerely. I can recall instructing teenage boys on the how-tos of dance, and most of them never did even half as well as Brennan did, so here’s to seeing the two of them do more dancing together in these films. And Brennan is at a unique sort of disadvantage since Brooke is taller than he is–they both dance together as though they had been doing it for decades. And Brennan does it with some genuine flair–my congratulations to them both.
As for Brooke, what can I say? The woman defies desription as she is so extraordinarily talented and has captured ever detail of Abby in her expert depiction. The injection of humorous comments about her height is a comical delight, as that has been a complaint I have heard from viewers on more than one occasion. Moreover, Brooke is such a consummate actress that I would venture to say there’s no role she couldn’t tackle.
As the nosy Abby, Brooke has continued to astound me every time I see her in this role. I often forget that she is merely playing a character. She has so utterly immersed herself in the role that I cease to think of her as Brooke Shields. She has so refined her portrayal of this complex character that I greatly anticipate the next installments so I may witness how she can improve upon this prodigious performance.
While I have never read the book series, as far as the film series goes, Brooke is the very embodiment of Abby Knight, and I honestly don’t see how anyone could play that role better than she. Likewise, I believe she is one of the major reasons the series is so successful.
Of course, try as I might, I can never conceal my ultimate reason for watching this series–Brennan Elliott as Marco Salvare. I did interview him prior to watching this film, and there are a select few in this business whom I would consider the total package. And when I say that, I mean the following–handsome, kind, humble, reciprocal, versatile, and an incommensurable talent! How Brennan is able to play such diverse roles with such veracity is often a befuddlement to me. No matter his role, he always brings out the best in his co-stars. And in the case of Brooke, it is just like iron sharpening iron. The fact that Kate Collins, author of the series, knew he was the very epitome of Marco the moment she laid eyes on him only bolsters my claim that this is one of those roles that Brennan was born to play. I realize that he was probably also born to play Warren Saget from Cedar Cove, but in so many ways, I think Brennan has found his stride with Marco with even more rapidity than he did with Warren. He adroitly portrays this motley character in such minute detail that should I ever find the time to read one of the books in the series, I know his depiction and insuperable style will invade my thoughts whenever I read about this character. And I simply adore the clever humor he brings to the character–he just makes it so fun. And the way in which his character protects the woman he has come to cherish–Abby. He is fiercely devoted to her, and that is something rare to see in films and television today. Marco has discovered that Abby is a strong woman, and though she will not typically request his help (most of the time), he is man enough to sit in the background and only step in without her knowledge or when her life may be in danger. He awaits her invitation or the acknowledgement of the necessity of his services. He is becoming her rock without her even realizing it–astute man that Marco. And of course, that means that Brennan is able to characterize every moment I just mentioned in such a way that it resonates with the audience. I can hardly wait to see how Brennan improves upon perfection next time. (Okay, I know–I say that every time, but how can I not say it when it is absolutely TRUE?)
In conclusion, with this third installment, the cast and crew have found that rhythm and groove that indubitably seems to drive the pace of this series. I have so invested myself in the characters and the series that I may become rather impatient awaiting the fourth one! I hope with all of my heart that Hallmark will grant the wishes of this fan and produce another very soon.
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