Montana Sky

Mike Robe

The wide open spaces of Montana get the lush cinematic treatment in Mike Robe’s made-for-cable film based on the King Lear inspired novel by Nora Roberts and adapted for the screen by writer April Smith. A wonderfully updated premise which leads to a humorous beginning finds three sisters who have never met one another coming together at the funeral of their self-centered, stubborn ladies man rancher father Jack Mercy. Ashley Williams stars as the uptight Willa who, like her father before her, is a natural at running the ranch and resents the arrival of her spoiled Hollywood screenwriter sister Tess (a scene stealing Charlotte Ross) and the lovely, shy Lily (Laura Mennell) whom audiences quickly learn is escaping an abusive ex-husband. Adding fuel to the emotional fire is the reading of the will which stipulates that the sisters must live under the same roof for a year in order to inherit the twenty-four million dollar property which has been divided equally into thirds with the clause that should one of them leave, the land will be forfeited and given over to the natural conservancy. Northern Exposure and Sex and the City star John Corbett puts his charm to work as neighbor Ben who has always found himself attracted to Willa despite her dislike of him and delights in Jack’s notation in the will that Ben must oversee the running of Mercy Ranch during the fateful year. The likability of Corbett makes us forgive the mismatch in the casting of the two romantic leads who share a visually fifteen or so year age gap that the script never acknowledges and in fact tries to persuade us to contrarily believe that they are much closer together in age. In a mystery subplot that actually takes away from the ingenious main set up of family drama and romantic entanglements (that makes readers such as myself who have never read a Roberts novel eager to pick up the book instead), we are introduced to a vicious plot to sabotage the ranch and scare the sisters off the land that despite the gore, does manage to distract us enough to be genuinely surprised by the outcome since we are led down quite another path. However we still feel like we’re missing out on more plot involving our charming leads. While Carolina Moon (also released on DVD this year) is still the superior Roberts adaptation, Montana Sky is an above average adaptation that may make us take back Lifetime Movie jokes... at least for the day.