Even though I’ve been reviewing films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries lately, I haven’t reviewed a mystery film from Hallmark’s second network since May. Because of this, I decided to review the newest movie in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series, especially since I have seen the first two installments. Like the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Picture Perfect Mysteries has been an enjoyable collection of films. The series also has a distinct identity that sets it apart from the various current offerings on this particular channel. A mystery story featuring a murder mystery stage play is not new, as the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries series had a similar concept in the 2019 movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: A Very Foul Play. In fact, there was a play poster in the background of Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that was titled “A Very Foul Play”. However, I was curious to see how a detective and photographer duo would approach this specific type of mystery.
Thing I liked about the film:
The acting: In Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death, the acting ranged from fine to good. However, there were some stand-out performances I’d like to bring up. One came from series regular, Trezzo Mahoro, who portrayed Allie’s friend Noah. What I liked about his performance was how lively and expressive it was. A good example is when Noah discovers Maya has figured out the password on his laptop. The look of shock on his face truly appeared genuine. Another note-worthy performance was Willie Aames’! As one of the characters said in this movie, Neil Kahn was “mild-mannered”. While this is true, Willie made this part of his character consistent. Because Neil is a director of mystery stories, this is a different yet interesting creative choice when it comes to acting. Speaking of Neil, I also enjoyed seeing April Telek’s performance! Throughout the film, her portrayal of Neil’s wife was very natural. This is evident in the scene where she and Neil are having an argument about their personal lives.
The interior and exterior design: In some scenes, Neil Kahn’s house was featured on screen. This is certainly one of the most photogenic houses shown in a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film! The exterior was pale yellow Victorian, complete with a wrap around porch. Impressive interior designs added to the grand scale that is also shown on the house’s exterior. Dark wood was a consistent component of each room shown in the movie. The living room boasted a large wood fireplace paired beautifully with green marble. Neil’s library also featured wood, as seen in bookshelves covering the walls. An eye-catching design choice was how arches outlined the shelves, an element that isn’t often found. In one scene, the living room in Allie’s house can be seen in the background. A stone fireplace was illuminated with soft lights, with a complimentary bookshelf next to it. This shows how good interior and/or exterior design came from multiple locations!
The cinematography: There was some cinematography in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death that really surprised me in a good way! One notable example is when a suspect is being questioned at the police station. As the scene plays out, emphasis is placed on the clock and the suspect’s face. They were both zoomed in at various points in the scene, highlighting the suspense and fear a person might face in that situation. Another interesting use of cinematography is when Allie and Sam were having a conversation after the murder victim was discovered. When each character was speaking, they were given close-ups to help the audience focus on Sam’s or Allie’s part of the conversation. This specific area of film-making, cinematography, added intrigue to the overall project!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Story points that didn’t lead anywhere: Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death contained story points that ended up not leading anywhere. One of them was the robberies that were taking place in Willow Brook, the small town featured in this series. During the movie, Sam was in charge of solving the film’s murder and a string of robberies. Unfortunately, this part of the film became an afterthought, as it had little to no connection to the main plot. Another story point involved a local loan shark. While he was shown and mentioned on a few occasions, the loan shark didn’t have a consistent enough presence to be a meaningful part of the story. If this character would have been given more importance, maybe he could have been a red herring.
Allie’s relationship with Daniel: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series usually show the male and female protagonist forming a romantic relationship over time. Even though this is only the third Picture Perfect Mysteries movie, I feel Allie and Sam will likely become a couple. Because of this, I found Allie’s relationship with Daniel, a newspaper reporter, to be pointless. When Allie’s friend, Maya, suggests that Allie go on a date with Daniel, it felt like the screenwriter was trying to force a love triangle into the story. Allie and Daniel’s departure from their date came across as awkward, like they knew their relationship wasn’t going to last. To me, it seemed like this aspect of the movie was unnecessarily shoved into the narrative.
A choppy pace: I found the overall pace in Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death to be choppy. This is because there wasn’t a good flow in-between scenes. In one scene, Allie and Sam are discussing color paint samples for Sam’s house. Shortly after, one of the murder suspects is giving Allie clues. Mysteries series from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries space out scenes that are not mystery related, as to not make the movie feel too dark. However, this installment in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series seemed to fill their script with as much content as possible with the intent to worrying about the overall flow later.
My overall impression:
At best, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Exit, Stage Death was a fine film. It definitely had its strengths, such as some stand-out acting performances and interesting cinematography. But, in my opinion, the movie felt like it just met a requirement. As I mentioned in this review, this is the third chapter in the Picture Perfect Mysteries series. By this point, the question of how the overarching story arc can move forward should be answered. This film, however, does not answer that question. What it does instead is almost put the series in a stand-still, forcing it to stay in one place. Having story points that don’t lead anywhere is just one example of how this happened. Yes, the mystery was intriguing. But this is only a part of a mystery film. If there are other parts of the story that don’t work, the movie is going to have shortcomings. While it is unknown at this time whether the Picture Perfect Mysteries series will receive a fourth film, I just hope it’s stronger than this movie was.
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Have you seen the Picture Perfect Mysteries series? Would you like to see this series get a fourth film? Tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!