A Message from Holly Review
Kate Barnes (Shelley Long) and Holly Caulfield (Lindsay Wagner) have been best friends since College, but they couldn't be more different. Kate is a high-flying New York executive with no time, she admits, for a personal life. Free-spirited Holly lives in the country with her six-year-old daughter Jenny. Then Holly drops a bombshell: she has terminal cancer and six months to live. And what's more, she wants Kate to adopt Jenny as her own daughter...
A Message from Holly is a competent but undistinguished TV movie. The two leads give perfectly decent performances and enough sharp lines in Dalene Young's script to keep mawkishness at bay, but...eventually their efforts are defeated, as the plot moves in an entirely predictable direction. Lindsay Wagner seems to have studied at the Susan Sarandon (cf. Stepmom) School of Terminal Illness: you may have only months to live but you still look fabulous. There's no pain, no ugly reality allowed to intrude. The film points up the contrast between the two women's lifestyles: Wagner dressed in long flowing pastel-coloured dresses and skirts, her hair loose. By contrast, Long is powerdressed to the hilt in hard colours, her hair rather severely gathered up. As the film goes on, her dress-sense softens and she lets her hair down, quite literally. Stewart Levin's score is purely generic in the way it tugs at the heartstrings: strings and tinkly piano, which gets louder and acquires a double bass as the film approaches the end. Okay, all films manipulate the audience, but it's quite possible to move your audience without resorting to such obvious button-pushing. Having said that, I'm sure quite a few will be sobbing happily by the end.
Odyssey's DVD is full-frame. As A Message from Holly was made for TV, 4:3 is the correct ratio. There's little in the way of artefacting, but the picture is soft and unattractively contrasty in places.
The soundtrack is a rather plain Dolby Surround mix. The surrounds are used to fill in the music score, and there is a little use of left and right directional sound. As this film relies heavily on dialogue, it's more important that this can be clearly heard, and it can. The subwoofer picks up some redirected bass from the music towards the end.
Extras are minimal. "Film Background" is basically three text pages of blurb, and tells us very little that isn't on the back of the DVD packaging. There are biographies of the three leads and a list of principal credits that you could easily get from the film itself. There are four trailers. One is for A Message from Holly itself, and three others in Odyssey's True Stories range: Shattered Trust, Telling Secrets and A Place for Annie.
TV movies, like anything else, range from tripe via mediocre to the occasional gem. They often provide a home for actresses, in particular, who have reached the age – usually forty-plus – when decent big-screen roles begin to dry up. A Message from Holly isn't terrible, just very average. It's one of a range of TV movies that Odyssey are retailing at the budget price of £7.99. As such, they make decent impulse buys, and would be worth investigating for fans of their stars.