The Wish List (2010)

All the actors in The Wish List have done better work, and I would recommend any of their cop shows before this movie. But if you’re like me and have exhausted your DVR collection, then this will suffice. The story unfolds in predictable fashion and tells of Sarah (Jennifer Esposito), a high strung HR manager who decides she’s had it with dating alcoholic, red meat-eating smokers and draws up a wish list of qualities she wants in a guy. Far from being a good guide to dating though, the list ensures she’ll stay single forever because, girl, get real.

All that wishin’ and hopin’ pays off when Erik (Mark Deklin) enters her life via run-in at the neighborhood coffee shop, however. A unicorn of a man and guy who might as well have walked out of the Ken doll factory, he is everything Sarah wants – a pediatrician who volunteers at the homeless shelter, cooks walnut crusted salmon, and has a dog named after his favorite author, Shakespeare; he also cries during Steel Magnolias. Basically, Sarah’s won the man lottery, and the fact that he’s enamored with her makes it all perfect.

Getting what you wish for isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be though, at least not when barista Fred (David Sutcliffe) is hanging around. The self-described coffee psychic, his greatest sins are changing his customers’ drink orders and wearing slogan t-shirts. That’s according to Sarah, who treats him as a necessary annoyance if she’s to get her caffeine fix every morning. Yet the more Fred intrudes on her life, the more she embraces his spontaneity. Romance, she finds, could do with some friction every now and again.

Esposito delights as Sarah, who is easy to cheer for despite her obsessive tendencies and occasional bad judgment. Hallmark could do with more actors of such versatility, and it’s too bad she only has one such credit to her name. Her costars are more regular faces on the channel and fill in their roles nicely here, offering a study in contrasts. Sutcliffe has the showier part and milks it for all it’s worth. He tackles his character with the same fervor with which Fred lives his life and captures Fred’s spirit best whilst dancing the night away, all the while rocking the finest polyester and a pair of white platforms. Deklin is more staid as Erik, but his slightly cheeky portrayal generates also adds to the humor.

Nevertheless, the script nevertheless feels tired a decade on. It sets up a false dichotomy for Sarah, herself a stereotype of a fussy singleton in need of a reality check. She gets knocked down a few pegs for making a checklist even though I think she should be applauded for having standards. She doesn’t have to sell herself short and choose between the paper perfect guy and the lovable loser. In fact, both come with huge red flags, a reminder that the real lesson is having a relationship built on trust and respect and not on whether romance can be reduced to a wish list. Neither Erik nor Fred show they have Sarah’s needs in mind when it matters, and each proves to be selfish and domineering in his own way. They both assume they know what’s best for Sarah, which is reason enough to strike any guy off your list.

Released: 2010
Dir: Kevin Connor
Writer: Gary Goldstein
Cast: Jennifer Esposito, David Sutcliffe, Mark Deklin, Sydney Penny, Diane Venora
Time: 88 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2020