“It’s a phone call, not a wedding. Tell her how you feel.”
Part of the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Valentine’s Day” All of My Heart is the story of Jenny and Brian, two different personalities whose lives intersect in an unusual way.
Chef Jenny (Lacey Chabert, Scarecrow) is working as a caterer with dreams of opening her own restaurant. But her plans change when a distant relative passes away and leaves Jenny a house. Well…half a house. The other half belongs to Wall Street Broker Brian (Brennan Elliott, UnREAL), the descendant of the late property caretaker. From the get-go these two butt heads over just about everything. From their approach to life to what they want to do with the house these two are equally divided about nearly anything and everything. As a money manager, it’s no surprise Brian wants to sell the house immediately and pocket the cash however Jenny sees the potential inherent in the property and wants to use the house to facilitate a new direction for her life. This is aided no doubt by the fact that Jenny’s boyfriend Daryl (Greyston Holt, Bitten) announces he’s received a new job, one that requires him to embark on a series of worldwide trips. Jenny is beside herself at the news. Here she is thinking about settling down and her boyfriend is about to indulge in his wanderlust. So they break up and that breakup seems like the perfect time for Jenny’s life to do some changing of its own.
While Brian wants to sell the house he reluctantly agrees to go with Jenny to at least see what they’re getting themselves into. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper but Jenny immediately sees the potential inherent, deciding that it’s going to be the perfect place to convert into a bed-and-breakfast. Jenny suggests she buy Brian’s half of the house and he agrees. She makes it clear it’s going to have to be something which happens in the future, however, which turns out to be a godsend to Brian and the impetus for the rest of the movie. Because let’s face it, if Jenny merely bought him out then there would be no reason for these two to ever come back together. As it is Brian arrives back on her doorstep almost immediately. When the merger that he had been working on for months falls through his boss fires him even though he is not at all to blame, but rather his boss is the one that screwed it up. To make matters worse everyone knows the boss is really the one to blame however in financial circles that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Brian is persona non grata, meaning that he’s lost everything. So he goes back to Jenny in order to regroup and hopefully find a new job.
It seems like a bit of a nuisance but nothing more however as Jenny struggles to get the house ready to be transformed the duo begin to discover more and more things wrong with the property. With time on his hands Brian comes to the conclusion that it’s going to be cheaper to do all of the renovations himself and he begins to develop a relationship with the townspeople through learning how to do the renovations and the many requisite trips to the town in order to buy parts and receive instructions on how to complete whatever task is at hand. Meanwhile Jenny has begun selling croissants to the local diner in order to help make ends meet but Brian encourages her to think bigger and to consider making a play for a distribution deal, playing off the fact that she’s a professional chef who’s doing homemade food.
Just as Brian and Jenny get into the groove of renovations Daryl reappears with his eye on winning Jenny back. From this point on you know exactly where things are going to end up, the road is paved pretty darn clearly to the requisite happy ending.
While occasionally Lacey Chabert can come across as a bit too earnest, it’s never off-putting and she and Brennan Elliott have good chemistry. However there are a few issues with the film. Number one is the absolute waste of Ed Asner (Up). His character sits around for most of the film and could be easily cut out completely without affecting anything which happens.
Number two is why Brian comes back to the house in the first place. I know I said it’s a good thing he does — or else they would have never seen one another again — but when Brian comes back he states he’s lost his job. So where was he living the day before? He lost his job and somehow his house/apartment/condo the same day? Not only that, but he makes an offhand comment while bemoaning his fate that brings up another issue. He tells Jenny he only has just over $2600 in savings. Yet he goes to the hardware store pretty much daily once he’s back. So how is he supporting his new handyman habit? Is Jenny just forking over all her savings? We know she has been saving for a while and that she is also bringing in money through selling her baked goods but Brian never accounts for all the money he ends up spending. It’s weird and made me think Jenny was being taken advantage of, a feeling which began when Jenny and Brian’s deal on what to do with the house was settled with a mere handshake. Call it the cynic in me but I thought there needed to be a lawyer involved. Sure it’s a romance but they’re strangers, really.
The penultimate problem I have is nitpicky, I fully cop to it, but the title of the film just doesn’t work for me. All of My Heart doesn’t really do much aside from let us know this is a romance. Call me crazy but I expected a nice renovation, building, carpentry or some other sort of house-based play on words as the title. The House That Love Built or something equally cheesy would have felt more appropriate. While I am well aware not every movie title needs to be on the nose, the point here is that most of the Hallmark Channel’s original movies do in fact utilize the play on words approach.
The final problem is having Jenny’s boyfriend reappear. I’m all for people wanting to have their second chance or whatnot but it seems as though Daryl only comes back in order to spark Brian’s romantic interest in Jenny. It’s not until Daryl is on the scene again that Brian starts to show interest in her. And Daryl is also the reason Brian and Jenny are apart until their eventual reconciliation. What I have a problem with there is the reasons for Jenny and Daryl to have broken up are still valid and never change throughout the film’s runtime. It would be one thing if Daryl announced he had quit his job and wanted to help Jenny run the inn but since no discussion of anything other than the requisite “I miss yous” are exchanged the audience is never lulled into thinking Jenny is going to end up with Daryl and thus the side plot feels more like a drag than an intriguing element.
One thing which doesn’t detract from my viewing experience is the technical stuff. The audio is a nice Dolby 5.1 track and does a more than merely serviceable job of keeping the music, dialogue and Foley well-blended. The video is a standard def 1.78:1 transfer and appears minimally processed which isn’t a bad thing. The colors are true to life and while I may have wanted to see more beauty shots of the food being presented I don’t find fault with the transfer overall. It is in keeping with a currently-airing program. There are no special features.
Fans of Lacey Chabert may enjoy her portrayal, but don’t rush out and purchase this one.