Nora Roberts’ Angel’s Fall - Lifetime TV: February 3, 2007

I asked the DVR to record Angel’s Fall because I was so curious how Nora Roberts’ books would transform to movies. Considering that one of the strengths I enjoy in her books is the development of a character, flaws and all, over 300+ pages, I was very curious as to whether the characters would be as faceted in 120 minutes or less.

The short answer: of course not. But, that answer is entirely dependent on the actor. Heather Locklear does a marvelous job. Her costar didn’t come close to her abilities, and as a result the part that disappointed me the most was the romance – the mystery was interesting, but, like the imbalance in costar ability, the romance wasn’t nearly as compelling as the whodunit.

Below are my thoughts as I typed them out during the film. It’s not as coherent as if I’d written the whole thing in retrospect, but it’s after 10pm and I have the cough from hell and want my bed. 

1. Heather Locklear has roots, and she STILL looks good. It’s not fair. It’s horribly not fair. She’s one of those women who can put her hair into what would look like the rattiest ponytail ever on me, and yet it’s elegant and perfect. Yeah, yeah, I know. Stylists on set. Still. Not fair.

She does a marvelous job with the visible insecurities, the manic and the passive terror. I haven’t read this book, either, so I’m going to have to go solely on the movie. (I’m asking the DVR to record the other movies, which are based on books I’ve read.)

2. The creative team behind the film made several clever decisions to show the lapse of time. It wasn’t just clouds flying across the sky at high speed, though there was some of that. There was also a time lapse shot of the menu changing to reflect her influence in the town restaurant, and some dramatic footage of seasonal changes as well. The cinematography was gorgeous. The location and the wide shots of the scenery made me wish I had Lifetime in high-def.

Moreover, the filming and cinematography were clever in that varying levels of overexposure were used to illustrate moments of Reese’s insecurity, such as when she suspects everyone is staring at her. The use of color and absence of color were used to fill in what can’t be shown in a book, and in this case, added depth to the film.

3. In the beginning, Reese’s flashbacks are revealing and tragic, and used to illustrate the storms going on in her mind. But at the end the overwhelming use of flashbacks was annoying and dragging instead of revealing or cause for sympathy.

4. The major flaw I noticed was the choppy and one-sided dialogue between the hero and the heroine. I thought Heather Locklear was marvelous, but I didn’t think there was enough buildup of sexual tension between her and the hero, played by Johnathon Schaech. She was often luminous in the role (again, I know, stylist on set), and easily communicated her frustration and her self-doubt. He was more often wooden, and somewhat bullying in his tone. Lines that were meant to be cajoling or inviting confidence – “Talk to me, Reese. Come on. You need someone to talk to.” – sounded pushy and demanding coming from him. Moreover, actions that he takes, such as searching for her on the internet, that could have been played as curiosity, or an empathetic need to understand her better, come across as somewhat creepy, even though he’s not really being developed as a suspect in the mystery.

I’ll admit, I never watched Dynasty or Melrose Place but knowing of the soapy nookie type shows that those were, I didn’t have high expectations of Locklear. Dallas, a soapy drama that I did watch, was many things, but a harbor of good acting was not one of them. Locklear was the person I had the most doubts about as an actor in the movie, and she beat everyone else with a stick in terms of ability.

Then there was the love scene, which had about eighteen thousand candles in it. I know that there’s a Nora cameo in each movie, and I was hoping it would be the love scene, where she walks in and says, “THIS IS NOT HOW I WROTE THIS SCENE! GET UP YOU SHAAAMELESS HUSSY.”

5. The other flaw: the music. It was heavy-handed on the creepy parts, but truthfully, and this is unfair, I don’t expect much from Lifetime movies. I understand the quality has improved recently, but I’m used to seeing some serious film drivel on Lifetime, particularly during the day, like “My Mother’s Sister’s Tumor: The Gangrielle Lobotoree Story.” There’s a certain amount of pathos – and by “certain amount” I mean about six tons too much – in Lifetime productions, so when compared to some of the other monstrosities I’ve seen on that channel, this was not too heavy on the bongos-of-danger, the strings-of-romance, and the tuba-of-drama.

This film does a good bit to work against my Lifetime prejudice, in fact. It was more creative in the filming than I’ve seen on that channel.

I’m not in the habit of rating movies here, but my grade on this one is a C+. The visuals would have brought it higher, as would have Locklear’s effort – I’m serious, she was pretty darn good – but the wooden hero and the overuse of flashbacks as a way to sustain tension drove it down.

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  1. 1
    Dalia says:

    I didn’t feel any romantic connection between the lead roles either but I didn’t find Schaech wooden at all.

    Heather acted the role well, as did he, but the movie itself didn’t put enough focus on their relationship for their supposed attraction to ever feel natural.

