Autumn Dreams has little to do with autumn or dreams but the fall colors sure make a cozy palette. Just splash some oranges and yellows across the screen, and they’ll warm up any old romance. That’s how Hallmark gets away with this treacle. Well, that’s how they get away with every romance, but comforting, bland sentiment is sort of the point. I have yet to do a deep dive into the network’s non-Christmas catalog, so I don’t know how this compares with similar fall fare, but it earns points for picturesque shots of corn, country sunrises, and a John Deere. (And my true Southern Illinoisan colors come out.)
The main character is a down-to-earth farm girl from Iowa, who also happens to have a masters in agricultural chemistry and is working on her Ph.D. That’s a woman I can cheer for. The movie starts a little further back though when teenage Annie and Ben, a farmhand, elope one night. Problem is, they didn’t go far enough, and Annie’s dad catches up with them just after they’ve said their vows. He forces them to sign an annulment, and the two part ways – Annie back to her dad’s farm and Ben off to a new life in New York City.
Fast forward fifteen years and both are engaged. Annie (Jill Wagner) finally decides to get hitched with Joe (Michael Karl Richards), who has been pining for her since before her first marriage. Her reluctance to wear her wedding ring while doing farm work is a sure sign that things aren’t going to work out though. Meanwhile, Ben (Colin Egglesfield), who is really nothing but a “country boy in a designer suit,” is one half of the social event of the season. His fiancée Jovanna (Tasya Teles) is an accomplished interior designer, prefers a minimal aesthetic, and probably shoots lasers out of her eyes. Besides incompatible personalities, the only thing standing between these lovers and wedded bliss is the fact that Annie and Ben are still technically married.
You can see exactly where this story’s going. Annie and Ben meet again when they have to appear in court to finalize their divorce and discover that despite some miscommunication that could have easily been solved with Facebook, they still kind of have a thing for each other. Even though Ben’s now some flashy businessman who has a corner office and a chauffeur named Hector (Bill Dow), he still has a little Iowa in him. He’s also, Hector points out, not an asshole investor. But because Ben’s not ruthless, he’s not exactly happy in his professional or personal life.
Thus is the moral of this and every other Hallmark movie. There’s nothing like a set of good ol’ rural values to guide the way. Annie arrives in the Big Apple like she’s just stepped onto Ellis Island, but unlike those wide-eyed innocents, the big city just isn’t where she belongs. After all, she treats Hector like an equal by sitting with him in the front seat, shuns the corporate suite that Ben’s arranged for her, and escapes in time to save her crop from a bad storm. I’m still holding doors for people in a city of 7 million, so I’ll give into simplicity and sentiment and give a polite nod to a movie that appreciates a more casual pace of life.
Dir: Neill Fearnley
Writer: Laurie Stevens
Cast: Jill Wagner, Colin Egglesfield, Tasya Teles, Michael Karl Richards, Matty Finochio, Bill Dow, Rachel Hayward, Catherine Lough Haggquist
Time: 83 min
Country: United States