A Country Wedding proves that you don’t always need a great story to make a great movie. Sure, it’s not the best thing out there, but it’s still pretty satisfying and I enjoyed every predictable minute of it. There’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before since Hallmark recycles plots as a rule. The difference between this and other failed attempts though is execution. Like many films, A Country Wedding boasts a music star, a trip back to Small Town, USA, a romance between childhood friends, and barns. It also has secret ingredient in the stars, namely Autumn Reeser and Jesse Metcalfe. Their pairing lifts this ordinary film into something delightful and even a little magical.
They play Sarah and Bradley, friends who “married” each other at thirteen, as kids sometimes do. After Bradley’s parents died in an accident, he was sent away and hasn’t been back since. Now a Grammy-winning country star, he’s returning to Mill Town to sell the family home. It’s the last thing he’ll do before leaving small town life for good and embracing superstardom in L.A. with his Oscar-winning fiancée, Catherine (Laura Mennell). Of course things don’t go according to plan since he immediately bumps into Sarah, who reminds him to stay true to his country roots even as she juggles with keeping her ranch and horse sanctuary.
I’m not a fan of Hallmark’s, or anyone’s, glorification of small town America because oh, the problems I have seen in these places where I have actually lived. Nor do I think it’s necessary to cast a wary eye on Bradley’s partiality to hipster meditation seminars, code for “this shit ain’t Christian.” The latter is a minor point though and the former is handled with tact. Instead of making it about awful city ways, the filmmakers opt to tell a story about Bradley staying true to who he is, and that’s a country boy. He doesn’t belong in Mill Town because Catherine is evil or L.A. is a corrupting influence but because he and Sarah are in sync, and he happens to get a lot of great songwriting done there.
Bradley eventually extends his stay and decides he’ll get married in Sarah’s barn instead of in Italy, leading the two friends to take on the role of wedding planner. It’s great at first and they have a blast playing with soap bubbles while cleaning the loft, but something’s got to give. Bradley doesn’t seem to know anything about Catherine’s likes and dislikes, and Sarah can’t bear watching him make such a commitment just so he can have a warm body to be with at night. She thinks true love is about having a partner, someone to always share with and support.
That sense of partnership really comes through with Reeser and Metcalfe. The actors have a sparkling chemistry, and Sarah and Bradley are abuzz when they’re together. They are a picture of two people who are just right for one another and have always been. Reeser, one of my favorite Hallmark actors because she is that sweet and lovely, slips into her role with ease. It’s like she’s been on that ranch her whole life, and I don’t mind one damn bit if she plays Texas girls forever. Everything she does boosts her costar, who has the wide-eyed look of a guy still figuring out where he belongs in this world. Metcalfe spends a lot of effort on getting that accent right, which he never does, but the guy sings well enough and somehow pulls off a bolo tie, so I’ll take.
“Cowboy Rides Away” by Jesse Metcalfe:
Dir: Anne Wheeler
Writer: Nancey Silvers
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Autumn Reeser, Laura Mennell, Aaron Craven, Hrothgar Mathews, Lauren Holly
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel