By Marlena De Lacroix
For the first hour of the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie The Note, I felt kind of bored and uncomfortable as Genie Francis played a frumpy (though definitely thinner) middle-aged newspaper columnist who seems to be in need of a stylish makeover or at least a spiked eggnog. Did I really want to watch a slow-paced Hallmark Christmas movie, all bathed in holy-ish holiday golden light, on a channel where there is no cleavage? But I hung in there to the end, and was I rewarded! The Note gives us what General Hospital never ever does anymore: an emotional payoff so deep and powerful, it leaves both Genie’s character and you in tears.
Oh Genie, what those dopey TPTB at GH are robbing us of! Genie can deliver one from the heart as few actors, and even few soap opera actors, can. The Note is a journey in which Genie’s very sad, very temperate Peyton MacGruder slowly sheds her depression and the tragedy of her past to find love at Christmastime. The catalyst is a note in a plastic bag (as opposed to the prototypical note in a bottle) Peyton finds that has floated to the shore after a fatal airplane crash near her coastal town. Intense public interest in The Note gives her an opportunity to save her threatened job as a columnist (not enough emails) who writes about matters of the heart. She embarks on a national journey to find who The Note was addressed to.
At first, it’s just a journalistic quest aimed at getting a sensationalistic newspaper story. But what she ultimately discovers in the search for the addressee of the note has much more to do with the unbottling of her hurt from her tragic personal past. Peyton is a widow, and that’s just the beginning of her wrenching, very soapy back story.
Along the way are some perky characters who help to brighten up Peyton’s rather bleak journey. Working at the newspaper, advising her on her big story and ultimately becoming her love interest, too, is a fellow columnist named King, who has the jaw, awesome hair and quick charm of a soap opera star. He’s Ted McGinley, Marlena’s old boyfriend from the ancient era of Happy Days and later Married With Children (I’ve worked at lotsa newspapers, and I guarantee you there are no newspaper guys who look like as this!)
The rest of the low-budget Hallmark movie cast is filled with Canadian actors you’ve never seen before or heard of. They all do just fine, but it’s frustrating to soap viewers like you and I who get a warm familial feeling from identifying cast members as actors we’ve watched in the past.
With ads and talk show appearances, Hallmark has cleverly marketed The Note to Genie’s old fans from GH. And they’ve been pretty smart, because The Note affords Genie a showcase to do what she does best: act from the heart. What use would the writers of General Hospital‘ s mob saga, the video game-esque haunted house and penchant for woman-murdering have for Genie Francis and Laura Spencer now?