    On a shallow note: I did not, in any way, find Heather luminous or stylish. Her chipmunk cheeks – particularly in profile – were distracting.

    But can’t wait for tomorrow – Montana Sky! WOO HOO!

    In terms of novels my preferences are:

    1. Montana Sky
    2. Blue Smoke
    3. Carolina Moon
    4. Angels Fall

    We’ll see how the movies translate. This isn’t the first lifetime tv movie based on Nora – wasn’t there one with Costas Mandylor (which disappointed me esp. because I recall loving that book – though *ahem* I can’t remember which book it was now….some one with a girl living in a cottage somewhere? On an island that she grew up in? I give up!)

  2. 2
    Darla says:

    That was Sanctuary, Dalia, and I was disappointed with it, too.  Unlike Angels Fall, there didn’t appear to be a stylist on the set—I remember being terribly distracted by the urge to comb Melissa Gilbert’s hair.  (Yeah, that’s shallow, but I think I’ve blocked out any other memories of the film.)

  3. 3
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~I know that there’s a Nora cameo in each movie, and I was hoping it would be the love scene, where she walks in and says, “THIS IS NOT HOW I WROTE THIS SCENE! GET UP YOU SHAAAMELESS HUSSY.”~

    Oh! If only. I coulda pulled it off. I coulda won an EMMY for that.

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    As far as Locklear’s cheeks, you know, I totally noticed that, and some evidence of puffy lip syndrome – and I am so used to seeing it on tv that I didn’t think anything of it. How sad is that? Hm. maybe she’s had work done. What else is new?

    Wow. That’s seriously sad.

    And Nora, Ma’am, if you don’t pop in interrupt any love scenes with John Corbett, I will be shocked. That right there would be the scene I’d have requested some “rehearsals” of, you know, just to make sure he’s getting the motivation right.

  5. 5

    Dang, I would’ve paid to see Nora do that cameo!

  6. 6
    shannon says:

    I watched Angels Falls last night and was surprised, i liked it…but all the above metioned things bothered me too…the puffy cheeks…i was waiting for her face to split when she smiled…anyhoothe romance between them also bothered me…yes, she was great, her coy little smiles to him, her humor was great…i think what i liked the best from him was his “intense” and “thunderstruck”….nonspeaking glances when her first sees her..i thought to myself..wow, this is gonna be some hot and steamy connection…but no…honestly that was the best from him…its like he couldnt decide if he was gonna be intense man or sweet sidekick…i wanted more brooding i guess..bwahwahwahwa

  7. 7
    cassie says:

    I didn’t see it because I don’t get that channel, and I’m rather leery of books turned into movies (just look at what happened to poor Flicka).

    Considering that one of the strengths I enjoy in her books is the development of a character, flaws and all, over 300+ pages, I was very curious as to whether the characters would be as faceted in 120 minutes or less.

    The short answer: of course not. But, that answer is entirely dependent on the actor.

    I’ve always thought that the script has a great deal to do with it, maybe even more so than the acting… but maybe not.

  8. 8
    Mel-O-Drama says:

    I hadn’t read this Nora, but like you, I DVR’d it and watched it yesterday.

    I would’ve given it a solid B. I agree that the hero was a little wooden, especially compared to Heather Locklear. She rocked that set. I didn’t have to read the book to see her angst and fear and know that her backstory was something worth waiting for.

    I missed Nora’s cameo the first time (I was preparing some fantabulous eggrolls and must’ve looked down when she popped on screen) So I went back and FFW through and POP there she was! LOL Was the beer tasty?

    Overall, it was worth watching. I enjoyed it enough that I’m going to read the book now, so I think that’s something.

    I can’t wait for BLUE SMOKE. I don’t know how they’re gonna portray that book in two hours…

  9. 9
    Sarah F. says:

    See, I’m totally the opposite.  I thought Schaech was great, but I really didn’t like Locklear.  I thought she was wooden, she didn’t sink into the role, and I despised her hair and kept wanting to brush it out of her face.  Bugged the shit out of me.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if any of these movies focus more on the romance than on the mystery.  The mysteries are compelling in BS and CM, so I can see those taking over for the romances that really aren’t that tension-filled, if you think about it.  They’re sweet, but they’re not what drive the plot to any extent.  (Don’t know about MS—haven’t read it yet.)

  10. 10
    Dalia says:

    What about doing Montana Sky justice in two hours? And why is Lifetime only showing John Corbett and that blonde girl? This was a humdinger of a book featuring three equally brilliant sisters – like a trilogy rolled into one whole lot of goodness (is this book a favourite, well yes I think it is!)

    They better not give me the shaft!

    I wonder if Nora’s cameos will run to any one-liners? The beer cameo amused me because it was almost done in slow-mo so nobody could blink and miss it. Heh heh.

