Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Promise Review

When Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews announced that her blogathon would focus on James Garner, I found the perfect excuse to talk about one of his Hallmark Hall of Fame movies! For this review, I chose to write about the first one he starred in called Promise. This entry from the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection is one of the most beloved. It has not only received critical praise, but several awards as well. Movies that achieve a lot of praise can be hit or miss. I either find myself not liking the film as much as other people (in the case of The Christmas Card) or I gain understanding for why people like the movie so much (in the case of The Nine Lives of Christmas). With Promise, I wanted to judge it for myself. Is it worth its praise or is it overrated? I was lucky enough to find a copy of this movie on DVD, so I could bring this review to my readers and followers!

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When getting this DVD, I was surprised by how rarer it was to find than other Hallmark Hall of Fame titles. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The acting in Promise was definitely one of the best parts of this film! Throughout the movie, James Garner and James Woods go toe-to-toe with their acting prowess. What brought believability to these respective roles were the versatility and emotionality of Garner and Woods. When it comes to the acting, the best scene in this movie is when Bob discovers D.J. having a psychological catatonic break. James Garner’s portrayal of Bob was heart-breaking, as his voice was battling sobs and his eyes were full of fear. As for James Woods’ portrayal of D.J., he was so listless and still that I honestly thought this character had died. Piper Laurie did a really good job bringing the character of Annie to life! What worked in her favor was the on-screen personality she presented. Since it was so sweet and gentle, it made Annie a likable individual. Even though she had a limited presence in Promise, Barbara Niven portrayed her character, Joan, wonderfully! The great thing about Barbara’s acting abilities is how expressive she is. A perfect example is when Joan spots D.J. watching her and Bob having an intimate moment, as she quickly changes from a passionate and flirty attitude to screaming in fear.

 

The set design: There were some interesting creative choices made when it came to the set design. For the interior design, I really liked the look of the restaurant where Bob visits his co-workers. The use of red and gold was magnificent, from the rich red carpet to the way the light illuminated off the gold details on the wall. There were also some visually appealing choices made for the film’s exterior design. On Annie’s porch, there was a large, white, multi-paned window at one end of it. It made that space feel like an outdoor room! It also provided a unique look from the other porches that were featured in this film. At one point in the movie, D.J. and Bob discover an abandoned castle. The way this castle looked was mysterious, but not scary. It reminded me of the abandoned places that are shown in urban exploring videos. Because of the look and feel of this place, it made me want to explore the castle alongside Bob and D.J.!

 

The scenery: Another appealing element of Promise was the scenery! My favorite place in this movie was the lake Bob and D.J. visit. This location was shown at different times of the day. It was even shown in the rain. But the lake always appeared serene and peaceful. Mixed with the forest’s foliage, it looked like an inviting environment! Long shots were used to showcase various landscapes. The field in front of D.J. and Bob’s mother’s house is one of them. The way this location was framed brought up the feelings of possibility and hope. This fit within the context of the story.

James Garner Blogathon banner
James Garner Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. Image found at https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/2019/11/26/james-garner-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The secondary storyline: In Promise, Bob tries to sell his and D.J.’s mother’s house. This part served as a secondary storyline. I wasn’t a fan of this narrative for a few reasons. Personally, I didn’t find it to be very interesting. Also, it felt distant from the main plot. I’m glad this story didn’t adopt a cliché similar to the “woman from the city coming back to her small hometown” cliché. However, I wish this movie kept its focus on Bob and D.J.’s story.

 

The discussion of Mental Illness: Promise’s discussion of Mental Illness is similar to A Time to Remember’s discussion of Alzheimer’s. I commend this film and its creative team for addressing the ways Mental Illness can affect an individual and the people around them. But I honestly think this discussion could have been executed better. For starters, D.J. ends up being a supporting character in the story instead of an equal co-lead. This does a disservice not only to D.J., but also to members of the audience who have been affected by Mental Illness in some fashion. Within the first half of the movie, D.J. is called “crazy” by Bob because he has Schizophrenia and because his beliefs happen to be different from his brother’s. I understand that stories like this are meant to feature unlikable protagonists, in an effort to showcase their personal growth throughout the movie. However, Bob’s attitude and views toward D.J. were unfair and they did not sit well with me. In one scene, D.J. explains to Bob what having Schizophrenia is like. While this monologue was well written and delivered, I think this explanation would have been a little more effective if the audience could see at least one of D.J.’s hallucinations and/or hear the audio from his “voices”. It would have shown and told the audience an idea of how Schizophrenia affects someone.

 

The editing: As I was watching Promise, the overall film felt uneven. This was caused by some scenes ending too quickly. One example is the scene where D.J. tells Bob that he feels normal again. Right after he says this, the next scene immediately starts. This not only felt abrupt, but there also wasn’t a smooth transition provided. The presentation of these scenes was the equivalent of stop-and-go traffic.

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Love of mental health image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As the cover of Promise’s DVD says, this movie is “the most-honored television movie of all time”. However, I thought the film was just ok. This is certainly not one of the worst projects Hallmark Hall of Fame has created. Elements like the acting, set design, and scenery prevent it from being unenjoyable. However, I can think of other Hallmark Hall of Fame stories that are stronger than this one. The primary focus of Promise should have remained on Bob and D.J.’s story. It also should have given D.J. an equal portion of the narrative as Bob. This way, he could have a bigger voice and more perspective to share in the film. Since this is one of four Hallmark Hall of Fame movies James Garner starred in, I would be interested to see how those movies compare to Promise. I have Decoration Day on my DVR, so I might have to review it in the near future!

