This telepic’s working title was “The Lemon Grove,” but “Schmaltz in the Lemon Grove” is more like it. It’s a predictable story about the citrus-growing Hackett family. They might as well be growing corn.
The family is composed of mother Elizabeth (JoBeth Williams), father Michael (Stephen Lang), sons Mickey and Tyler (Jeremy London and Erik Von Detten), and Sam, the long-lost paternal grandfather (Ralph Waite) who went to sea 30 years ago.
Citrus canker is discovered on the Hackett property — will the grove be destroyed and the family along with it? The canker symbolizes hopelessness, and the occasional freezes that destroy the crop parallel the way Michael pushes away his loved ones.
The once-healthy marriage is rapidly disintegrating because of his chronic despair; meanwhile, the old man returns from the sea.
The viewers then witness two American rites of passage: The boys do some male bonding on a fishing trip, while back on the farm mom acts out “The Bridges of Madison County.” The boys land a marlin but throw it back; Mom lands an agriculture inspector and does the same.
Richard Leder’s tired script doesn’t do justice to the quintessentially American myths and struggles it tries to tackle. Every line can be seen coming a mile off.
Lang stands out as the morose father; he’s clearly in agony and viewers can relate. Williams turns on the sex appeal. However, the telefilm’s star is actually the pastoral setting. Times are tough, but the place looks fantastic and Elizabeth apparently has lots of free time to tend her roses.
The Hacketts are beautiful people living in gorgeous, rural surroundings. Many might welcome their problems; if they were amore typical family, the story might be more inspirational.
Marcus Cole’s direction makes the locale seem even more enticing, from the lemon trees in the mist to the diner on Main Street (though stock footage of the fishing trip looks like it was filmed in the ’60s).
“A Season of Hope” offers no surprises. The healing power of a loving family and the virtues of wanderlust are a real downer. The mother’s response to despair is: “There’s no law against hoping, is there?” Based on this piece, the new Congress should pass one.