Take 3: Bathing Beauty Review

Since I participated in last year’s Esther Williams Blogathon, it made sense for me to join the 100 Years of Esther Williams Blogathon. Hosted again by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood, I wanted to review one of Esther’s films this time. I try to watch and write about as many movie recommendations as I can. Because Rebecca from Taking Up Room suggested I check out Bathing Beauty, that’s the film I chose to review! In 2020, for a different blogathon, I saw my first film of Esther’s; 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. That film gave Esther only one swimming scene, with the majority of her scenes taking place on land. With a movie titled Bathing Beauty, I was excited to see more of Esther’s swimming routines! Also, in 2020, I saw my first movie of Red Skelton’s; 1953’s The Clown. So, I was looking forward to talking about one of his earlier films! Now, let’s dive into this review of Bathing Beauty!

Bathing Beauty poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The costume designs: One thing I noticed while watching Bathing Beauty was the use of vibrant colors. This can definitely be seen within the film’s costume designs! At the very beginning of the film, Esther wore a hot pink swimsuit with a matching bow. The show-stopping piece, however, was her over-the-shoulder cape! This cream-colored piece was adorned in colorful flower appliques, adding touches of bright green, yellow, and pink. Besides pink, red was a common color found among the costumes. The students at Victoria College wore a uniform that consisted of a khaki dress. Red berets and neck ties provided a pop of color, not only pairing nicely with the khaki material, but also complimenting light and dark hair colors. During the performance of “I Cried for You”, Helen Forrest wore a rusty red colored dress. While the shape and style of the dress itself was simple, there was a sparkly belt and neckline. This small detail helped Helen’s dress appear elegant and appealing to the eye.

Red Skelton’s comedy: As I mentioned in my review of The Clown, I am familiar with Red Skelton as an entertainer. This knowledge caused me to be disappointed by the limited use of comedy in that film. Because Bathing Beauty is a romantic comedy, the material gave Red Skelton more opportunities to showcase his comedic talents. The ballet lesson from The Clown also appeared in Bathing Beauty. This time, Red’s character, Steve, took the lesson because it was a part of the college curriculum. Even after a year of first seeing it, this scene is still hilarious! The slapstick nature of Red’s comedy and the graceful reputation of ballet creates a funny oxymoron. Sometimes, Red’s comedy could be heard within the script. While at a local bar, Steve and a fellow patron explain their problems using nearby fruit. When Steve chooses to represent himself through a pineapple, he makes a comment about how he needs a haircut. Little comments like that one help include comedy into conversations among the characters!

The cinematography: An element within Bathing Beauty that stood out was the cinematography! It surprised me how good it was, especially for a film released in 1944! Anytime Esther swam underwater, those scenes were captured very well, presenting a clear view of what was happening under the surface. This added to the appeal of the swimming/water related scenes within the movie. In one scene, Esther’s character, Caroline, kisses Steve by the poolside. As she slowly dips under the water, Steve’s face follows her, with a close-up shot of his face shown under the water as well. Keeping in mind the limited technology of the ‘40s, these scenes were, to an extent, ahead of their time. A few scenes featured Harry James and His Music Makers. During these scenes, Harry was captured in close-up and medium shots. The camera also moved with him, presenting the illusion that Harry was floating among the orchestra. Because he was the star of those performances, this was a interesting way of highlighting Harry’s importance in those scenes!

100 Years of Esther Williams blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat misleading title: This movie is not only called Bathing Beauty, but it also stars Esther Williams. Therefore, certain expectations are placed on the film for those reasons. While we do see Esther in the pool, this was shown for two scenes: toward the beginning and end of the movie. The rest of the film shows Esther spending more time on land. Even when Basil Rathbone’s character, George, mentions a water pageant on several occasions, this was not the main focus of the overall story. After having Take Me Out to the Ball Game as my introduction to Esther’s filmography, I was left a little disappointed.

