Okay y’all. I am back for the remainder of the fall movies and on to Christmas. The last several months have just been crazy you guys. I swear all my weekends this summer were PACKED with something. So, I missed all these great summer movies and connecting with the 5 or so of you that take the time to read these. But I’m back through at least the Christmas season. Of course. Let’s not waste anymore time though.
Our leading lady, Sam mansplains horse riding to a guy in a bar. Then we discover she is a writer. Her stories sound cray. And by “cray” I mean crazy boring. Like how is an actual traditional magazine publishing these? Very Hallmark style articles that don’t exist in real life. Also, I love that just run of the mill, non Olympic horse riding is playing at a bar. She gets a little riled up at the guy next to her for not caring as much about horse riding as she does. Too bad she’s not sitting next to Snoop Dog for this scene.
She switches gears. And gets his name wrong I guess. I didn’t hear her say the wrong one but oh well. I also didn’t realize this was a date but there was a lot of commotion in the living room as we were getting started…new puppies, popcorn…it was a whole thing. Anyway, later, she facetimes her Mom. A big horse competition is taking place in her hometown and HENRY SPENCER IS HER DAD OMG and he will be riding in the competition. He’s a little salty about her not visiting more or riding horses anymore. Also, Sam has (way) more throw pillows than me so I have a little something to mention to my husband about whether we have too many after this.
Later, Henry Spencer (Preston in this movie) and his wife have a chat and I think he asks whether he, himself is an OLD MARE? Like an old female horse? Surely there is a better comparison. Anyway, they are arguing about Henry not taking time to connect with his daughter when she visits. He is emotionally stunted.
At the magazine office, Sam has a heart to heart with her boss, Amanda. Amanda is like, your stories are super lame. Do better than personalized dinnerware and macramé. And honestly, yes. This is the constructive criticism Sam needs right now. Amanda tells Sam she needs to write a story only SHE can write. She needs to write from her HEART. Not her head. Uh oh. A song from my youth is starting to weasel its way into my brain.
I’m loving Sam’s dress right now. Blue. Pleated. Love it. Sam chit chats with Shadow the horse and his driver (Chauncy?) in Central Park. At this point my dad asks if the horse driver is magic or if the horse is magic. I remind him that this is not a Christmas movie so there is no magic. Anyway, Sam obviously decides to write about the horse event back at home.
Back at home, we learn that Sam’s parents haven’t told her about Luke. They figured it would be a fun thing to surprise her with something to do with oh, just her EX HUSBAND. DRAMA IS COMING.
Dang business must be good at the Compass Magazine. Sam is rocking at LOUIS VUITTON in her hometown bakery. Sam’s friend obviously owns the hometown bakery. Sam sees a picture of LUKE on the wall. Well what is a picture of her ex husband doing on the wall in the town where he lives?!!
Sam’s mom is no nonsense about party planning. Sam heads into her room, untouched since her childhood. Have we talked about this? How many parents leave their 40+ year old daughter’s childhood rooms untouched? You don’t have any other use for that room at this point? You didn’t make her take all that nonsense with her when she got a house of her own? Whatever.
Sam runs into her sister, Alexandra and then heads to see the horses. Grouchy old Dad arrives and gives her a hug, begrudgingly. Sam shares with the help, Matt, that she stopped riding a few years ago. Uh oh. Sounds like she’s gonna find out about Luke the hard way. There it is.
Luke is helping out in the stables. Luke is training Sam’s dad for the competition. Sam is pretty upset about it. Who should have told her? I guess we need more background here. Sounds like she and her ex husband do not speak anymore. Sam’s mom and dad apologize and Sam agrees to suck it up for the two weeks left before the competition. I think everyone is at fault here. But they all thought it wouldn’t matter because Sam was not planning to visit.
Sam goes upstairs and screams into a pillow. As you do.
Later, they have a very fancy dinner in their home. For some reason, Luke is there. Sam and Luke basically rehash their whole marriage in front of everyone…so that is awkward for everyone. Why are they all so dressed up to eat dinner in their own home? A dress? With no actual company?
Sam works on her article in her (very cute) but too fancy for a dinner at home dress. She has titled her article “untitled article” and underlined it, which amuses me. Her sister comes into her room and that’s when Sam learns that Luke is living in their family’s carriage house. She storms over there, still in her fancy dress.
Sam wonders what happened to their old house? How does she not know? Wouldn’t he have had to like buy her out or it would need to be sold? She just like disappeared, Sweet Home Alabama style? They do some more arguing that is not really about him staying in the carriage house. They reminisce about a tiny little leather couch they had in their old house.
