I discovered this (what I assume is a) made-for-TV movie on Hulu and I was pleasantly surprised. For the Love of Grace screams "stereotypical boy-meets-girl story" from the get-go. The opening credits have shots of the two leads smiling brightly at one another, for crying out loud, which led me to expect emotional anvils to drop around every corner. Which is why I was drawn in by curiosity every time I held my breath for the next one to drop and it didn't. I'm convinced the acting and directing were key in this. Pretty much every line could have been played up to be overly sappy or dramatic, but they weren't. The horrendous mood music kept it from being truly wonderful - it actually made me laugh at times when it was particularly unsubtle - and it stopped me from being able to completely step into the movie world, but whenever I analyzed how each of the characters reacted, I could see the same thing happening in real life with the same level of subdued emotion.
I AM WOMAN, SEE ME WORK
Grace was stunned by her near-death fire escape, and it made her analyze what she really felt and thought about how she had been living her life, without forcing the audience to watch her brew a cup of coffee and stare pensively out the window (Okay, maybe once). She wasn't this frantic, crying mess that I was expecting them to portray. It made sense, too, because someone with her drive - enough to work on three books at once and have everyone know she would get them done on time or early - isn't exactly a sit on the couch and mope kind of person. She found a project to dive into. That's to be expected. She had a scary run in that made her heart race for a bit, but then she just picked her life back up. She wasn't out on the street, and both she and her fiancé had very well paying jobs, so losing everything wasn't the end of the world like it could have been. Drama #1 extinguished.
When Grace and her fiancé's wants and plans stopped matching up, there wasn't a dramatic "you're never here for me" vibe. She used to be busy and work-driven herself, and his practical, work-driven response was normal; she just happened to want something different now. Besides which, he wasn't an emotionally distant prig when she almost died. He was worried and more in love with her than ever, which frankly had me wondering how she was going to end up with the other guy at that point, particularly since Mr. Hero wasn't looking particularly open to romance. I actually debated if it wasn't going to be a love story at all, but a sweet family-values film instead. In any case, Grace's priority changes didn't burn her bridges to her fiancé. Drama #2 extinguished.
I JUST NEED MY BFF
I wasn't impressed by the opening scene at the best friend's wedding. First off, the bridesmaid dress was prettier than the wedding gown. Secondly, the extremely nervous bride made me skeptical about the bride and groom's true happiness. Later, I liked the best friend so much that I decided to pretend the opening scene never happened. Apart from establishing the heroine's BFF relationship, the scene was really better left forgotten.
The awkwardness of the couples' dinner was forgivable, because differences in point of view can be rather awkward (don't even get me started on Steve's blind date scene). But once Grace and the BFF were on their own, the BFF became my favorite person. She was bubbly and caring, with big, expressive eyes that make her fascinating to watch, and a bright smile that made me smile in response. The perfect BFF. So when work-driven awkwardness turned into a renewed familiar friendship (with the BFF refusing to voice her opinion until it was a positive one), Drama #3 was extinguished.
WORD TO YOUR BROTHER
The brothers' relationship was great. It was subtle, it felt real, and I loved the dry humor (e.g. when Steve is moping on the couch and Frank runs for the phone, before Steve takes Grace's call he tells Frank, "I don't think I've ever seen you move that fast.")
IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERE
The firefighters were equally fun. I felt a genuine sense of camaraderie and they didn't do the "Whoa, hot babe in da haus" ogling or panning shots when Grace came in. They were just surprised and friendly and she quickly became one of the gang. Grace's segue into the group via her cook book idea was natural. It gave her an excuse to hang out with them and she even went through the proper channels to do it (the captain). She didn't do any outrageous tailing, either. She borrowed a radio and showed up OUTSIDE an emergency scene to see the firefighters at work. None of those scrambling-over-collapsing-rubble theatrics for a money shot. And the fire fighters were going about their business with deliberate, steady strength, despite the whirling camera work. The captain even chewed Steve out and suspended him for lone ranger risk taking early on. Have I mentioned yet how subtle and realistic this was? ;)
ALL ROADS LEAD TO LOVE
And then there's Grace + Steve. At first, she sought him out from intense gratitude, and gushed just enough to make him slightly uncomfortable because, dude, "It's my job." Which is totally how men of action react! Well, that is, teamwork action men like military men, firefighters, etc. Then they got to know one another because they cared about the same things, and they helped make each other more themselves. Yay! The best part is that they started out with no intentions. Steve was very adamant, rolling his eyes at his brother at the very thought of pursuing an engaged woman =) And Grace, an engaged woman, was honestly seeking to help her rescuer by setting him up on a blind date! Pure intentions. Loving it. But of course, they're both awesome and couldn't help noticing each other's awesomeness when they were each in their element. They enjoyed each other's conversation a little too much, and Grace took one too many shots of Steve in his firefighter uniform. But that was it! There was only one instance of the stare-into-my-eyes crap when they did the sauce tasting. I've seen it twice and laughed really hard both times. I guess it was the one stereotype they really let loose. But Frank made up for the moment with his next comment when he caught them together. It's too funny to spoil it for you...if you're reading this first, that is.
Anyway, Drama #4 extinguished rather nicely. Grace and her fiancé handled it well with just a little suspense thrown in for a couple of minutes. And Grace and Steve reunited in a really sweet, best-friends-and-then-some kind of way.
DISCLAIMER: It sounds like I can't shut up about this film, but don't go into it expecting quality. It took me by surprise and made me laugh and smile, which is what I find so exciting. It reminds me a lot of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year which aired around Christmas a few years ago. Sweet and innocent with some fun, light, uncomplicated romance and something that suggests better quality than most made-for-TV fodder.