Red and Esther’s on-screen chemistry: While I have seen at least one film of Esther’s and Red’s, this was my first time seeing a movie starring both of them. Throughout the movie, they had nice on-chemistry. However, I thought Red had stronger on-screen chemistry with Jean Porter. Portraying one of the students at Victoria College, Jean displayed an on-screen personality that was similar to Red’s, coming across as easy-going and spunky. During the musical number, “I’ll Take the High Note”, Red and Jean performed so well together. I wanted Steve and Caroline to work out their relationship issues. But because of “I’ll Take the High Note”, I wish Jean and Red had led a film together.

A weak connection between the story and musical numbers: Musicals can be an enjoyable experience. Songs and instrumentals can progress a story forward, as well as help the audience get to know the story’s characters. With Bathing Beauty, there were several musical numbers sprinkled throughout the film. But anytime a musical number took place, it caused the story to pause. Even though these musical numbers were entertaining, the only one that directly connected to the film’s narrative was “I’ll Take the High Note”. This is because the number was a part of an assignment Steve had to complete in order to pass his music class. As I mentioned earlier, a water pageant is brought up on multiple occasions. However, this was the only water related spectacle in the movie. Because Esther was one of the stars of the film and because the story takes place in two states surrounding water (California and New Jersey), this feels, to an extent, like a missed opportunity for more water related numbers.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The end of any Olympics is an exciting time. A closing ceremony filled with spectacle and awe give athletes, fans, and people from that host country something to look forward to. As this year’s Tokyo Olympics come to a close, I can’t but think of blogathons being similar to the Olympics. Think of it like this: the athletes that represent a particular country share one common goal. That goal is to bring home as many medals as realistically possible. The Olympics themselves have a start and end date, taking place in a different location. While there are typically no prizes involved in blogathons, participants share a common goal: talk about and celebrate the chosen subject. In this case, that subject is Esther Williams. Like the Olympics, Michaela’s event is an annual one that has a clear start and end date. Yes, it is known that Esther never went to the Olympics as planned. But I’d like to think she became a champion in her own right. An Olympic podium turned into an aqua-musical stage. Gold medals became a thirty-three project filmography. Instead of hearing the National Anthem after an Olympic win, show tunes are the chosen sound within Esther’s performances. I’d also like to think Esther paved the way for swimmers that came after her. Maybe aquamusicals haven’t made a comeback, but swimmers have been able to find own their success, almost like Esther did.

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Esther Williams’ films? If so, which one would you want me to review next? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Word on the Street: Made-for-TV Film Projects, including a Hallmark series, in the Works

On July 24th, Google Trends Now reported a Christmas movie is about to begin filming in late August. So far, this film is titled ‘The Seek for Christmas’. But “that may most likely change earlier than it airs”, says Evergreen Movie Productions’ Daniel Lewis. Erin Cahill, an actress who has starred in five Hallmark films, will be the lead actress and a producer on the project, according to the article. Maclain Nelson has also been announced as the movie’s director. The production is being filmed in Natchez, Mississippi, which is located near the Louisiana border. Daniel said ‘The Seek for Christmas’ “is about three sisters who grew aside and their journey of discovering their manner again to one another over the Christmas vacation”. Daniel also said “that filmmakers did their analysis to make the film as authentically Natchez as attainable and have written Natchez Christmas traditions such because the annual Christmas parade into the script”. Even though Hallmark Channel is mentioned in the article and its title, the network has not confirmed their association to this movie, as of late July to early August 2021.

In Kemptville, Ontario, Canada, a Christmas movie has been in production since July 19th. Ashley Kulp, from Inside Ottawa Valley, writes that this movie is, so far, titled “The Christmas Campaign”. Filming locations in Kemptville have included “the former North Grenville District High School on Prescott Street” and downtown Kemptville. Almonte, Carp, and Ottawa have also been announced as filming locations. No story-related details or casting decisions have been made known at this time. Also, it is unknown where this movie will premiere.

