July 2, 2019
Hallmark, the antithesis to originality, frowns on plots that deviate from their mold. So, with Under the Autumn Moon, cue the flagging family business, and the girl up for promotion, and that same sophisticated girl being deployed to some rural parts that you suspect will trigger either a return to her small town roots or a discovery of the pleasures of the simple things in life. Oh, and there must be a festival.
Alex McKenna (Lindy Booth), a transplant from suburban Ohio, rode dressage as a child until she figured out her parents were killing themselves working to afford her passion and, so, she quit. She hadn't been on a horse since. Today, she's in Seattle as one of Great Frontiers' department directors. Great Frontiers happens to be a leading outdoor recreational goods retailer. There's a dichotomy in that Alex isn't much the adventurous, outdoorsy type. So, the field test portions of the job, not for her.
Except there's a spot just opened up for the VP position, and, Ben (Casey Manderson), her rival for it, had just pitched and sold to their boss the notion of Hackett, Arizona as the site for the company's distribution center. It's something of a coup for Ben. And, now, Alex feels she's playing catch-up.
Which is why she doesn't say a peep when their boss, Roger Hilton (Paul Essiembre), dispatches her to scout an embattled 700-acre dude ranch in North Dakota to see if it's suitable as a company retreat and training center.
Some plot spoilers.
Josh Ketchum (Wes Brown) has an MS in Animal Science from Cornell. Maybe he should've gone for a business degree. Six years ago, when their dad passed away, he and his sister Taylor (Natalie Lisinska) took over the family ranch, which was in trouble already, and converted it to a dude ranch. And it's drawn in loyal customers who come year after year. But that's still not enough. The Harmony Dude Ranch teeters on the precipice.
Maybe it's for the best. The writing's been on the wall. Maybe Taylor can finally scratch that itch to travel and see the big, old world. She'd been learning Italian and watching online advertisements for cruises and summit tours in Africa. Heck, even the ranch's upcoming centennial anniversary celebration this weekend won't draw in enough people to turn away the banks. It chafes Josh that he may have to sell to Serena Monroe (Jennifer Pudavick), a buyer from a ranching conglomeration that covets Harmony's wealth of grazing land.
But then comes an alternative suitor in the shape of Alex McKenna, never mind that Josh IDs her as a "corporate raider." Alex takes one look around Harmony and falls in love with the place, never mind that it boasts spotty cell phone service. It doesn't take much for her to take up Josh's offer for her to experience ranch life. See, Josh is willing to sell to the right folks. His one caveat is that the new owner must preserve the ranch's history. Alex thinks she can swing this with her boss.
Under the Autumn Moon first aired on 10/13/2018 as part of Hallmark's Fall Harvest run of movies for 2018. You've seen the plot to this one before, whether in the guise of Harvest Moon (2015), or Wish Upon a Christmas (2015), or Tulips in Spring (2016), Christmas Cookies (2016), A Song for Christmas (2017), Love on Safari (2018), and heaps of other Hallmark joints. It's just Hallmark knowing its target audience and giving us what we want, right? Hallmark is the "comfort food" of televisionland. We seek the sappy, happy ending. The actors are pulled from Hallmark's stable of performers and mixed and matched in new combinations. Lindy Booth and Wes Brown are familiar faces, and I like them both, especially Lindy with her ginger hair and her blue eyes so big even Emma Stone is jealous.
To me, the true star is the cinematographer. I love movies set in the fall season. The ranch and its surroundings dressed up in warm, vibrant autumn hues make a breathtaking sight. And that lodge is amazing! I heard that this movie was shot around Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. So many times you could've paused the movie and taken a snapshot and made that into a picturesque postcard.
While there is a cartoony villain in the story, I really appreciated that Alex's boss, Roger, is portrayed as a genuine guy, someone who truly revels in the outdoors and, so, appreciates what the Harmony Dude Ranch has to offer. I also appreciated that they didn't have that tired, old scene - that movies like this often have - in which one character comes upon a conversation and misunderstands. Thankfully, there was never a moment where Josh thought Alex was some deceitful executive.
Hallmark's Fall Harvest movies for 2018:
- Truly, Madly, Sweetly (aired 9/22/18)
- All of My Heart: The Wedding (aired 9/29/18)
- Falling for You (aired 10/6/18)
- Under the Autumn Moon (aired 10/13/18)
- Love, Of Course (aired 10/20/18)
- Good Witch Halloween: Tale of Two Hearts (10/21/18)