Family…for better or for worse.
I'm almost starting to get Hallmark movies confused with HBO and Showtime flicks. The quality of star power and production values is always outstanding, and sometimes, the stories are as complex and involved as actual real life. Imagine! No cable movie-of-the-week atmosphere here—especially in Cupid and Cate, based on the book by Christina Bartolomeo. In this story, cancer, babies, and family fighting all occur, just like in soap operas and real life—but without much of the pandering, simplistic plot points and dialogue you often see on Lifetime TV. Hallmark, with the help of Artisan Entertainment, brings home the goods in its DVD of Cupid and Cate.
Facts of the Case
Cate (Mary Louise Parker, Fried Green Tomatoes, Red Dragon) never hears the end of it from her father, Dominic (Philip Bosco, Wonder Boys). Either she's dressed like a slob, can't hold down a job (17 since college!), or can't live up to her sisters—the perfect wife Annette; the successful doctor, Francesca (Bebe Neuwerth, Frasier); the famous supermodel Cynthia (Joanna Going, Inventing the Abbots). So just what can she do right? Yell right back at Dad and storm out of the house—something that happens repeatedly.
Cynthia brings her lawyer, Harry Dietrich (Peter Gallagher, While You Were Sleeping), to one of the many De Angelo family gatherings. Harry understands where Cate's coming from—perhaps the only person who does. The two fall madly in love and Cate denies other best-laid plans for a hurried, passionate marriage—this, despite learning from Francesca that Harry may in fact have leukemia. Unbowed, Cate stands by her man, even after learning of her surprise pregnancy. Through it all, she and her father work to resolve their differences, but it's a process seemingly harder than Harry's cancer battle.
I'm a chick, which sometimes predisposes one to liking Hallmark movies. And I do, because the Hallmark Hall of Fame series tries hard to fashion their television movies with major-motion-picture quality. Here, Peter Gallagher, Mary-Louise Parker, and Bebe Neuwerth—even Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) in a supporting role—add to the impressiveness of the cast in Cupid and Cate and thus, the film's quality.
The story matches the performances in depth. This film looks intently at issues that most 'chick flicks' do not examine: The time in some women's lives where they don't know what the hell they're doing. They feel lost, unmotivated—yet they know they're smart and hardworking. Where is their direction? Here, I liked how our heroine owned her own business, and the focus on the difficulties of entrepreneurship. Cate has a sense of helplessness, and the point here is that her father's constant harping on her supposed "failings," as well as her mother's early death due to alcoholism has a lot to do with her meandering.
Taking over the plot for a good portion of the second act is Cate's whirlwind romance with Harry, played lovably by Peter Gallagher. He's the kind of guy that fights for your love, takes you out to dinner despite your protestations, and loves the fact that you dribble when you eat. (My kind of man!) He more than outshines Cate's current school, Philip (David Lansbury, Scent of a Woman). This love story is very sweet and comforting, and the chemistry between Parker and Gallagher works.
At the foreground of this story is Cate's pregnancy and Harry's illness, but underneath all the drama, the relationship between Cate and Dominic is what really keeps this motor running. He's an insufferable old soul, to be sure, but Cate is the only one to stand up to him, despite her sisters' protestations. The conclusion is not pat, sappy, or tied up in a neat little bow, but it is hopeful. This semi-open ending is a nice change from the "happily ever after" we get from a lot of movies.
The film is presented in 1.33:1 full frame. Technically, Cupid and Cate is adequate and nothing more. Colors were a bit flat, but overall had a nice tonality to them—deep browns and blacks, a bit shadowy in interior scenes, but nothing to get hung up about. The full screen presentation was a bit off-putting and went against Hallmark's quest to produce top-quality films, but seeing as the film is a little soap-operaish I dealt with it.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is sufficient for a quiet family drama such as this. No hissing, no muffling of sound, an equal spread of background music, effects, and dialogue. Again, nothing to shout about, but no bells and whistles were really necessary here. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this disc.
The only extras here are thorough but dry production notes and biographies. Informative, but nothing too exciting.
A family film that doesn't shy away from the realities of getting along with kin—without overplaying the "weepie" factor. A satisfying foray into one family's struggles, with rather unsatisfying extras.
Thin on extras, but released on account of satisfying chick-flick requirements—heavy on the drama, light on sap. Cupid and Cate, you are dismissed!
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