The next day, everyone is out in the…fenced area where you train the horses. What is it called? Sam is looking cute with her little riding boots. She politely calls her dad old. I like the expression she uses-“a man of a certain vintage.” He invites her to do some riding and she is a hard pass on that. Her dad mutters how she could have been in the Olympics. I WONDER WHAT HAPPENED.
Out front, Sam’s sister and Matt have a little love connection moment. Sam struggles with her article. But what does she have to write about yet? Isn’t she just writing about the competition? She must give up on it because she and her sister head into town to get a drink. They see MATT. Alexandra wonders why Matt hasn’t asked her out yet.
Uh oh. Luke is dating the bakery owner, Ashley. Sam is a little bummed. She and Alex wonder why he has to be all out loud about it. I appreciate the sister support of this totally unreasonable feeling. Sam and Luke run into each other as they both order drinks. He brushes off the seriousness of his relationship with poor Ashley. They have a pretty intense convo while they wait for their drinks. Sam says she misses dancing with him. If I was Ashley, I would be ON EDGE.
Sam just can’t get this article started. She gives up on it again. She’s got a cute belt situation happening and I wonder if I should give belts a try. Also, can we talk about just the casual spread in this kitchen? Donuts, fruit; it looks lovely. Just casual breakfast at the farmhouse!! Okay is this supposed to be an old/updated farmhouse situation? It looks like the fridge is mounted into the wall and there’s like 3 ovens? Cray.
Henry (I mean Preston) the crank monster comes in and makes Sam feel bad about not riding anymore. She heads outside. Luke follows her. She vents about her difficulty writing her article. She can’t get out of her head to write it. Here we go again with that song from my youth; a lesser known boy band song-Evan and Jaron? Anyone? From my Head to My Heart? Okay.
Okay now they’re both giving a horse a bath to get her back to her roots. There are some weird cuts and then the horse grabs the hose and sprays them both. Wait maybe Luke is spraying her? I can’t tell.
Okay now Luke is taking her (after they’ve changed their clothes) to a surprise. He wants her to ride a horse again. She says she doesn’t ride anymore!! She is very reluctant, but he tells her they’re just for fun. The horses have funny little Maleficent hats on their heads. What are those for? Turns out they are for bugs.
She decides to get on the horse. They couldn’t find an extra with the same color hair as Nikki for heaven’s sake? Her parents watch from the window, just beaming with pride.
Sam and Luke walk along on their horses. Sam tells Luke why she quit riding. It was a disaster of a competition right after they divorced and her dad was really mad at her. So she just quit. Then, Sam and Luke are DEFINITELY OUTSIDE and not in front of a green screen while they sit and continue their heart to heart. Man, they are really connecting. Wait, maybe they are really outside. It looked fake before. OMG ARE THEY GOING TO KISS. OMG YES THEY ARE. What about poor Ashley?
They head back to the house to find Sam’s dad is hurt. I DON’T BUY IT. He is faking it FOR SURE, right? He said some bales of hay fell on his wrist. Okay, there’s a doctor there so maybe it’s legit. Maybe he isn’t trying to trick Sam into competing instead because he seems like he still wants to do the event. Sam tries to talk him out of competing. Then Sam learns that her parents are thinking of selling their whole farm because it’s too much for them to handle. I mean, fair.
Later that night, Sam watches her dad and Luke train. Her dad is struggling with his “sprained” wrist. Are we buying this? The next morning, the horse is knocking in to obstacles on the course. He is really struggling. OH WAIT. Look who decided to try her hand at competing again?! Well this would be a pretty PERFECT plan for a dad who only loves his daughter if she’s good at horse competitions. So, Sam gets back on the horse as they say. Her mom comes out to see this MIRACULOUS turn of events. Uh oh. Right before the hurdle, the horse stops abruptly and Sam falls off him. She is undeterred though. She asks Luke to train her for this competition. WHAT IS HAPPENING. But also, like, what else was he going to do? He’s living at the GD carriage house for heaven’s sake. She calls her boss, Amanda to let her know. The boss is like, cool thanks for the update. How long does it take to write one GD article?
Back on the track, Luke and Sam seem to be starting from square one. Wouldn’t she remember at least some stuff? He’s even telling her how to fit her feet in the stirrups! I mean, how long has it been?! Oh and here we go. Sam is finally able to start working on her article. Now we have the privilege of watching a narrated montage that includes some heated arguments between Sam and Luke while they train. At the end of the montage (and her article) she finally makes the jump over that pesky hurdle. At this point, my dad checks back in and says, “oh she’s going back to jumping now?” Welcome back dad. Just to be clear, he is sitting in the same living room but watching a football game on his phone with his headphones on. A million TVs in their house but this is what’s happening.