The link to the articles I referenced in this post:

https://trends.blogdady.com/hallmark-channel-christmas-film-filming-in-natchez-in-august-mississippis-greatest-group-newspaper/

https://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/10442638-what-s-going-on-here-christmas-in-july-holiday-movie-being-filmed-in-kemptville/

Christmas themed movie tickets created Kraphix at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/movie-tickets-christmas_971544.htm’>Designed by Kraphix</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by Kraphix – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Angelique Jackson, from Variety, reported on July 28th about Hallmark’s plans to create television films based on the company’s Mahogany card line. The article states how these efforts will consist of “a quarterly slate of original movies coming to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries in early 2022”. The pre-production phase of the project started “in early 2021”, with Wonya Lucas, Crown Media Family Networks’ president and CEO, and Toni Judkins, Crown Media Family Network’s current programming and development senior VP, working to get the project off the ground. “Mahogany is a 34-year-old brand that has been an important part of the portfolio since its existence. So for us, it’s not an initiative; it’s bringing something to life through storytelling”, said Wonya. Toni responded to Variety by saying “It was a brand that I love and have known for decades. It just seemed like the most natural, authentic thing to do, to translate and take the inspiration behind the Mahogany card brand and bring it to air”.

This article from Variety mentions how Hallmark has big plans for their Mahogany series. Angelique writes how the network wants “to further expand the franchise to include podcasts and scripted series in the coming years”. According to the article, the Mahogany series is a stepping stone toward programming based on Hallmark’s other card lines, including Eight Bamboo, which highlights “Chinese values and customs”. But in order to make these big plans a reality, Hallmark needs big money to make them happen. In my last Word on the Street story, I speculated how Hallmark might not be as financially strong as in years past. This speculation is based on things happening with the company that I’ve seen and heard as a consumer of some of the network’s programming. To add to this, it should be noted that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, the network that will host the Mahogany films, doesn’t have the strongest numbers in viewership. As of late July to early August 2021, the movie from Hallmark’s second network with the highest number in viewership was Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, which garnered 1.6 million viewers. This number is lower than those from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ past films, with 2017’s Rocky Mountain Christmas receiving a record-breaking 2.18 million viewers. One of the reasons for these low numbers is how Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is a smaller network compared to the main Hallmark Channel. This means that the second network doesn’t have the same amount of sponsorship opportunities as the first network does. Because of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ smaller size and lower viewership, maybe Hallmark has been cancelling programs like Home & Family in order to put those finances and resources toward the Mahogany series? Like any film project in pre-production, we’ll just have to wait and see how this series will be carried through.

Links to the references I included in this post:

https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/hallmark-mahogany-card-line-tv-movies-2022-1235028599/

http://www.ratingsryan.com/2021/06/cable-tv-ratings-week-ending-june-13.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20171227121829/http://www.showbuzzdaily.com/articles/showbuzzdailys-top-150-friday-cable-originals-network-finals-12-22-2017.html

Christmas card image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/christmas-card-with-watercolor-mistletoe-decoration_965555.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

Andrea Brooks, who stars on When Calls the Heart as Faith, will be co-leading two upcoming movies. In an article from Heavy, these movies are, right now, titled ‘Sit, Stay, Love’ and ‘Fishing for Love’. With ‘Sit, Stay, Love’, Andrea will star alongside Hallmark alumni, Marcus Rosner. The film will be directed by Heather Hawthorn Doyle. According to the article, this movie is about the following:

“A woman’s tightly controlled life starts to loosen up when she adopts a dog and falls in love with him and the owner of the animal shelter she adopted him from”

For ‘Fishing for Love’, Andrea will star with Spencer Lord. The article from Heavy states “the movie was filmed in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada” and is about the following:

“When Kendall, a successful restaurant designer comes home to Mystic Bay for the annual Big Catch Festival, she finds herself in uncharted waters with town newcomer Zack. Is Kendall baited for trouble in her home town or will she catch true love?”

As of late July to early August 2021, “It’s not clear if either of her [Andrea’s] two new movies will be airing on The Hallmark Channel or somewhere else”, as stated in the article.

