So sorry this is a day late. I was taking care of sick kids yesterday.
This is quite the occasion! Once again, we have not one, but TWO groups coming together here today. So a very heartfelt welcome to the Hearties AND the Postables! That’s right, today’s movie review is “Signed Sealed Delivered: To the Altar”, THE best edition of the SSD series YET! We got lucky this time, I almost couldn’t review it. Thank HEAVENS for Jill Morrison, the one visible link between WCTH and SSD. In WCTH, she was Carla, the woman who stayed with Abigail and Elizabeth, then gave birth to twins. She’s also the reason we all got to see Jack hold a baby! In SSD, she is Hazel, an adorable fellow postal worker. But they took her a step further this time. She keeps popping up, filling in plot holes and linking the stories from previous installments of the series to this one. She’s like a trusty sidekick, quietly hanging in the background, but ever present to make the story richer.
Rich it was! To be totally cliché, “I laughed, I cried”…literally. I was laughing hysterically 4 minutes in. My MOTHER cried. My mother does NOT cry in movies; during songs, maybe, but never movies. That’s how incredibly executed this film was, by everyone involved. Eric Mabius (Oliver O’Toole) said in an interview that the script was “impeccable”. I am very inclined to agree! Martha Williamson really outdid herself. I don’t know how she does it! SSD was a TV series first, now this is the 12th movie, (including the pilot and Christmas films,) and EVERY ONE has such an inspirational and UNIQUE storyline. My mind is boggled at Martha’s genius and the cast’s talent to keep their characters’ charm, but still make them grow. I always take notes while watching the shows I plan to review, and I was writing something new every 5 seconds! So many intricacies, jokes, poignant moments, and great dialogue. Even the silent mannerisms, (Norman smelling the paper as a clue to its origin,) and the throw-away lines, (Rita’s offhand comment that the South American tribe Norman’s grandmother lives with is so happy because there’s no Internet,) are brilliant! I think I sprained my wrist!
Even the very first words, a voice over monologue by Oliver, captured my attention with how profound it is! He spoke of how a stamp is the smallest contract there is. When we put a stamp on a letter or package, we are trusting a complete stranger to deliver something valuable to our loved ones. And if that contract is broken, “hearts are broken too”. Did you ever think of a stamp that way, because I certainly didn’t!
I felt for Norman in this movie. He dealt with a lot; too bad we laughed at most of his problems. It all starts at the very beginning with both women squealing his name almost simultaneously. It only escalates from there: all the problems with the wedding, him being told he has to fix some of those said problems, his best man throws him to the wolves with solving the problems by merely suggesting, “Surely you have a cousin…”, that same friend frequently drops the “best man ball” because he is feeling “contemplative” about his own romantic future, then has to have couple’s counseling and dancing lessons with RAMON! (If you’re not familiar with SSD, Ramon is an annoying but elegant Latin character who frequently was putting the moves on Rita.) All this while trying to help Rita work through losing her mother, and being HORRIBLY nervous about the wedding night! And let’s not forget that he received a canoe for a wedding gift when he can’t even swim! The poor man can’t drive, can’t swim, and has never had any…experience! Triple threat!
Although I personally approved of that last one, and that was an excellent moment when Oliver DIDN’T drop the best man ball. Didn’t you LOVE that scene? Norman admits he’s never done anything with anyone by saying he’s never “gone to the movies”, nor has Rita, and he can barely speak for all the nerves. But like the perfect big brother figure, Oliver jumps in with his wise and calm voice telling Norman that he and Rita aren’t GOING to the movies, they “are the movie”. They “are the stars”, and when the time comes, they will know their lines, and “it will be beautiful.” Oh my gosh, that SCENE is just so beautiful! Hats off to Geoff Gustafson
Rita is not to be outdone in the poignancy arena. Her character was so profound! Yeah, she’s still the same quirky and naïve Rita, but Crystal Lowe has such a knack for giving her depth while remaining childlike. When she and Shane deliver the news to Jessica Gordon that her mother has agreed to meet her after a several – year absence, Jessica excuses her reluctance with, “Maybe it’s too late.” Ordinarily, Rita might be too shy to speak up, but not this time! She gives an emphatic, “No!” She declares she “knows what too late feels like”, because she “lost [her] mother this year.” She gently, but firmly reminds Jessica that she can still do things with her mother, ask her questions, and just hug her; all things Rita can’t. Anyone who wasn’t in tears in that scene has a heart of stone!
