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Christmas in Conway (2013)
Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation
Starring Andy Garcia (Duncan), Mandy Moore (Natalie), Riley Smith (Tommy), Mary-Louise Parker (Suzy)
This is one of the best Hallmark Christmas films I have seen in a long time. With it being a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, the production value of it might be a bit better than in other Hallmark films, and the cast is certainly also more namely, meaning that it includes actors who made name for them outside the TV-movie business.
Duncan Mayor (Andy Garcia) and his wife Suzy (Mary-Louise Parker) live in Conway, South Carolina. To the people in his neighborhood, Duncan is known as a grump who doesn’t follow the customs of the pristine and beautiful neighborhood they live in. But in the eyes of Suzy, he is a sweetheart. The film begins when Duncan brings Suzy back home from a hospital. Suzy is very ill and everyone knows that she has come home to die. Natalie (Mandy Moore) is assigned to be Suzy’s in-home nurse and she moves in with the couple of take care of Suzy on her last days.
At the same time Gayle (Cheri Oteri), a nosy neighbor of Duncan and Suzy is building a Christmas themed lawn decorations to her yard with the help of Tommy (Riley Smith), a young landscape decorator who has a past with Duncan and Suzy. When Duncan hears Suzy talking about the Ferris wheel they got engaged in, he decides that he wants to give Suzy a sense of joy once more before she passes away.
I think the cast is one of the strongest aspects of the film. I have always liked Mandy Moore and at one point in my life I was a huge fan of her music as well. Despite the very weird accent, Andy Garcia is good as the grumpy man with a heart of gold. Though Mary-Louise Parker doesn’t look very sick (at least not as sick as she is supposed to be in this film) she makes a fine Suzy and I loved the little glimpses of humor she was able to bring in to the narrative. The dynamic between Tommy and Mandy Moore’s Natalie, as well as Tommy and Duncan, works well. Though I wanted to see more of Natalie and Tommy, I am content with the fact that this was pretty exclusively kept as a love story between Duncan and Suzy.
The one complaint I have is the weird and unnecessary storyline between Gayle and Duncan. I understand that Cheri Oteri’s Gayle is supposed to be the comedic relief, but I constantly kept feeling like she wasn’t really needed. If that narrative time that was given for her antics was put into building the relationship of the other characters, in my opinion, this film would have been much stronger and would have had a stronger emotional impact.
Despite my little complaint, I did cry (a lot) in the end of the film. Christmas in Conway was definitely a positive surprise for me and a film I definitely could watch again at some point. While it is not very Christmassy (the fact that it is set around Christmas time is not really the point of the film), the themes it discusses, from love to forgiveness, certainly go with the spirit of Christmas, thus making it a potential candidate for a Christmas movie night.