The link to the Heavy article I referenced:

Group of puppies image created by Rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background photo created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on these pieces of movie news? Which project sounds the most interesting to you? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Sincerely, Yours, Truly Review + 295, 300, 305, 310, and 315 Follower Thank You

I know this review has been long overdue.  With several projects on my plate last month, I wasn’t able to get to my review as soon as I had wanted. Like I mentioned in my Peer Pressure Tag post, I am using March as the month where I catch up on important articles. This includes the newest blog follower dedication review. This time around, I wanted to choose a movie that was different from the film I wrote about for my last review; Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host. Even though there is a mystery in Sincerely, Yours, Truly, the overall story is more light-hearted in tone. It’s rare for an Up Network film to be covered on 18 Cinema Lane. This is because I just haven’t gotten around to watching many of them. Beginning at the start of 2021, Up Network has been releasing a new movie almost every Sunday night. Since Sincerely, Yours, Truly has been on my DVR for about a month, I finally had an excuse to watch it!

I took a screenshot of the film’s poster from my television. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Even though Natalie Hall has starred in Hallmark Channel movies since 2011, the only film of Natalie’s I have seen is A Winter Princess. The reason I bring this up is because it shows how Natalie has experience when it comes to working on films of this nature. Throughout Sincerely, Yours, Truly, Natalie was very expressive, which is reflective of her time appearing in Hallmark’s rom-coms and one of the Love Saga (Love Comes Softly) films. Toward the beginning of the movie, Natalie’s character, Hayley, and her friend, Elisa, have received good news about a potential grant for their non-profit, Growing Out. They dance around Hayley’s kitchen and squeal in delight, as they can’t contain their excitement. While we’re on the subject of Elisa, I also liked Nicki Whitely’s performance in Sincerely, Yours, Truly! Like Natalie, Nicki was also expressive. She had a good on-screen personality as well. Anytime Elisa interacted with Hayley, their friendship came across as realistic. The moments when they read the love letters are a good example. This was my first time watching any of Marshall Williams’ projects, so I didn’t know what to expect from Marshall, talent-wise. I have to say that I was very impressed by his portrayal of Josh! In the movie, he was charming, with his reactions and expressions appearing natural. Having good on-screen chemistry with Natalie also helped Marshall. One of Marshall’s best scenes was when Josh discovers a letter about a lost item. Josh receives his mail when is on his way to work, not thinking twice about the task. As soon as he sees the letter, a look of curiosity immediately appears on his face.

The witty banter: In order to make any movie, let alone a rom-com, work, there needs to be good dialogue among the characters. Sincerely, Yours, Truly contained witty banter, which was one of the strongest parts of the film! Hayley and Josh meet when they argue over who should receive the last two jars of rhubarb jam. During this interaction, Josh lies about his reasons for wanting the jam. At first, he says he needs it for his sister because she’s having a bad day. Then he says he needs the jam because his sister is sick. Hayley comes back with witty remarks, calling out his falsehood in the process. After hearing both explanations of Josh’s, she asks him which one is true. This back-and-forth banter between these two characters was consistent, being both quick and sharp. Another example of this banter is when Josh is asking Hayley to put out her incense at their shared office facility. Because he’s entering her part of the office, Hayley responds by telling him not to spy, a reference from an earlier conversation. Not only do these interactions work because of the script, but also because of Natalie and Marshall’s talents!

The process of a grant proposal: A overarching narrative in Sincerely, Yours, Truly is Josh and Hayley attempting to win a financial grant for their respective non-profits. Throughout the film, the audience gets to see the entire process, from Josh and Hayley’s initial meeting to the final results. I found this part of the story interesting, as it allowed the characters to use problem solving skills and creativity. Even though Hayley’s non-profit was featured in the film more than Josh’s, I liked seeing her ideas come to life! This kind of insightful story-telling is what I’ve come to enjoy in stories like this.

Envelope with hearts image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/hearts-and-pink-envelope-for-mothers-day_1950691.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/love”>Love image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Revealing the mystery too early: A mystery surrounding a collection of love letters was one of the major stories in Sincerely, Yours, Truly. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to watch this film. Within the first twenty minutes, a narration from a character the audience already met recites one of the love letters. The narration reveals the identity of the letters’ author. The mystery should have been drawn out for longer than twenty minutes, with the author’s identity remaining a secret for at least half the movie. This would give the audience more time to stay invested in the mystery.