Anyway, the next day, poor Ashley drops by with some cinnamon rolls from the bakery. Ashley apologizes for the awkwardness from the other night at the bar. But Ashley says it hasn’t worked out because he talks about SAM the whole time. Sam seems to be the only one that doesn’t know that Luke still loves her!! Well, Sam should know now anyway! Sheesh. Then Sam asks Ashley to take some pictures for her article. Because everyone is just super chill with each other all the time now.
Sam’s parents have a heart to heart in the tack room. Preston says he’s really proud of Sam and maybe also Alex. Sam’s mom encourages him to actually tell her that for ONCE IN HIS SORRY LIFE. Why does everyone have to talk about everything? He wonders.
Preston then goes and tells his other daughter Alex how much he appreciates her working for them.
OOOOH I am living for this party spread. My dad, checking again, asks, “What is this party about?” And to be honest, I’m not sure. Is this what horse competitions are like? With snacks and parties? Where have these been my whole life? Ashley is getting lots of great shots of everyone at the party but nothing from the horse competition. Oh and Sam’s boss shows up. My dad thinks I ought to cut the boss’s bangs a little. But, I’m not allowed to cut anyone’s bangs anymore, as per my hair stylist. Luke and Sam see each other and agree they both look much nicer in dressy clothes. Preston and his wife greet the guests and he thanks Alexandra for her hard work. Preston also gives Sam a shout out and says some nice things about her. He is doing his BEST, poor thing.
Wait did the horse competing happen already or was the first day just a party? I do not understand horse competitions. Sam asks Luke if he’s still in love with her straight up! Luke says yes immediately. Luke asks her the same thing and she says, well it was never about love! Luke tells her to stop thinking so much. And they kiss again!! Oh my gosh, what is this rated?
Alright so today is the day of actual horse competition. The announcer is…doing his very best. Sam looks so cute in her riding outfit.
The first contestant kind of prances around the track. I think she messed up on one but the rest were fine. I’d like more of that hip hop horse dancing like we saw in the Olympics. Another competitor’s horse dodges the last hurdle completely and is disqualified. Now it’s Sam’s turn. I thought she went first. She does knock down one hurdle. My dad scolds her. His headphones are off now and he is into the horse competing.
She is pretty frustrated with herself. Sam’s dad comes up to talk to her. She apologizes to him. In a surprise twist, he is kind and encouraging to her instead of berating her for her mistake. He takes her back to the house and wants to show her something. It’s a box with all her articles saved. They have a lovely heart to heart. He tells her not to worry about winning anymore.
Now it’s time for Round 2! Sam is ready to just have fun. Sam takes her turn and she is able to clear all the hurdles because she is riding with her heart, not her head. She learned her lesson! I love when a Hallmark character learns a lesson. Poor Ashley is stuck taking pictures of her (not)boyfriend and his ex-wife. But Amanda LOVES her pictures and wants to talk. Ashley is like, you know I own my own business right? Like I don’t need a job as a photographer. Unless she’s tired of making cinnamon rolls for her crush’s ex wife all the time.
At the after party, poor Alexandra meets Matt’s boyfriend. No wonder he wasn’t asking her out. Suddenly, a man named Scott appears and Alexandra learns her lesson too! She fearlessly asks him to dance.
Sam’s parents tell her how well she did. They tell her they’ve decided not to sell the farm. Sam is relieved. Sam hears that Alex is getting promoted and she tears her away from dancing with Scott. RUDE. Then they offer Luke a job at the farm too! Wait, what would you call this place? Not a farm. A ranch? A horse storage center? Anyway, he agrees if Sam is okay. She IS okay with it.
Then, Sam and Luke dance. The thing she missed most from their marriage if you remember from earlier. Okay wait what is happening? Are they making any plans? Is someone moving somewhere? WE DON’T KNOW.
Back in New York, Sam autographs a copy of the magazine with her article in it for her handsome cab friend. Luke is there with her and they ride in the carriage together. She calls him “Babe.” I don’t have time to get into that one. I guess they’re just going to work out the details about their distance later.
Alright so that was Taking the Reins. I was excited to watch this one because I believe Nikki DeLoach wrote this one. I don’t watch a ton of non-Christmas Hallmarks but I did enjoy this one. There were some unique approaches to the standard Hallmark template. Like, a genuine attempt at working things out between two ex-spouses and everyone learning lessons. But there was still a lot of Hallmark silliness. But, that’s what we’re all here for, right? I don’t think there’s a Nikki DeLoach movie I didn’t like so there’s that too. I’ve heard from some that this is one of the best Hallmark movies to date. Considering I can’t remember a single title of a previous Hallmark movie at this moment, I am dying to hear whether you agree?