The women in jeopardy genre, a staple of Lifetime Network, gets a big upgrade from its partnership with romance novelist Nora Roberts. Mind you, women will still be in plenty of jeopardy, but in this production arrangement, they’re pluckier, smarter and if they just happen to fall for a hunky guy in the process, well that’s just a bonus.
“The Nora,” as fans and friends in the industry dub her, is generally credited with reinvigorating the romance genre with feistier heroines and for weaving tantalizing mysteries with tantalizing romance. “Angels Fall,” starring Heather Locklear and Johnathon Schaech, definitely nails the mystery half.
Although romance is the tag here with the Roberts tie-in, this pic works better as a mystery. Schaech and Locklear never really generate the type of sparks that fans of the genre expect, an unfortunate side effect to this whodunit approach.
Still, Locklear is a savvy choice to launch the four-pic deal. A bankable TV movie actress, Locklear’s portrayal of Reece Gilmore, a skittish chef running from her fears, is acerbic, mysterious and endearingly goofy. She finds herself stuck in a small Wyoming town after her car breaks down and soon becomes the main source of speculation among the tight group of locals.
Reece takes a cooking job at the local diner in the beautiful but isolated place, and gains a mother figure in the bossy and inquisitive Joanie (Linda Darlow). She fills her in on all the gossip, including the 411 on brooding mystery writer Brody (Schaech), who catches Reece’s eye.
Reece, however, clearly has issues, with men, personal space and security, because of a traumatic incident in her past. She decides to give small-town life a try, but while on a hike in the woods, she observes a murder through her binoculars. With no body and no missing person reports, no one in town is sure whether or not Reece was witness to anything but her own anxieties.
In some ways director Ralph Hemecker plays up the mystery too well, creating far too much misdirection. By painting everyone with suspicion, Brody’s sudden interest in Reece despite some obvious red flags seems more menacing than earnest. In turn, what is supposed to be a slow-burning affair looks more like a dysfunctional hookup. If Reeceis indeed as unhinged as she seems, then Brody has a thing for crazy women.
Solid production values add a great deal, with Joel Ransom’s lensing highlighting the beautiful scenery of the Canadian locale. Beautiful but desolate, it aptly reflects Reece’s isolation.