No subplots for the supporting characters: While I liked the major stories in Sincerely, Yours, Truly, I didn’t find subplots for any of the supporting characters. What’s even more frustrating is how there were opportunities for subplots to take place. One example is Hayley’s mom, Camille. Over lunch between mother and daughter, it is revealed that Camille has a crush on a local butcher. However, this relationship is never explored and we only see Camille in two scenes. In the story, Elisa shares how she’s dating a dog-walker, whose profession is affecting her allergies. This conflict was not resolved anywhere in the movie.

Josh and Hayley never coming across as enemies: A classic rom-com trope that is found within the movie is “enemies to lovers”. Even though I enjoyed seeing Hayley and Josh’s interactions, I never felt like they were enemies. Sure, there were aspects of the other person they didn’t like. But their banter came across as playful than antagonistic. This made me question why the creative team behind Sincerely, Yours, Truly adopted this specific trope if they weren’t going to fully utilize it?

Fancy jewelry image created by Freepic.diller at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/wedding”>Wedding photo created by freepic.diller – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I’m glad to see Up Network releasing newer films on their channel! It gives their audience something to look forward to and allows the network to compete alongside their competitors. With Sincerely, Yours, Truly, it was a film I ended up liking! While the movie does have its flaws, its sincerity and genuineness make up for that. I didn’t bring this up in my review, but Sincerely, Yours, Truly successfully avoided the “it’s not what you think” cliché. There were two instances where this cliché could have been used in the story. However, the film’s creative team subverted my expectations and chose not to use it, which made me enjoy the movie more! I want to take the time now to thank all of my followers. Reaching 300 followers is a big deal for me, so I appreciate all of the support!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen any of Up Network’s newer films? If so, which one has been your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party Tag 2021

When Heidi, from Along the Brandywine, started her Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party, she also published an official tag! As I’ve already posted my entry for the event, a review of the Hallmark Hall of Fame picture, The Love Letter, I thought it’d be nice to answer the tag questions. As I said in that review, period dramas are not regularly covered on 18 Cinema Lane. However, I did try to answer each question as best as I could. If you’ve visited my blog before, you’d know this isn’t my first blogathon tag. Last year, when I joined the Legends of Western Cinema Week, I published my answers relating to the western genre. This time around, I’m answering questions about this blogathon’s theme: period dramas!

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.
  1. Your current three (or up to five!) favorite period dramas?
  • Swept from the Sea
  • The Enchanted Cottage
  • Ben-Hur (the 1959 version)
  • Nicholas Nickleby (the 2002 version)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

2. What would you recommend to someone who’s never seen a period drama as a starter?

Definitely Swept from the Sea! It was the best movie I saw in 2019 and I wish more people knew about it. Here’s the link to my review:

Take 3: Swept from the Sea Review (A Month Without the Code — #8)

3. A favorite couple that wouldn’t be included in answer #1 (cause I’m figuring those are already top favorites ;)) and/or a favorite secondary character romance? 

I really like both couples from Anchors Aweigh! Even though the movie is a musical, there are romantic elements that work well in the overall story. Without giving much away, it shows how subverting expectations can be a good thing.

4. What do you consider foundational qualities for a healthy romance?

Consent and communication. Two years ago, I wrote an editorial about how Lestat and Akasha’s relationship in Queen of the Damned was not healthy. Their lack or consent and communication serve as two reasons why. I’ll leave a link to the article if you want to read it:

Toxic Valentine: Why Lestat and Akasha’s relationship is very problematic in Queen of the Damned (2002)

5. Worst villain/antagonist?

I’d say Nicholas’ uncle, Ralph, from Nicholas Nickleby. Like my answer for question number three, I won’t give the story away. But I will say that Ralph is one of the reasons why Nicholas and his family experience hardship in that movie.

6. A favorite proposal scene?

I’m not sure if this would count, but I liked Nicholas and Madeline’s conversation, from Nicholas Nickleby, where they reflect on their pasts. It has a good message of strength that came across as genuine. Nicholas and Madeline also look like they truly care about one another.