 

Overall score: 6.9 out of 10

 

Have you seen any Hallmark Hall of Fame movies? Are there any Hallmark Hall of Fame films you’d like me to review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Review (A Month Without the Code — #6)

I was introduced to the book, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, over five years ago. When I heard what it was about, I became intrigued with the premise. Since then, the book has been added to my TBR (to be read) list. While I haven’t read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden yet, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see the film. So, I recorded it on my DVR when it was airing on television. Out of all the movies in my roster of films for A Month Without the Code, this is the only movie that’s rated R. It’ll be interesting to see if it could be “breened”. I also wanted to see if the movie would encourage me to read the book. Film adaptations can be better or worse than its source material. While comparing them is fine, judging them on their own merit is also important.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden poster
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden poster created by New World Pictures. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Film_Poster_for_I_Never_Promised_You_a_Rose_Garden.jpg
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: For films that deal with serious subject material, you need a lead actor or actress that will give it their all, talent wise. Personally, I feel that Kathleen Quinlan did just that in her role of Deborah! Seeing this character experience trials and triumphs shows just how seriously Kathleen took this role. Her performance was so well-rounded, emotional, and powerful, that her on-screen presence was captivating. What surprised me about Kathleen’s portrayal was that Deborah seemed like a young woman who was beyond her years. Because I haven’t read the book yet, I don’t know if the character is like this in the book. However, Kathleen brought this aspect of the character to life with such realism.

The realistic depiction of mental health: When incorporating a real-life topic like mental health into a film, it’s better to depict it as realistically as possible. In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, the portrayals of mental health appeared realistic. For Deborah’s schizophrenia, audience members can hear the “voices” in her head and see her imagined world come to life. Something that I noticed was how the patients had a sense of humanity to them. Some of them seemed to be lost in their own worlds more than others. But, at the end of the day, they had something important to say and a mind of their own.

The discussion of abuse toward patients: I’ve seen several films that talk about mental health, especially where the main setting is a psychiatric hospital. Usually, the treatments themselves end up being abusive toward the patients. In this film, some of the patients are abused because of a cruel employee. I’m glad the movie didn’t shy away from addressing this particular subject. In the films that I’ve seen about mental health, I don’t recall this topic ever being brought up. The fact that a movie from the ’70s that takes place in the ’50s would incorporate this issue in their film is pretty interesting.

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A weaker plot: Like I’ve said before, I haven’t read I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. But, I know what the general premise is about from reading the book’s synopsis. After doing that, I believed that the story would be an insightful and thought-provoking tale of someone’s experience with schizophrenia. The movie’s plot, however, wasn’t as interesting as I had thought it would be. The story was very straight-forward, leaving little room for interpretation. While there were interesting ideas and concepts featured throughout the film, they weren’t thoroughly explored. Personally, I thought the movie was driven by a premise and not a plot.

The randomness of the “dream sequences”, To represent the imagined world inside Deborah’s mind, a series of “dream sequences” would appear at various moments in the movie. I think these “dream sequences” were important to the character of Deborah. But how these sequences were incorporated into the film was very random. Sometimes, they would suddenly appear without any warning or build-up. While the imagined world was addressed, it was never explored and dissected. I understand that this was meant to give audience members an idea of what living with schizophrenia is like. But the suddenness of these “dream sequences” was somewhat off-putting.

Very little character development: Because this story revolves around Deborah, she is going to receive the most character development. While this is true, she ends up becoming the only character the audience gets to really know. There’s about two or three other characters that also receive character development. However, the audience doesn’t get to know them as well as Deborah. For the rest of the characters, members of the audience just become familiar with them. This is very different from something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, where the audience gets to know each of the characters in the story. Because of  I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’s nature, most of the characters felt like they were there just for the sake of moving the plot forward.

Rushing the recovery process: In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, the story was about Deborah’s experience in a psychiatric hospital. For most of the movie, it seems like whenever she took one step forward in her treatment, she would then take five steps backward. It wasn’t until about the last twenty minutes when Deborah experienced a break-through in her recovery process. Because Deborah’s end result happened way too quickly, it felt like it was achieved too easily. This reminded me of The Three Faces of Eve, where it seemed like everything was wrapped up in a neat little package. It’s understandable that, in a film, there’s only so much time to tell a novel long story. But maybe this is where the book succeeds more than the movie.

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Love of mental health image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is the only rated R movie in my A Month Without the Code roster. I figured this was because of how the subject of mental health was realistically depicted. While this is one of the reasons for the film’s rating, it was also rated R for content related reasons. As for the quality of the movie, I thought it was just ok. It’s not the worst thing to be put on film, but it didn’t impress me either. The story wasn’t as intriguing as I hoped it would be. However, there were things about the film that I did like. One of them is Kathleen Quinlan’s performance, which was one of the highlights of the movie! Despite how I feel about the film, I still want to read the book. Who knows? Maybe the book will be better than the adaptation. Speaking of the adaptation, we need to talk about the film’s content. Sure, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden could be “breened”. But only if several aspects of the movie were to change. These aspects are:

  • Language: There were several times when characters either swore or spoke unpleasant words. The words themselves would need to be omitted and replaced with better choices.
  • Blood: In the film, there were a few instances when blood was shown on screen. This would need to be reduced by a significant amount.
  • Violence: Some violent moments are featured in the movie. They would need to be significantly reduced.
  • Unpleasant imagery: In one of the “dream sequences”, there is a dead body featured on screen. This part of the film would have to be omitted.
  • Nudity: There are two scenes with brief nudity. These scenes would need to be removed.
  • Sexual references: At the psychiatric hospital, there was one character that constantly made sexual references. Their lines would be rewritten before production begins. In a “dream sequence”, it is heavily implied that Deborah has sex with a male from her imagined world. This part of that scene would either be completely eliminated or rewritten.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

What are your thoughts on this review? Do you think this film could be “breenable”? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen