DVD Review: Daniel's Daughter (2008)

Arrives on DVD

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As glossy as the pages of Perfect--the women's magazine successful editor-in-chief Cate Madighan (Melrose Place Golden Globe nominee Laura Leighton) runs from her perch in her posh, orchid accessorized New York office-- this high quality Hallmark sudsy made-for-television work blends a chick lit structured premise with the lush cinematography of lensman Francois Dagenais that weaves a magical spell through director Neill Fearnley's Daniel's Daughter.

Using what appears to be a golden filter to cast a honey-tinged look at the film's opening extended flashback that finds the young Cate facing both her mother's sudden death and her father's well-intentioned but shocking abandonment of his daughter under the delusion that she'd be better off raised with well-to-do relatives, Dagenais manages to convincingly disguise the production location of Ontario and give the viewer's an immediate homey connection to the film's small-town setting of New Kerry, Massachusetts. And in doing so, the result feels like a welcoming CW hybrid of the sea-based Dawson's Creek and quirky Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls.

Quickly, we move from the 1982 beginning to the now high-powered Cate who has channeled her father issues and disappointments into increasingly demanding Type A perfection (making her magazine's title Perfect seem precisely on-the-nose). And as we see her highly caffeinated and adrenaline-fueled gift for juggling the various sections and assignments of her magazine-- in tandem with her chick-lit mandated gay assistant Jeffrey (Brendan Firla)-- as well as planning her wedding to a silver haired paternal Donald Trump styled media tycoon (eager to make Cate his third wife in a legally binding and unromantic arrangement which stipulates that there will never be children or pets brought into their "partnership"), we know it's only a matter of time before she crashes under the pressure.

Speeding up the breakdown is the arrival of her long estranged father's ashes and a posthumous letter dictating his wish that she return him to New Kerry to scatter his remains in the same location where her mother's ashes were deposited and that she manage to get together the two surviving members of his trio of Irish hobby singers to perform "Danny Boy" for the event.

Stunned that the first contact she has with her dad is from the beyond-- understandably Cate is torn between the rage of the abandonment as all of those pent-up frustrations come raging to the surface as well as a sense of duty or goal to accomplish a task set forth as she would advise any one of her Perfect readers.

Trying to prove her perfection as well as put her life in New Kerry and heartache behind her before her nuptials, she and Jeffrey return to the sleepy seaside Capraesque town with the firm intention of keeping her mission secret from her fiance as he doesn't like to deal with issues of a more personal nature.

Obviously, we know that relationship is doomed as the two more accurately resemble father and daughter as opposed to two people in love and faster than you can say "meet cute," Cate finds herself pursued by Connor Bailey (Sebastian Spence) a handsome small town attorney whose personality echoes classic Jimmy Stewart or Tom Hanks all presented in the package of a guy who looks as though he could be a long lost member of Mark Wahlberg's family.

When Cate finds herself reacquainted with good friends and reminders of her past (think Sweet Home Alabama meets The Holiday meets P.S. I Love You), suddenly she begins to reevaluate her hectic lifestyle and pending marriage which is nudged off course by both Connor and her own conscience by the realization that she may have underestimated what she really wanted out of life.

While it's highly predictable fare, scripter Tracey Rosen (incidentally the daughter of producer Gerald W. Abrams) delights us with the presentation of a truly intelligent heroine we can empathize with and understand along with some terrific quirky supporting players consisting of Martin Doyle, Derek McGrath, Olivia Palenstein and most of all via the film's stereotypical yet welcome source of gay best friend humor--embodied by Brandon Firla channeling Eric McCormack's Will without Grace and Rupert Everett in My Best Friend's Wedding.

Above all, it's a gorgeously photographed film that elevates Daniel's Daughter from many big screen chick flicks with big studio money devoted more to netting A-list actors as opposed to deserving talent in front of and/or behind the camera. However, I must admit that unfortunately the last fifteen minute of the movie suffers due to its "too many endings" syndrome.

Involving both an embarrassing Jim Cavaziel like Angel Eyes hillside soliloquy and a Truth About Cats and Dogs conclusion along with three other would-be endings, the concluding segment of Daughter seems to indicate Rosen assumed wasn't entirely sure how to tie the bow on her likable scripted present so figured that decorating it with as many ribbons as possible was the right way to go.

And while additionally we're not quite sure we buy the explanation of her father's abandonment, it's relatively easy to forgive thanks to the quality presentation, great performances, and abundance of both classy charm and substantive style.

Releasing on DVD from Genius Entertainment, (which also released another excellent Hallmark channel offering Charlie and Me) on February 10-- while it boasts zero additional bonus features, it's a good-hearted romantic work sure to appeal to fans of Maeve Binchy's Tara Road.