Heart image created by Dashu83 at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundimage created by Dashu83 – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/happy-valentines-day-and-heart-card-with-happy-valentines-day-and-heart_1747001.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

7. Favorite period drama characters based on a real life couple?

I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I’ll choose The Young Victoria. From what I remember, I liked Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s relationship. Similar to Nicholas and Madeline’s relationship in Nicholas Nickleby,Victoria and Albert looked like they truly loved each other. In a film about royals in the 19th century, I found that part of the story refreshing!

8. Any classic b/w period dramas you like? and 9. Most mature romance in a period drama? (mature as in age and/or characters who are consciously and wisely ripened by life experience, etc.)

For this answer, I combined questions eight and nine. This is because I think The Enchanted Cottage fits both of them. Not only is this movie presented in black and white, but there is maturity within the protagonists’ relationship. Because Robert Young’s character, Oliver Bradford, is a World War II veteran, there are discussions of trauma and self-worth. Inner beauty and self-perception are also explored between Oliver and Laura, portrayed by Dorothy McGuire.

10. Most excruciatingly long, slow burn romance in a period drama?

The first one that comes to mind is Elizabeth and Jack’s relationship from When Calls the Heart. For five seasons, fans were waiting for these two characters to get married. While they eventually tied the knot, Jack was sent away on a Mountie mission, only for him to die at the end of the fifth season. This means that the fans barely got to see Elizabeth and Jack as a married couple.

11. A story that has multiple film adaptations where you love more than one of them?

After thinking about a double feature I wrote, I’ll pick The Secret Garden. Out of the three adaptations I’ve seen, I like the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation and the 1993 film. If you’re interested, I’ve posted the links to the aforementioned double feature and its conclusion.

My Bonus Double Feature Has Arrived!

The Conclusion to My Bonus Double Feature

12. A book you think needs to be made into a film (or a new adaptation)?

Last year, in my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List, I talked about how I’d like to see To Stand On My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson and Zlata’s Diary receive film adaptations. Instead of repeating myself, I’m sharing the link to that list, so you can read why I feel this way.

A Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List 2020

Because this tag is about period dramas, I thought this photo would be fitting. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

What are your thoughts on this tag? Do you like watching period dramas? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

I’m not going to lie; I love a good blog party! So, when I discovered Heidi, from Along the Brandywine, was hosting the Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party, I couldn’t wait to sign up! Period dramas are not regularly covered on 18 Cinema Lane. While I do have a re-cap series for When Calls the Heart, I choose what films to watch based on how interesting their stories sound. There have been period dramas I loved, such as Swept from the Sea. But, for this blogathon, I wanted to review a film I hadn’t seen before. For about a year, I’ve had the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, The Love Letter, on my DVR. Because parts of the movie take place in the 19th century, I felt it fit Heidi’s time period requirement of the 1600’s to World War II. I try to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as I realistically can. Prior to reviewing The Love Letter, the only Hallmark Hall of Fame movie from 1998 I’ve seen is Grace & Glorie, which was one of the best movies I saw last year! While not all movies from this collection are created equally, I do watch these movies with an open mind.

Since an image of The Love Letter‘s poster was featured on my television, I took a screenshot of it with my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because The Love Letter heavily relies on the performances of its lead actor and actress, this part of the review will focus on Campbell Scott’s and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s portrayal of Scott Corrigan and Elizabeth Whitcomb. With Campbell’s performance, there was always a sense of focus in his character. This focus could be seen in Scott’s eyes. When he was inspecting the desk at the antique store or restoring that same desk, Scott’s focus showed how much he cared. This was a consistent part of the character and helped whenever he wrote to Elizabeth. In historical fiction/period films, it would be easy for the screenwriter to give their lead female character one distinct type of personality. Elizabeth Whitcomb, on the other hand, held a balance of two that brought something unique to the character. She had a youthful radiance about her, being a “romantic dreamer” at heart. However, Elizabeth carried herself with a graceful maturity that prevented her from becoming childish or immature. Jennifer brought both aspects to Elizabeth equally and beautifully, allowing her character to be multi-dimensional.

