Anything for Love (2016)

If every Hallmark movie was as satisfying as Anything for Love, then I wouldn’t be so ashamed that half of my DVR is backlogged with Hallmark romances. This movie’s a rare treat though, a winning combination of acting and writing. Leads Erika Christensen and Paul Greene share the kind of chemistry that makes you tingle from the inside, and Christensen’s performance shows that casting beyond the usual set of actors can bring a different dynamic to a tired plot.

The story examines gender roles and dating, pairing an executive (Christensen) and a nurse (Greene). Katherine Benson has largely put love on hold as she and her father work overtime to finalize any number of deals for their company. A colleague (Antonio Cupo) shows interest, but she doesn’t reciprocate because frankly, the guy’s a worm. Katherine’s assistant, Debbie (Ali Liebert), meanwhile, is seeing at least three guys and worries that her boss may be too intimidating to men with her wealth, power, and German World War II helmet hair.

On the other side of Chicago, Jack Cooper is content as a cardiology nurse even if everyone from his patients to the women at the bar find his career choice less than impressive. No one has a problem with the nursing part per se; it’s the male part that turns them off. He laments to his best friend, Reggie (Patrick Gilmore), that the hospital’s other J. Cooper, a balding doctor with bad breath, has no problem getting dates simply because he’s a doctor.

Is gender so entrenched that a female executive and a male nurse have no chance at love? Well, if Hallmark has taught me anything, the answer is no; any obstacle can be overcome. In fact, it’s what helps them see the face of true love. Debbie and Reggie both create online dating profiles for their friends, giving Katherine and Jack identities that they think will make the best impression on the opposite sex – something socially inferior for her and superior for him. Katherine poses as her own assistant while Jack becomes his hospital’s chief of obstetrics. The two are a match and instantly hit it off, but they can’t shake their guilt and find it hard to own up to the truth.

The film mines a lot of humor out of this routine story. Some of the scenarios are predictable, like Katherine’s father ending up in the very wing where Jack works after the former suffers a heart attack. Even so, it feels fresh and funny, thanks largely to the talented cast. The supporting actors allow the smallest parts to stand out. Liebert is adorable, especially when she tries to fake her way through a sticky situation as Katherine, and Cupo also gives his character a smarmy but sympathetic twist. I was particularly impressed by Christensen and Greene, who not only look like a great pair but who bring a nice balance to their characters as well. Both are grounded, capable professionals but are a little lost and giddy when it comes to their relationship.

One quibble with the film is that it overplays its point somewhat. In making the case against traditional ideas of gender, the story also resorts to some daft stereotypes. The women Jack and Reggie try to pick up, for example, are pretty dim, literally running away when they find out Jack is a nurse instead of a world-renowned cardiologist. Also, the movie skates over the fact that Katherine is playing down certain qualities. Debbie calls out her boss for thinking herself better than the assistant she pretends to be, but the script doesn’t follow through on her justified criticism. One does come away with a more normalized picture of men in traditionally female-dominated professions, but the opposite is not true. It’s not clear what the movie thinks about women in business, and we don’t see Katherine navigate her professional life the way we see Jack do so when he looks after a surly teenage patient. Of course it’s assumed that Jack appreciates his formidable partner, but it would have helped if the film had been more explicit about it.

Released: 2016
Dir: Terry Ingram
Writer: Barbara Curry
Cast: Erika Christensen, Paul Greene, Ali Liebert, Antonio Cupo, Patrick Gilmore, Tom Butler, Dylan Schmid
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019