  11. 11
    Spider says:

    I liked everything but Heather in this role.  She was just too damn old for the role.  She did not, at 46, convince me that she was, in fact the late-20s to mid-3os heroine that she was supposed to be. 

    I wasn’t expecting an oscar-worthy film—after all, it’s Lifetime.  But, I really think they could have done better with an unknown or lesser known actress.

    I am looking forward to seeing what they do with Montana Sky and Blue Smoke.

  12. 12
    shaina says:

    bleh, i hated it. i made some of my friends watch it with me, and i kept apologising to them, saying “really, the book was better!”. i found it reeaally boring, and there was no chemistry between the actors, and heather locklear in my opinion showed no emotion whatsoever and just shouldnt act…and to top it all off, i missed the secret word thingy so i couldnt read the free chapter of nora’s next book online, which made me SO MAD. tomorrow night i have chorus practice until 9:30, and the tv will probably be taken, but i’ma try and see at least part of it just in case it’s better.

  13. 13
    Jami says:

    Huh – I’m with Sarah F.  I had the opposite reaction regarding the actors. I thought Jonathon Schaech was HOT, and Heather was 1) too old 2) too skinny 3) so botoxed and restalyned that she’s starting to look like a house of wax figure. Or like if you pressed your thumb into her cheek, it would leave an indent, like memory foam.  However, I do think the story and acting were better than the average lifetime movie, and if I could have gotten over Heather Locklear (and her dreadful straw-like tresses) I would have given it a higher grade than my C+.

  14. 14
    Laree says:

    I missed Angels Fall, but I’m looking forward to Montana Sky next week.

    I always try to remain optimistic when a book is made into a movie, but they usually end up sucking donkey dick.

    *crosses fingers that Lifetime won’t completely screw them up. LOL.

    And it’s funny that I told some of the girl’s at work that I was recording each movie, they flipped and started demanding I make copies so they can watch the movies too. They suck.

  15. 15
    Nora Roberts says:

    Secret word for the excerpt is healing.

    Everyone has their own take—but I have to say I was VERY pleased with the translations of my books into Lifetime TV movies.

  16. 16
    shaina says:

    thankyouthankyouthankyou nora!!!! now i love you even more…yayyy new chapters=more procrastination from boring homework…

  17. 17
    Wry Hag says:

    Well, I sure as hell am not going to nitpick.  Most of us grunts in the romance-writing trenches would be happy to see any of our shit on tv…even if Beatrice Arthur and Bill O’Reilly played the leads and Wayne-across-the-road was the director and Bedhead Mary was the make-up artist.  (I know y’all aren’t familiar with Wayne-across-the-road, but, believe me, you wouldn’t want him directing traffic, much less a movie.  And Bedhead Mary?  Hey, the nickname says it all.)

  18. 18
    snarkhunter says:

    even if Beatrice Arthur and Bill O’Reilly played the leads

    You know, I think I’d actually watch that.

    If only for the sheer horror of the spectacle.

  19. 19
    Tara Marie says:

    I’m with Jami and Sarah F on this.

    I found Ms. Locklear a little creepy to look at and found some scenes were a little underwhelming (her kitchen rant that starts with using fresh herbs, the book’s was much better).

    But, on a whole I thought it was still better than the average Lifetime movie and I’ll be watching tonight for our next Nora installment.

  20. 20
    Jeanette says:

    I thought they did a wonderful job of adapting the book to a movie, I went into watching it with low expectations and was very impressed with the work.
    Heres why:

    1.They didn’t butcher it! ok you can find some fault because you only had 2 hours to tell the story so some of it’s going to be left out but the heart of it was there

    2.The scenery was beautiful and the sets were exactly what I saw in my head while reading the book.

    3.They used a lot of Nora’s Dialogue, That’s the biggie for me. You can’t really screw up if you keep Nora’s word right?

    4. It was smartly done. The passage of time and the flash backs.

    Ilove and have read all but one Nora book and wish they could all be made into mini-series then we could really get a more accurate adaptation until then I will enjoy the other 3 as long as they were done as well as AF

  21. 21
    RandomRanter says:

    Having attempted to watch the aforementioned Melissa Gilbert movie, I was pleasantly surprised by “Angels Fall”.  I’m on the liked Heather better than Jonathan side, but I started with a total irrational hatred of Jonathan (sorry) so being able to sit through a whole movie with him and not hate him was a huge improvement.  And really, while the time cut lost not only some character development, but the full richness of the ensemble, it was a fair representation of the center plot so I was pleased.

  22. 22
    Shesawriter says:

    Who gives a flying fig if Jonathan can or can’t act?  LOOK AT HIM!  Does it really matter?  I mean, come on! 

    I thought the movie was good, but Nora’s book is better. 

    One thing though … Heather’s face-lift kept distracting me.  :-(

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