July 2, 2019
As a standard Hallmark movie, Love Takes Flight is a decent watch. As a Hallmark Hall of Fame entry, it doesn't at all live up to expectation. Not mine, anyway. Sure, it's got Nikki DeLoach in it, and she's an actress who routinely doesn't let me down - and she doesn't, here. And, sure, it's got an utterly adorable little girl in it. And character actor Tom Thon submits a wonderful performance. In fact, he's the MVP of the movie.
Love Takes Flight first aired on 4/27/2019, Nikki's second feature on Hallmark in 2019, after Love to the Rescue (which I liked better). Nikki plays Lizzie Beauman, a divorcée in Savannah, Georgia and doting mother to 5-year-old Quinn (Skylar Olivia Flanagan). Lizzie juggles single parenting and being the Chief Operations Officer at St. Carmen Hospital.
Some plot spoilers.
It's challenging directing a facility that boasts 42 doctors, 98 nurses, 13 lab techs, 6 custodians, and, hopefully soon, one EMS pilot. Luckily for her, Lizzie is one of those super-focused folks, maybe a bit closed-off. She has a personality that promptly clashes with that of Charley Allen (Jeff Hephner), an ex-serviceman helicopter jockey who's interviewing for the open EMS pilot gig. See, Charley tends to buck authority. He flaunts a cavalier attitude that doesn't sit well with Lizzie. Guy's lucky he even gets a second interview. It's more to do with how desperate the hospital is to snag an EMS pilot.
A substantial chunk of the movie deals with Charley and Lizzie's clashing - doesn't help that he's a fearless pilot and she has acrophobia. It's a state of dysfunction that, as you may suspect, morphs into something more sappy and swoony. Except, frankly, their relationship is the least interesting as their romantic trajectory is the most shopworn thing about the movie. It's best if you turn your focus, instead, on the other relationships, whether it's the loving one between Lizzie and her daughter or the one that develops between Lizzie's daughter and old Walter (Thon), a lonely old man still grieving over the loss of his wife a year ago but who's trying his durndest to get back to living. It's a sweet first encounter as Walter meets Lizzie and Quinn at a grocery store, and cue the unexpected friendship that sprouts. Again, Tom Thon is simply tremendous, and provides the most incredibly moving moments.
There's also Walter's relationship with his estranged son, and maybe that would've been riveting stuff, too, if only the son weren't such a pushy jerk who thinks the panacea for grief is to keep telling his dad to move on already. As it were, you could cut the father/son tension with a knife.
3 out of 5 stars for this one. Would've been at least a solid 4 stars if not for the insensitive EMS pilot. On the positive, Love Takes Flight may be as "real" as Hallmark can get. It examines real-life issues with surprising gravity, not just with regards to Walter's crippling sense of inertia but also Lizzie's hang-ups about losing control and taking chances, this germinating from her failed marriage and, more tellingly, from something else that happened in her past. Today, Lizzie's comfort zone is overseeing the bureaucratic side of things. She stays out of patient care. She tries not to ever weigh in on her friends' and family's health concerns, and there's a heavy reason for that. Heck, she doesn't even want to be her pregnant sister's (Caroline Arapoglou) OB-GYN, never mind that she hadn't let her medical license lapse.
Three sub-plots. 1) Lizzie is worried that something's up with her kid, seeing as how Quinn had written "Mission - find a friend" on her notepad. 2) Felicia Page (Bisserat Tseggai), the hospital's deputy administrator, is dating Todd the EMT guy on the sly because Lizzie frowns on fraternization. 3) Lizzie is doing her best to woo to St. Carmen a finicky surgeon who's developed a procedure for kidney transplants that's so revolutionary, it cuts recovery time by 80% and makes rejection risks practically non-existent. Just think of the grants that would come St. Carmen's way if only they could snag this surgeon. Lizzie's gonna have to do some fast talking. St. Carmen isn't high on the surgeon's list.
Not that I'd ever been to Savannah, Georgia, but the easy-on-the-eye location shoots make the city into another supporting character. I guess there's a measure of verisimilitude tacked on when you consider that Nikki Deloach is herself a Georgian native.
Y'know, just writing this review is making me re-evaluate the movie. Maybe I should bump it up to 3.5 stars, to 4 stars? My only real grievance with it is the lead actor who interprets his character as this arrogant jerk who's just asking to get punched in the duck. But is his unlikability enough to sway me away from how good the rest of the cast are, and how this is a movie with some good depth, a rarity for Hallmark?
Meh. It stays 3 stars. Guy's a tool.