I would have thought this movie was shot by the same cinematographer who did Love On The Air (2015), but IMDb tells me differently. Love On The Air was shot by Jon Joffin and according to the credits of this movie, a Todd Williams shot this one. But both films were directed by Kristoffer Tabori. I guess Tabori has developed a fondness for random camera obstructions and large sections of the frame being out of focus. The blinded by the light shot even makes a return from Love On The Air.
Now in all fairness to Tabori, you can tell that he is probably trying to bring some style to the cinematography of the Hallmark movies he makes. You can see it in shots like these.
I remember Rainer Werner Fassbinder having a fondness for using mirrors like this shot from Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974).
Just like one of Fassbinder’s idols Douglas Sirk did as shown in this shot from Written On The Wind (1956).
Even those other shots show a purpose. Throwing things in front of the camera is probably an attempt at composition in depth, which director Josef Von Sternberg was best known for. Here’s an example from The Scarlet Empress (1934).
That one shot where things are out of focus around the character is framing like this shot also from Ali: Fear Eats The Soul.
The point is, I think I see what he is going for, but it doesn’t come together in this, nor in Love On The Air.
He also brought us Just The Way You Are (2015), Portrait Of Love (2015), A Ring By Spring (2014), and My Gal Sunday (2014). So obviously this movie is going to be about a baker who has been burned by a previous relationship who wants to follow rules for dating someone new, which includes going out of focus transitions, reuses shots from other Tabori Hallmark movies, screws up at least one computer screen, and ends with a bomb being stopped by a wedding ring. Well, not quite. It’s shot the same way Love On The Air was. It’s considerably better than Just The Way You Are. It’s not sleepwalking through it’s plot like Portrait Of Love. It does screw up two computer screens, but not in particularly bad ways. Finally, while it is at least 1/3rd as confusing as My Gal Sunday, it doesn’t end with a bomb being stopped by a wedding ring.
I am actually going to take a shot at talking about the plot of this movie. Something that will probably be disappointing seeing as I’m terrible with these murder mysteries, and the Hallmark ones are particularly confusing for me. I even watched this with my Dad who reads murder mysteries, and he attempted to explain it to me afterwards largely unsuccessfully. I’ll try, but first.
If you’ve read some of my other reviews you’ve probably picked up that I am a fan of The Cinema Snob. What’s odd is that watching this movie had ties back to the two most recent reviews he’s done. The first comes in the form of the commercials. During one of the breaks there was an ad for Liberty University. They are the ones who brought us Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (2014). During these same commercials, Hallmark promoted their upcoming Thanksgiving Day thing hosted by Candace Cameron Bure, who is Kirk’s sister. The Snob reviewed that movie last week.
The other tie-in is a little more loose. The guy who dies in this movie is named Larry Jaeger. This week’s Snob episode is on a really really really bizarre Christmas special called Ms. Velma’s Most Incredibly Magnificent Christmas Week. Velma’s last name is Jaggers. And of course this special comes on a disc along with Rock: It’s Your Decision which I have reviewed on this site.
Odd coincidences that I had to mention. But let’s actually talk about this movie now. Or at least as much as I can before I say I don’t want to spoil things because I actually have reached a point where I’m too confused about the plot to discuss it further.
The movie opens on Hannah’s Cookie Jar Bakery & Cafe where Hannah is played by Alison Sweeney. I don’t remember her place looking like this in the previous film, but I also watched that movie back in August. During the opening scenes where we meet friends, customers, and her nutty mother, we learn that there are a lot of blondes in this town. Also, we hear a Dr. Love (Calling Dr. Love by KISS) on the radio.
No, not that Dr. Love. This lady’s catchphrase is “that life without love is only half a life.” So what’s the other half? I’m assuming it’s referring to having that other person whose happiness becomes and fills in the other half of your life. We also learn that “Crazy Elf is crazy!” And so are his prices!
Later in the film Crazy Elf learns that he should stay in his little house because he gets shot. Crazy Elf is the mascot for a Christmas tree lot owned by Larry Jaeger who as I said is found dead. This is one of those cozy mysteries where the main character really doesn’t have a reason to be investigating other than that she is a busy body. At least the cop friend played by Cameron Mathison keeps telling her this.
the mother is played by Barbara Niven. Last time I saw her was in that lousy lesbian love story A Perfect Ending (2012). I thought I recognized her.
Anyways, now that the body has been discovered, it’s a good time to get a look at Hannah’s license plate.
And they make sure you get a good look at the plate several times throughout this movie. It’s kind of like those movies that want you to believe the movie totally takes place in America because of the American flag in the scene. Like Italian Batman and Prom Night III: The Last Kiss.
However, late in the movie they left in this shot.
Fido is a Canadian cellular company. It’s kind of sad they didn’t fix that considering they went through the trouble of getting the license plates, using actual text messages, and near the end of the film properly faking a phone call to her cellphone that even shows up as Cameron Mathison’s character’s name.
Easy to fix too. Oh, well.
The remainder of the film is her mother nagging her about dating, Mathison telling her to stop putting herself in danger, and a red herring that gets picked up by the cops and jailed. That being Dr. Love who turns out to have been and technically still is married to Larry Jaeger who apparently was a con man. The rest would be just laying out the plot point by point. Otherwise known as this is when the film really lost me.
At this point, having seen quite a few of these Hallmark mysteries, I would say this is a series they can drop. Lori Loughlin is enjoyable enough in the Garage Sale Mystery movies. It’s always funny to see Candance Cameron Bure run around playing Aurora Teagarden like she’s on speed. And I think The Gourmet Detective one’s are the best I’ve seen recently. Even though I wish they would just change Brooke Burns character to being an Inspector given that is what she would be called if she were really on the SFPD. You can even see Prentice E. Sanders referred to as an Inspector in my review of Law Enforcement Guide To Satanic Cults. I only recommend this movie if you are already a fan of the books, which I’m sure my book gal Michelle will probably tell me about if she reads this review.
And this has been possibly the longest and only film school dissection of a Hallmark movie that I will probably ever write.