The historical accuracy: I am not an expert on the 1860s and its historical significance. But based on what I do know about this particular period in time, Elizabeth’s part of the story looked and felt historically accurate! The Whitcomb family home was furnished with pieces that appeared antique, from the couch in the sitting room to the desk Elizabeth and Scott share. Dark wood held these structures together, with green cushions and intricate carvings finishing the couch and desk. The costumes were very detailed and also reflective of the 1860s. Embroidery on Elizabeth’s jacket and the overall design of her lacy parasol serve as two examples. Even the dialogue spoken by the characters sounded like it came directly from an era gone by. Pieces of the story like the ones I mentioned tell me, as an audience member, the creative team behind this film cared about the presentation of this part of their project!

A fantastical element: Most of the stories from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection are grounded in reality, which means that fantastical elements are rarely found in these scripts. With The Love Letter, the story revolves around two people from different time periods who communicate to each other through letter writing. The idea of time manipulation is a concept that would likely be found in either a fantasy or science fiction film. While stories like Somewhere in Time and Portrait of Jennie have been dramas paired with this specific concept, I don’t recall Hallmark Hall of Fame creating their own film like that before or after 1998. Because The Love Letter’s creative team chose to include a fantastical element into their overall project, it gave the movie an opportunity to stand out from other titles. This was a creative risk that worked in the film’s favor!

The Valentine’s Day Period Drama Blog Party banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Scott being engaged: A trope that has appeared in several Hallmark films is the male or female protagonist being engaged at the beginning of the story, only to fall in love with someone else by the end of that story. This trope has found its way into The Love Letter. For most of the movie, Scott is engaged to a woman named Debra. As he finds himself falling in love with Elizabeth, he strings Debra along and keeps the letter writing a secret. Scott does tell Debra the truth about his feelings, but this doesn’t happen until the movie is almost over. Personally, I think this trope is pointless, as the audience is spending time with a relationship that will end up leading nowhere. Scott should have remained single so the script could give its undivided attention to his and Elizabeth’s exchanges.

A rushed explanation: When fantastical or science fiction elements are included in a script, it helps to provide clear explanations to the audience so they can understand what is happening on screen. In The Love Letter, Scott’s mother tells Scott that an imbalance in the time-space continuum is the reason why he and Elizabeth are able to write to one another. However, this explanation was rushed, with Scott’s mother briefly bringing it up on only two occasions throughout the whole movie. She gives Scott stamps from the 1860s and had a special kind of writing ink made for him. Scott’s mother even found a post office that has existed since the Civil War era. These objects and the post office felt more like they conveniently benefited the plot instead of serving as ‘macguffins’ to move the story forward. As I already mentioned, this kind of story is rarely found in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. Despite this, a little more time should have been devoted to providing a clearer explanation.

Lack of physical interactions between Scott and Elizabeth: Because Scott and Elizabeth are from different time periods, it is not possible for them to physically interact with one another. Even though this is the nature of the story, it prevented the audience from seeing the on-screen chemistry between Campbell Scott and Jennifer Jason Leigh. One of the staples of a romance film is the on-screen chemistry between the lead actor and actress. Since that element was missing from The Love Letter, I was only invested in Scott and Elizabeth’s relationship to a certain extent. While their words were romantic, verbal communication only plays a part among any given couple.

Hand-written letter image created by Veraholera at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Veraholera – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/love-letter-pattern_1292902.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in my review, most Hallmark Hall of Fame stories are grounded in reality. These stories are also on the simple side, with messages and themes that audience members can relate to. Even though The Love Letter has a fantastical element that is rarely found in films from this collection, it has a simpler story that works! Romance through words and thoughts is what carries the overall story, with important advice woven into the script. Forming a relationship with someone you truly love and never giving up on yourself are nice sentiments that can make audience members feel good about what they are watching. The movie also has the ingredients of a good Hallmark Hall of Fame title, like the level of detail when it comes to the film’s historical accuracy. It is true the movie has its flaws. However, the execution of a creative risk like this makes up for The Love Letter’s weaknesses. Films such as this one make me wish Hallmark would be more creative with their stories and think outside the box more. With the ball in their court, I don’t know what their next creative step will be.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Have you seen The Love Letter? What Hallmark Hall of Fame movies would you like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen