Hallmark Review: All Things Valentine (2016, dir. Gary Harvey)


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Sorry I’ve been gone for a few days, but it’s been pretty horrible here. No worries though because I come bearing All Things Valentine. All Things Valentine is a film that on the surface appears to be just a reworked version of Love On The Air, but is actually pretty messed up. For those of you who don’t recall, Love On The Air was the movie where two idiots on the radio fall in love with each other over #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen statements they make on the radio. Not my favorite, but at least it didn’t do what this film does.

The film opens up with that super generic title card that at least looks better than the ones for Unleashing Mr. Darcy and Dater’s Handbook. Then we are introduced to Avery Parker played by Sarah Rafferty. I guess that makes two Hallmark movies where the actresses are from the USA show Suits since Dater’s Handbook had Meghan Markle in it.

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Poor Avery was really happy as she was walking around in red, carrying a gift, and balloons, but then saw her boyfriend kissing another girl. Instead of confronting him or anything, she just goes home to pout. Then we get a shot of a dog she owns. Can’t say I’ve seen a dog with a nose like that.

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And yes Hallmark, I am excited about your upcoming cannibal Valentine’s Day movie. If somebody doesn’t get eaten then I am going to be very disappointed by your deceptive title. Now we find out that Avery works for The Portland Banner as a Dear Abby type called “The Coach”. Her column is called “Consult The Coach”. Here’s the letter that just came in:

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Now we meet the person who wrote the letter named McKenna played by Kimberly Sustad. Sadly, Superman from The Nine Lives Of Christmas isn’t here to save her.

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Here’s the response she receives from The Coach:

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So her letter said that she kept bringing up Valentine’s Day, but that it didn’t seem important to him. The Coach’s advice is that “his insensitivity suggests the kind of man he is. Not someone you should trust with your heart.” Based on the letters I don’t think there is trust in this relationship at all. Wouldn’t the right advice be to stop being cryptic and actually just tell him? Being cryptic then being sad because the other person didn’t figure it out is your problem, not there’s. She actually will do this later and the film will rub it in her face.

Now Avery goes to work and her boss suddenly springs on her this idea for a series of Valentine’s Day related columns. Avery tells her how she isn’t the right person for this, that she doesn’t like Valentine’s Day, etc. Didn’t think of this just a little while ago when she dispensed advice about Valentine’s Day to McKenna, but now this comes out. I know she couched it with “I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day”, but come on! How many of us have read Internet comments that started with I’m not racist or homophobic, but then launch into something blatantly racist or homophobic? Her boss tells her not to worry because it wouldn’t really be you writing the columns, but you’d be pretending to be someone who likes this holiday. Oh, that’s nice! Her boss is telling her to be a liar. Let’s go to dinner now!

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That’s right! McKenna is going to dump her boyfriend Brendan Bates played by Sam Page. I love this conversation because McKenna ceases to think for herself and basically quotes verbatim the turd The Coach sent her calling it advice. He reminds her that the very reason they are out at dinner right now is because he knows he won’t be able to be there on Valentine’s Day, but she doesn’t listen. He is just kicked to the curb.

So let’s see what we have so far. We have a woman who has the maturity of a 12 year-old. A boss who tells her to lie to people in an advice column. We have a woman who probably would think poison would be in her Valentine’s Day candies if an anonymous person online told her that. Wait, sorry, that was Ann Landers and Dear Abby that did that convincing people poison and razor blades might be in their child’s candy. The Coach would never give bad advice even though the scene that follows her giving said advice has her saying she shouldn’t write that stuff because she is biased. Then we have a guy who knew that he would have to work on Valentine’s Day so he made sure to take her out when he could. Fine, but watch what the movie does to this person whose relationship was ruined and what they do to the person who ruined it. That’s why this film is messed up.

Next we meet Brendan’s best friend and McKenna’s best friend who she works with at a bakery. They exist in this story to be a charming subplot on the surface, but really are there to just rub it into McKenna’s face even more. Yes, she will have a conversation with her blonde friend here to try and set us up for the ending. Still not going to work for Hallmark though. If this movie could have ended with none of the main characters together, then it could have worked, but it’s Hallmark so that can’t happen. Yeah, I think you can see what’s coming, can’t you?

Now we find out that Brendan is a vet. And wouldn’t you know it? Avery comes in with her dog that is now sick. Oh, but just before, Brendan fires off an angry letter to The Coach as Bench The Coach. Then the lovers meet, and they start dating.

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I’ve teased it enough. This movie is going to reward this woman for destroying this other’s woman’s life by giving her this guy and delivering an even better guy to her blonde friend leaving McKenna twisting in the wind. No joke. Oh, the writer J.B. White tries to put in a scene here and there so we are properly couched for this ending, but nope. This would be like if Chilly Scenes Of Winter (1979) stuck with it’s original ending and rewarded John Heard for all his stalking by having him end up with the girl. That’s what happens here.

I probably should stop now, but can you believe this situation is made even worse. Yeah, McKenna actually has a conversation with Brendan where she says that the Bench The Coach letters to The Coach have caused her to reconsider what she did. He not only brushes her off, but apparently has a date with The Coach on Valentine’s Day. The very day he said earlier he couldn’t do anything on.

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So in case we thought this might actually be a decent guy and were rooting for him, the movie gives us a reason to hate him. Yep!

The rest of the story plays out with Brendan and Avery getting closer and closer together while Brendan’s friend builds and builds up his courage to finally tell the blonde he is head over heels in love with her.

Near the end of the movie McKenna and Avery actually do have a conversation with each other about the whole situation. McKenna told Avery that Brendan was the guy who was sending her Coach persona those letters as Bench The Coach. They have a conversation that really tries to justify the ending by having McKenna reach out in a heart to heart with Avery.

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The movie so wants this to work, but it doesn’t. J.B. White has written some of the better Hallmark movies I’ve seen such as Lead With Your Heart. He obviously wanted to avoid the childish and contrived plots that usually riddle these Hallmark films and shoot for the stars with this one. The movie ends with blonde and Brendan’s friend getting together right in front of McKenna, Brendan and Avery getting together, and this being the last shot of McKenna that we get.

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Looks happy, doesn’t she? This simply wasn’t a plot that the Hallmark template could handle. The movie needed to end with only the blonde and Brendan’s friend getting together. The two worst people in the story end up happy together and the person who was lied to by both of those people is left alone with no one. Neither Avery nor Brendan learn lessons about hiding behind anonymity because doing so gets them together and heals Avery’s wounds associated with Valentine’s Day. This just wasn’t the right script for Hallmark. I actually kind of encourage you to watch it because White was certainly trying here for something adult and mature, but you’ll find that it doesn’t quite work because of the Hallmark romance movie framework that he just couldn’t break so strongly.