The Last of the Autumn Wine: A Farewell to Hallmark Channel’s 2017 Fall Harvest
Fifth in a series of reviews of Hallmark Channel’s 2017 Fall Harvest lineup, following “Falling for Vermont,” “Harvest Love,” “All of My Heart: Inn Love,” and “Love Struck Cafe.”
To everything there is a season, and the time has come to bid farewell to Hallmark’s Fall Harvest, which concluded with A Harvest Wedding and Good Witch: Spellbound. While Hallmark has already moved on to Christmas (Candace Cameron Bure’s “Countdown to Christmas Preview Special” started mere seconds after the end of Good Witch: Spellbound), let’s take one last dive into the cinematic leaf pile that is Fall Harvest.
A Harvest Wedding
“A wedding is a dream turned into reality,” declares Sarah Bloom, an up-and-coming wedding planner who gets her big break in A Harvest Wedding, itself an autumn-lover’s dream turned into reality. Hallmark has saved the best for last, which is a shame since there’s basically no chance to catch a re-airing of the film between all of Hallmark’s Christmas content. I love Christmas, but Hallmark has essentially ghosted on its final Fall Harvest movies, a baffling move considering it’s not even November yet.
One of the accomplishments of A Harvest Wedding is that its characters behave at least somewhat realistically. Aside from the necessary plot contrivance that brings Sarah (Jill Wagner) back to her hometown of Williamstown, Massachusetts to plan a socialite’s wedding on her old flame’s farm, the events of the film unfold naturally, if predictably. But predictability is cozy, and it’s delightful watching Sarah prepare a millennial couple’s dream barn wedding. A Harvest Wedding made me laugh (“I don’t know wedding spots, I’m a farmer on a farm”) and nearly cry. I’m not kidding, there’s a montage where everyone cleans up the farm that’s so comforting it brought tears to my eyes.
Of course, no matter how quiet and soothing the story, the real reason this film exists is to deliver a hit of pure, unadulterated season porn. Via set dressing alone, A Harvest Wedding tops every other Fall Harvest movie to debut this year. Red and gold fall foliage dominate every outdoor scene. From the glass pumpkins on the table in Sarah’s office to the giant red maple tree the couple gets married under, A Harvest Wedding never loses focus on its real star: the fall season. An autumn wreath for every door, a fallen leaf for every square foot of ground, the filmmakers’ dedication to creating a convincing fall setting is admirable. Julia Louis-Dreyfus should donate one of her Emmys to these heroes. They earned it.
Good Witch: Spellbound
The Good Witch series has been on my to-watch list for quite a while. I’m wacky for witches, so I was excited to dive into the Good Witch universe, which is intimidatingly massive. Good Witch: Spellbound is ninth in a long line of television movies, not to mention the TV series that will premiere its fourth season next year.
Given the franchise’s long history, I was expecting Good Witch: Spellbound to gradually expose newcomers to the Good Witch’s world, but they just throw us directly into the bubbling cauldron. Fortunately, the familiar-feeling world and simple story make it easy to hang in there for long enough to figure things out.
In this Good Witch installment, everyone in town is freaking out over a prophecy that appears to be coming true. Legend has it that Cotton Perriwood, a former magical resident of Middleton, cursed the town because he was banished and separated from the woman he loved. Everyone in town takes this curse very seriously (particularly Mayor Tinsdale, who spends most of the film pouring over the prophecy’s handful of stanzas) despite the fact that its main function heretofore was as packing material for a quartet of gargoyles. I should add that there’s this weird guy who looks like Cotton Perriwood who shows up in town and creeps everyone out, primarily because he’s incapable of explaining himself like a normal human being.
While the advertisements and film description purport that this is the main plot of the movie, I beg to differ. The real heart of Good Witch: Spellbound lies in its “Halloween Crawl.” You see, City Hall is hosting a competition where all the local businesses must decorate for Halloween, and the best will be determined via a Halloween Crawl through the establishments.
The festive residents of Middleton go absolutely mental. One woman goes so far as to buy all the decorations in town to prevent others from accessing them. Of course, the Good Witch herself stays above the fray (she always decorates for Halloween, anyway), but the competition is the film’s chief conveyor of season porn, and it’s extremely effective at it. No Fall Harvest film this year featured any Halloween decorations, but Good Witch: Spellbound makes up for that in spades. In terms of emanating cozy Halloween vibes, Good Witch: Spellbound is an absolute success.
If only the series as a whole could so wholeheartedly embrace its raison d’être. Despite the title, there’s nothing particularly witchy about Cassie Nightingale, the titular Good Witch. She’s intuitive, sure, and good with herbal remedies, but the series eschews magic so thoroughly one wonders why it alludes to it in the first place.
From what I can gather from the bits of the series I have seen, Good Witch is basically the closeted gay Republican of witch movies. Come out, Good Witch! Stop playing footsie in the Hallmark Channel bathrooms and be proud. You are beautiful, no matter what they say, and there’s a family out here who will love you for who you are.
Though the final leaves have fallen on this year’s Fall Harvest, the tree that is Hallmark Channel Original Movies won’t stay bare for long. Hallmark is throwing Christmas lights on that sucker before Halloween even arrives, kicking off its “Countdown to Christmas” with Marry Me at Christmas on October 28. Though the season may have changed, the season porn is just the same.