I’m pretty sure you all know by now that no one under 50 loves Hallmark Channel as much as I do. I can’t help it; I’m a sucker for a love story and happy ending. It’s already my default channel when I turn on my TV, but I don’t think the channel even changes when their 24-hour (exception being their Home & Family show) Christmas films are airing. Holidays and seasons are two of my favorite things in life. But now Hallmark Channel has started making their films fit every season, and the only film compilation I enjoy almost as much as Countdown to Christmas is their Fall Harvest.
Love on a Limb
“You’re not very good at talking trash.”
Aimie Roarke is the town’s activist. I mean, a serious activist. If there is a cause, she’s on it. So when she finds out the mayor has ordered to have the “The Big Old Tree,” a significant landmark in in the hearts of all the town citizens, cut down, she does everything in her power to stop it … which turns out to be more frustrating and entertaining than she could imagine with the devastatingly handsome Kyle Sorensen as the head of the lumber company in charge of chopping the tree.
This is your typical Hallmark enemies to lovers tale, but unfortunately it was a little off. The tone was indecisive. From the previews, it came off as a goofier film, which was consistent with the beginning, but it got a little weird and confusing as the story went on. Aimie’s over the top and funny character choices were in complete contrast witch Kyle’s serious and realistic ones to the point in which it was like they were in different films. The plot itself was fine. Cute and easy to follow. And I actually do like the actors and have enjoyed their other movies. But I just could not get past the weirdness.
Autumn in the Vineyard
“Petty. But satisfying.”
In this town, there are two names that matter when it come to grapes and wine: Baldwin and Deluca. Frankie Baldwin was not ready for Nathan Deluca to come strolling back into her life after he completed his PHD. Their attraction for each other is undeniable but has to be put on hold (or does it?) when they find themselves accidentally in a vineyard custody battle. With the help of one of my favorite troupes, “forced proximity,” Frankie and Nathan have to use her hands-on experience and his academic knowledge to beat the other in growing the most grapes and gain full ownership of Sorrento Farm.
When I was in the middle of Autumn in the Vineyard, I knew it was going to probably be the best Fall Harvest film this year, and not just because Rachel Leigh Cook also starred in my middle school obsession, She’s All That. The production quality was really strong, and the location was spectacular. The writing was solid as well; the story is based on a novel of the same name, which I think is something Hallmark does best. Brad Penny really impressed me as Nathan Deluca. I had seen him before on Chesapeake Shores, but his character in that is the stereotypical good child. Nathan, however, is a little arrogant and strong willed while still being charismatic with a big heart. Rachel Leigh Cook was perfect as the tomboyish Frankie Baldwin. She was stubborn and determined and capable. The only downfall I thought was that they had not one Big Misunderstanding but a couple of them, which started to get a little annoying. Oh, and that the llama should have gotten more screen time. However, the two of them recover from each misunderstanding well, and the viewer has no doubt that Frankie and Nathan can have a successful HEA.
Pumpkin Pie Wars
“It’s like The Hunger Games.”
“I don’t know what that is, but I’m sure this is much worse.”
Ten years ago, Faye McArthy and Lydia Harper were best friends. But when Lydia decided to open a bakery without Faye, who taught her how to bake, the annual pumpkin pie contest became a battle field of hostility and digs about pre-made pie crust. Lydia decided maybe it was time to opening up her own bakery, and thus their friendship came to an end. Fast forward to present day where Faye and Lydia’s rivalry has reached a new level of ferocity. Lydia has finally won the pumpkin pie contest for the past three years, but her life has become so intertwined with the bakery that she has begun to lose herself. Faye, on the other hand, has been suffering from those loses, mainly financially. Winning this next pumpkin pie competition would mean everything to her business. Unfortunately, Faye trips and gets injured, and her healing time goes beyond the date of the competition. In an act of desperation, Faye enlists her business minded daughter Casey to enter for her; in retaliation, Lydia signs up her culinary artist son Sam. Even though Casey and Sam make it clear they want no part in their family’s Capulet and Monague feud, they play pretend until they come up with a brilliant idea. If Sam teaches Casey how to cook, she could help him with a business plan to convince Lydia to expand the Harper bakery into a full service restaurant. Their only problem? Not getting caught. Or is it not falling in love?
What makes this film so unique to me is that we have arch nemeses who fall in love WITHOUT BICKERING. There’s plenty of adorable banter, but the only fighting these two are doing is fighting to not fall for each other. It was refreshing to see two characters respect and admire each other from the beginning, and their sneaking around was adorable. The only thing that could have made this film better was a bit more attention on the more intimate scenes. Their banter was so full of flirtatiousness, but when they actually got close, it was a let-down. Like, we all knew there would be a moment where they would whisk the batter together, but it’s like they went out of their way to make Sam only make contact with Lydia’s hand. Maybe that’s a silly complaint, but it looked down-right unnatural. I’m not saying it needs to be steamy, just for his elbow to look more comfortable. However, bonus points for Hallmark Channel casting the Latina actress Julie Gonzalo who is extremely proud of her heritage. Hallmark viewers have been calling for diversity for years, and while I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in that area for secondary characters, it is nice to see diversity in a principle character.
While I do think that last year’s films were probably stronger, I really enjoyed this year’s line up. And I learned the valuable lesson that there is no romance without red wine. (You think I’m kidding. Go through all those photos again.)
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these photos. They are all ©Crown Media and found on hallmarkchannel.com