It's a tale as old as your grandpa. Rescuing Madison navigates that shopworn plot about the celebrity and the average joe she's with, and now cue the burden and pitfalls that go hand in hand with fame and notoriety. Hallmark had this movie on the other day, and I was doing bupkis, so I spent the next two hours eyeballing it. It's almost as good as The Nine Lives of Christmas, also a made-for-tv flick featuring a fireman that also aired in 2014, if a few months later.
It's set in Los Angeles, a burg that breaks hearts and makes dreams come true; it's a toss-up. Madison Park (Alona Tal) already had her fifteen minutes of fame. She was a teen pop star at sixteen, part of the vocal group, Touch. Then, all that went away.
Sometimes, a body gets a second crack at it. At 28 years old, Madison Park is making a comeback after a six year hiatus, courtesy of her talents, and courtesy of her scheming new manager, Rad Leffler (C. Thomas Howell), not be confused with her scheming old manager, her mom.
I liked that Madison's learned some life lessons along the way. She's been kicked to the dirt. She cringes when she thinks of how she fired her best friend/assistant just because she'd put orange soda in her dressing room. That's not her, anymore. She goes on to prove that over and over as this movie went on.
Maybe some plot spoilers.
Oh, the plight of the lonely pop star. Madison laments the impossibility of finding a guy who likes her for her. Guess it's lucky, then, that the stadium she's performing in catches on fire, and that she passes out in her dressing room. The call goes out, and here's LAFD's Engine Company 3 rolling up. Madison regains consciousness on a gurney. First thing she sees is the firefighter who saved her.
Not to be cynical, but would Madison have been inclined to invite him to dinner as a thank you if the firefighter had been an ugly hombre? I'd like to think she would've, even so. Madison and her hero, John Kelly (Ethan Peck), go and have their dinner. And that should've been that. Except they strike up a connnection...
Rescuing Madison is about as generic a love story as it gets. Its saving grace is that the two leads are talented enough and cared enough to put in their best effort. Tal and Peck make a winning pair. There's an appealing earnestness to their romance that touched me. But, also, there's humor, much of which is provided by John's little sister, Krissy (Juliette Angelo), who just may be Madison's biggest fan.
What struck me right off was that Alona Tal was giving off these Kristen Bell vibes, circa Veronica Mars. I don't mean she's channeling Veronica's sass or caustic wit or sleuthing skills, but, rather, the aching vulnerability of that character. I was rooting for Alona from jump. And I deeply apprciate those scenes in which Madison remains unfailingly gracious as she's bombarded by fans and paparazzi. This is how a celebrity should act, but sometimes doesn't. It's an act of grace that she extends to her ex (Zack Lively) who'd dumped her, her best friend (Skyler Vallo) who never has her back, and her manager who repeatedly undermines her. Me, I would've dumped all that dead weight.
Can a famous pop star have a career AND a personal life? You'll spend the entire movie jeering at C. Thomas Howell, which means he's done his job. As Madison's manager, he's all about exploiting her to a non-stop barrage of photo ops, interviews, and publicity stunts, never mind that she'd rather ease up on that. And when things start to look serious between his best client and her fireman, oboy, see the sleazebag step up his efforts to sabotage the relationship. And I guess the movie didn't think one slimeball manager was enough. Kadeem Hardison is another skeezy agent, representing Madison's ex who dumped her but now wants to duet with her since his own singing career is flagging.
Just an observation: for someone whom everyone says is so great at singing, we don't get to see her sing much.
Also, here's another example of what I call the Dave effect (from that movie, Dave) in which a big, tough, stoic black dude turns out to be a softie. Observe Madison's bodyguard, Vernon (Evan Parke), who drops Madison nuggets of wisdom like "You need to listen to your heart and not your manager."
Huh. It just hit me that I hadn't said much about the male lead, Ethan Peck. He's Gregory Peck's grandson, and Ethan has some of that great man's gravitas. I can picture the women audiences swooning over his limpid pools of eyeballs or whatever. I wish I had his voice. He's good.
Lastly, I kind of smiled that her concert tour is called the "Still Here" tour. There's that Veronica Mars sass, after all.