If You Believe (1999)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

If You Believe (1999) from Hearst Entertainment Productions
Rated TV-PG. Drama, Romance, Family Film, Christmas

Description: Jaded book editor Susan Stone (Ally Walker) has pretty much given up on finding happiness in life. But after receiving a hard bump on the head, Susan gets a strange visit from a cheerful and plucky girl named Suzie (Hayden Panettiere)…who looks an awful lot like Susan’s niece, Alice…and kind of like Susan herself. While she’s determined to be rid of her unwanted little guest, adult Susan may have to take a detour to rediscover her inner child first.

My thoughts: “Once upon a time we believed in love and magic. Then one day you stopped. That’s why you never found it…
“We need to fix that.”

There aren’t many made-for-TV flicks that end up on my all-time favorite films list. But this is one of them. Yes, the critical writing/editing/publishing industry aspect of the story is a huge hook for my literary self. And, yeah, this movie has much that wholesome holiday movies are made of, with the Christmas cheer and warmth and romance of it all.

But this isn’t just another hour and a half of predictable holiday fluff. I mean, yes, you can predict what will ultimately happen in a holiday film about a modern-day Scrooge lady. Still, this story hits some very real points along the way, uncomplicated but wise nuggets. The humor and heart doesn’t resort to outpourings of slapstick silliness or easy schmaltz. And when there are tears (not the comedic ones but the real ones), they’re unforced, unpretentious. You see the tears, and you get it.

Not to mention how the joint heroines leading this story play their acting duet well together, with a big sister/little sister “on the way to being BFFs” kind of chemistry. And as for the romance thread, where Susan and a possible Prince Charming are concerned—yup, there’s some fun, down-to-earth chemistry there, too.

When I first watched this movie years ago, I expected to be pleasantly entertained, and I was. I didn’t expect to find a truly great story, though. But I did. And I’ve been watching it every year since then.

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Confession: I’ve wanted to post this movie on my blog for years, but I couldn’t find a trailer for it. Now, well—this clip is the closest I could get. 😀

 

 

The Note (2007)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Note (2007) from Faith & Values Media
Not Rated. Drama, Christmas, Romance
My rating: ★★★1/2

Description (from the film case): Following a tragic plane crash, Peyton MacGruder [Genie Francis], a newspaper columnist, discovers a note written by one of the passengers on board during their final moments. She sets on a quest to find the person the note was intended for. As she searches to heal the heart of a stranger, she discovers the life that’s changed most profoundly is her own. Based on a novel by best-selling author Angela Hunt…

My thoughts: Yes, I’ve enjoyed books by Angela Hunt. No, I’ve not read the novel this movie is based on. Yes, I enjoyed the movie anyway.

This is some heartwarming stuff. I guess in the few years between the time I first saw it on television and the time I got the DVD, I forgot this is a Christmas flick. So I unintentionally treated myself to a little extra Christmas the second time around.

I’ve said it before: as a writer, I dig stories about writers. Now, there is some slowness to the pacing and a kind of flatness to some aspects. But the movie surely gets better as it goes along.

This one has now been added to my annual holiday movie queue. And although the following two movies aren’t Christmas ones (The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love and The Note III: Notes from the Heart Healer), they’re both good as well and are now also in my queue.

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Marry Me for Christmas (2013)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Marry Me for Christmas (2013) from Swirl Films
Rated G. Comedy, Romance, Christmas, African American Actors

My thoughts: It’s time to go home for the holidays, and Marci’s (Malinda Williams) family will have all their usual, nosy questions about her love life. So what’s this successful–and single–businesswoman supposed to do? Well, there’s always the possibility of finally bringing a fiancé home! Even if he happens to be a fake one.

Now this was a fun one to watch. I liked the story better than I liked some of the acting, though even that acting isn’t too bad, and I came to appreciate Marci more as the movie went on.

I can do my share of good ol’ Christmas corny, though some parts here move a bit past corny into contrived. But what I enjoyed most was that, even if some of the story’s developments are too “all of a sudden” in an underdeveloped kind of way, the movie has twists I didn’t expect in what could have easily been a more predictable holiday flick.

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An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (2008)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (2008) from Automatic Pictures
Rated PG. Drama, Period Film, Family Film, Christmas

1/2

Description (from the film case): Based on a short story by the acclaimed author of Little Women comes a holiday story of family and forgiveness. Recently widowed Mary Bassett (Helene Joy) and her three children have hit difficult times on their farm. Things are so bad this year that they can’t even afford a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner. Suddenly, Mary’s wealthy and estranged mother Isabella (Jacqueline Bisset) comes to visit. Although she finds a kindred spirit in Mary’s eldest daughter, Tilly (Tatiana Maslany), Mary resents her mother’s attempts to help them out of their financial difficulties…

My thoughts: Okay, so even though the description doesn’t make it clear, the story here is led by young Tilly, and I rather like this heroine. She’s got some fire but doesn’t wildly burn around, she longs for more but isn’t a total brat about it, and she has some growing up to do but isn’t immature. Plus, she’s a writer, which I always admire.

And, yes, I’m taking the liberty of tagging this as a Christmas film, since Thanksgiving is the lead-up to the holiday of all holidays. The movie originally aired on the Hallmark Channel, and it certainly has the quintessentially “Hallmark” kind of wholesomeness, warmth, and delightfulness wrapped up in an hour and a half.

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