Good clean fun

by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

This past Sunday evening my good friend Jill and I attended the screening of “Love on a Limb”, a Hallmark movie filmed in Almonte last August/September, 2016. I recall at that time having seen evidence of the undertaking, collections of props and strangers milling about the Town’s central war monument across from the Old Town Hall.

The tickets for the evening’s performance were free. The presentation was conveniently advertised in  “The Millstone News”.  Jill saw the notice and then, after confirming my interest in attending, graciously collected the tickets from an accommodating retailer in Town. I am assuming the production company offered the show as thanks for the cooperation and contribution of the municipality. It is my further understanding that the film is shown only in the United States not Canada (a possibility which is eminently probable in view of the proliferation of American flags displayed throughout the movie). For the most part the producers preserved the appearance of the venue in Anytown, USA (denominated Apple Mills in the movie) with the exception of one scene where “Almonte Old Town Hall” was clearly visible in a brief pan of what they also mistakenly called in the film “city hall” (instead of “town hall” as would have been appropriate for a reputedly small rural community). It was serendipitous that the film took place almost entirely in and adjacent to the Old Town Hall where the film was being screened. Naturally we recognized in the movie many of Almonte’s prominent architectural and commercial features which were captured glowingly.

In keeping with what was anticipated to be the saccharin and traditional nature of the evening’s showing, Jill and I combined the movie with dinner by going to the nearby family restaurant pointedly named the Superior Restaurant where we began with homemade pea soup followed by fish and chips and Greek salad, accompanied by a chocolate milkshake and rice pudding with whipped cream, cinnamon and a cherry on top. At the restaurant we encountered old friends with whom we chatted at some length after dinner before moving onto our destination.

The Hallmark movie channel appeals to anyone who likes cats and dogs and moonlight in Vermont.  A hint of the general character of these “Romance, Comedy, Family” movies is in the titles which include “The Perfect Catch”, “Love on Ice”, “A Dash of Love”, “Love at First Glance”, “Love Blossoms”, “Campfire Kiss”, “Destination Wedding”, “The Perfect Bride” and “Love at the Shore”. It was no accident that the evening’s large audience (which almost completely filled the spacious auditorium of the Old Town Hall) included a broad mixture of people, young and old, men and women, parents, grandparents and children. Likewise there was nothing even remotely lewd or graphic in any sense throughout the movie. And, yes, there was a happy ending sealed with a kiss by Mr. Right! For two hours on Sunday evening we rubbed shoulders with our neighbours and family in a bubble of temporary make-believe, sheltered from the prospect of unwitting exposure to disturbing or uncomfortable sequences, enjoying the pleasure of innocent laughter. I even marvelled at seeing the occasional youngster, bored by the proceedings, fleeing down the aisles and across the front of the auditorium with his arms stretched behind him like a small bird attempting to fly.

While it is easy to mock the unmistakeable themes and renditions of the movie – down-home provocation, beautiful heroine with high ideals, charming and attractive gentleman, righteous decisions overcoming bureaucratic resistance, corny comedy and paternal officials – there is unquestionably a wide-ranging appetite for this type of drama.  Indeed it requires but little analysis to discover that – in paradoxically crass terms – it is big business. The initial smirk which one adopts when reflecting upon the nature and quality of the production nonetheless promotes some hard and somewhat disturbing reconciliation. How for example have we become so de-sensitized to the frequency of what is comparatively vulgar and grotesque cinema? Why do we now tolerate being exposed to what is apparently endless and gratuitous violence? Must we be constantly reminded of Freud’s theory that sex insinuates everything?

There are certainly those who continue to relish incremental sexual obsession and hurtful abuse of every character but there are likewise those who prefer by contrast just “good clean fun” even when it is calculated relief and suspended disbelief from the weight of daily living. Quite frankly I am tired of having to fashion ways to expunge from my mind the lasting images of degradation which have been searingly imprinted upon my mind by some pointless celluloid. I refuse to submit to the suggestion that I am somehow either pusillanimous, inartistic or unrealistic to accept the vulgarity and ruinous obscenity so common in popular film. I can think of less intentional ways of upsetting myself. I don’t for a minute unite my revulsion with anything approaching a religious objection; nor do I resile from an accurate account of some of life’s real problems.  But I do dislike what is manifestly designed to unhinge. The Hallmark movie was by contrast good clean fun.