Well, now we come to Oliver and Shane. I hate to couple them together, but honestly, I don’t know how I would discuss them separately. They’re quite the duo, and play off each other so well, despite the fact that their personalities are so different. Can we start with that wedding dress scene??? Somebody hand me an oxygen mask, because I couldn’t breathe! I love the lead-in: Shane literally kicks off her heels to go chase down an undeliverable box that is supposed to be auctioned off. Oliver catches her, and calls her shelving the item for herself “highly irregular”. He then tries to pull the supervisor card, saying he can’t bend the rules simply because they’re…but he can’t finish. Why? Because Shane slowly leans in, whispers a sweet nothing in his ear, then ACTUALLY bats her eyelashes at him! All the while, Oliver is desperately trying to remain professional, and not smile…and she gets her way.
But I’m glad she did, because that gown was breathtaking. AND MY breath DID get taken when Oliver comes in unseen, then reaches out to help her finish buttoning the dress. HOLY MACROLE! I am amazed again at how writers and actors can get the hearts of their audience POUNDING without being vulgar. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we never thought we’d see Oliver do something so “risqué”, at least for him! But there he is, smooth as silk, even gently shushing her so as not to ruin the moment. And if that weren’t enough, he takes his turn teasing HER. Shane tries to talk her way out of the fact that her boyfriend has just seen her in a wedding dress by saying she thought it would make a nice cocktail dress. He then follows suit by suggesting a shawl or a tablecloth, all the while flashing a knowing smile to her in the mirror as he finishes the long line of buttons. BE STILL, MY HEART!
Oh there’s so much more I can say about this movie! It might take me 3 weeks! I could embellish upon how much I love Gregory Harrison as Oliver’s dad, the way those two played off each other so well when telling the green tie proposal story, or how natural he was when laughing under his breath at his son’s stoic interpretation of a bachelor party. But I think I better end with THE end. There were 3 major happenings in this end alone: the wedding ceremony, the marriage proposal, and the good wishes speech. I admit, I was worried when I saw that Ramon was officiating, because I thought it would be too goofy. But he delivers the perfect blend of humor and reverence. Norman gets all excited to have a ring on his finger; Rita joyfully spots an owl (her obsession!) right after they kiss, as though her mother is blessing the marriage; Shane sees Oliver wearing an ugly green tie, so she knows he’s going to propose; and Oliver’s face shines with quiet triumph that Shane has figured it out.
Let’s chat about that proposal, shall we? He didn’t get to propose with a green tie (an O’Toole family tradition) to his first wife, so you know this is almost sacred for him. He takes her hands so deliberately, then delivers the same speech his multi-great grandfather delivered to his bride-to-be. Among other things, he says, “Don’t look at my tie, look at my eyes,” and “I promise never to wear this tie again.” What woman could resist? But my favorite was, “I’ll love you forever.” Of course she says yes! As he slides the ring on her finger, Oliver tells Shane it belonged to his grandmother, the finest woman he ever knew… “until you”. Shane tries to be calm while controlling her tears, and plays coy by fiddling with the tie. Suddenly, she yanks him forward, and those two share a kiss I can only describe as “unearthly”.
Then it’s just a quiet moment with only the 4 Postables. I think an incredibly touching moment that might be overlooked is Rita asking to see the ring again. She just got MARRIED, for crying out loud! But she’s so unselfish that she shares the joy with her closest friends, and is giddy over THEIR news. Then Oliver delivers the FINEST ending monologue I think I’ve ever heard; no offense, Shakespeare! He calls Shane “MY Shane, my love”. He says he realizes how very lost he was, and through “friendship and faith”, they delivered him. Get it? He ends with the quote on their awards they won in the TV series: “ ‘Through rain, and snow, and dark of night,’ here we are, and I LOVE US!” (That’s very special because it’s what Shane said in passing, when Oliver spontaneously decided to say “I love you” for the first time.