23 October 2002 | petershelleyau
Falling in Wilderness Love Again
Valerie Bertinelli is Susannah Stanton, Anchorage Canada restaurant manager and divorced wife of Wilderness Cove Stanton Ranch manager Jesse (Jeffrey Nordling). When the 3 Stanton children Bridget (Brittney Irvin), Sam (Michael Welch) and Hannah (Emily Tennant) place an ad in Alaskalove magazine's personals for Jesse, he is swamped with replies, and Susannah faces her unresolved feelings.
Bertinelli's long hair is light brown with blonde and grey streaks, to represent her maturity, since Susannah and Jesse were married for 15 years, she wears it in a 1960's style ponytail, and her wardrobe includes a series of chokers and necklaces. Although her close-ups are mainly unflatteringly, she looks beautiful when standing in profile at sunset. Bertinelli's best scene is where she decides whether to meet Jesse after writing to him as `Sarah', where she expresses her confusion and mixed emotion, and her skill makes Susannah far more likeable and attractive than Nordling, whose technique is too apparent. Her remaining attraction to Jesse is evident in their banter by the way Bertinelli moves closer to him to speak in a conspiratorial superior manner, and we also hear Bertinelli's voice reciting one of `Sarah's letter's as Jesse reads.
The teleplay by Jill Blotevogel focuses on the children's machinations to reunite their parents, which unfortunately director Jeffrey Reiner makes nauseating in tone, with a sub-plot teen romance between Bridget and Derek (Ross Malinger), the grandson of Jesse's co-worker Burt (Donnelly Rhodes). Whether Susannah will return to Jesse is influenced by the active participation she has in his household, staying on after she is no longer required to be there. Jesse's antagonism towards the replies also presents an ugly misogyny, combined with his lack of charm, where the women are presented as pathetic, and Reiner uses a split screen to have Jesse slam the door on 4 different women at once. There is inexplicable timing about the arrival of replies, since Jesse gets bundles of mail on the same day the magazine appears on sale, and even when the line is spoken by a child, `All's fair in love and war' is still a cliché.
Reiner also uses screen wipes, 2 songs by Fisher on the soundtrack, and effective cross-cutting, and as Jesse's temporary girlfriend, Chicago freelance photographer Gina, Andrea Roth makes more of an impression than Susannah's parallel, Boston lawyer Stephen (Andrew Airlie).