Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday at the Movies: "The Lost Valentine"

"I think people will take away how people can, you know, get along with a lot of people, but so often there's that one special relationship that is your whole life--and you live on it your whole life." That's what actress Betty White had to say in her behind-the-scenes interview on the set of The Lost Valentine, the new Hallmark film that premiered late January on CBS. I'm a huge fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt's Ghost Whisperer series and an enormous Betty White fan, so I decided to sit down with my mother and enjoy a little sappy melodrama. Except for this sappy melodrama was actually pretty good. Very good, even.

Left: Susan meets Lucas, Caroline's grandson; Right: Caroline with the stationmaster, waiting for Lt. Thomas to return on Valentine's Day.

The story is based on the New York Times Bestseller of the same title by James Michael Prat, and follows the path of a young journalist named Susan Allison who has been assigned to do a story on an old woman who waits for her husband to return to her every year on Valentine's day. At first wanting to passover the story for less sentimental material, Allison can't help feel pulled into the dramatic war-torn past of Caroline Thomas. Caroline's husband was reported MIA in the Pacific during World War II, but she never received closure as to what happened to him. When he left on Valentines Day as a young soldier in the US Navy, she promised she'd meet him back at the station when he returned--and so she waits there, every year, hoping for a miracle. And as Allison is pulled closer into Caroline's world and the strength of her love, she begins to question her own relationships and slowly unravels the mystery surrounding the fate of Lt. Thomas...

Left: Caroline and Susan prepare for Lt.Thomas' return; Right: a Valentine's Day farewell as the soldiers ship out.

I was very impressed with this. As a film on its own, it isn't anything terribly special. However, as a Hallmark primetime special airing on a Pro Football Sunday timeslot, this is one helluva triumph! To beat out Fox and NBC and Football to take home the largest amount of viewers that night is pretty damn phenomenal, no doubt also attributed to the staggering drawing power of Betty White whose performance was heartwrenching and inspiring. Just goes to show how versatile an actress she is, at any age. Hewitt was a great opposite her for this because she's well-known enough to catch your attention but not so much that she takes away from White and Meghann Fahy (who plays younger Caroline and definitely deserves a nod for her performance). She appears naive but focused, an intelligent woman who is ready to learn from someone older, like Caroline (or indeed, Betty White!).

The young couple vows to be together again one day when the war is done.

The story touches on some relevant cultural issues, such as the disconnect that exists between Americans and our military families and--of course--how the loved ones that soldiers leave behind fight their own kind of battles everyday. We know friends of the family with children and parents in service right now, so this movie really made me think about that. Of course, history buffs and lovers of 1940s culture (my best friend included, I told her I'm getting her this movie 'cause she has a penchant for the era) will also find the story moving and filled with vibrant images of both the homefront and the violent Pacific battlegrounds. I'm a sucker for period movies told in flashback frame device (read: favorite movie Titanic), so I had to see this one. It was not as predictable as one might expect a sappy Hallmark film to be, but I promise you: you WILL cry. A lot. Bring tissues. This is a story about hope, about sacrifice, but ultimately about love--love that you live on, as Betty so poignantly put it.

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