I've known many middle-school children and have been one myself. I've never, however, met one who might think that when she kissed a frog, it turned into a handsome prince (just because she happened to drop the frog near where a mugged prince was lying).
That happens in Saturday's "Smooch," which has approximately the silliest plot ever. Still, I was sort of charmed by the film, partly because I like Kellie Martin and silliness and, maybe, smooches.
Here's a story I sent to papers. As I mentioned in the previous blog, the weather has made this a tricky week for newspaper readers, so I'm also putting some of my stories here:
By MIKE HUGHES
Television requires a steady supply of
little girls who are capable of deep tragedy.
It currently has Kiernan Shipka, whose
“Mad Men” character (Sally Draper) is rocked by naughty adults.
“I'm not allowed to watch the show,” she said. “I just focus
more on the Sally parts.”
A generation earlier, TV had Kellie
Martin, whose “Life Goes On” character sometimes faced rough
stretches. “I had to cry almost every day,” she said.
Now they're together in –
surprisingly – a quirky comedy.
That's “Smooch,” part of the
Valentine's Day rush on the Hallmark Channel. Shipka, 11, plays a
girl who believes that when she kissed a frog, it turned into a
handsome prince (Simon Kassianides); it's a simple mistake, but the
prince happens to be amnesiac and she sets him up with her mom.
Martin, 35, plays the mom, a pleasant
duty. “I have the greatest job in the world,” she said. “I'm
married for 11 years, but I get to go kiss this guy for two full
This isn't the life she might have
expected. “I'm an old soul …. I wasn't a happy-go-lucky kid.”
It wasn't sadness, Martin said, just
seriousness. “I liked reading Edith Wharton at 13.”
That's how old she was when she
auditioned for “Life Goes On,” wearing bright red glasses. “I
think those glasses got me the part,” she said.
Becca Thatcher, her character,
continued to wear glasses (Martin eventually got contacts and then
surgery), becoming the prototype of a smart, caring kid. That peaked
when she fell for Jessie (Chad Lowe), who was HIV-positive. In the
final season, Lowe won an Emmy and Martin was nominated.
Childhood is a pleasant time to be an
actress, Martin insists. “At that age, it was just fun and the
world was your oyster and you just had a great time on the set.”
Then it was on to Yale, where she met
her husband, Keith Christian. “The second I saw him, it was like
crazy chemistry,” she said.
She liked him even more when she
mentioned acting and he said he'd never seen her.
“I went, 'Really? Really? You've
never seen any of my shows? Okay.'
“And he went, 'No, we didn't have the
ABC channel.' He's from Montana.”
Her Yale education kept being suspended
for jobs. Once, her mother booked Martin for a full movie –
three-plus weeks of work – wedged around a two-week school break;
at other times, Martin delayed her education. “You can't say no to
'ER,'” she said.
TV-movie roles seemed worth the
trouble, especially “Hidden in Silence,” a true story. “That
was such a great part; I played a girl who saved 13 Jews.”
Martin finally graduated (in art
history) in 2001. She her husband, who has a law degree, live with
their daughter in California and on his family land in Montana.
“Smooch” lured her away, with a
chance for comedy, romance and a sharp co-star. “Can you see how
difficult it was,” director Ron Oliver said, “when the smartest
person in the room is 11?”
That's Shipka, on a break from any “Mad
Men” angst. “I enjoyed being such a different character (who) has
a very cheery personality,” she said.
Other 11-year-olds may obsess on Justin
Bieber. “I do like him,” Shipka said, “but I don't think I'm
crazy over him. I'm more of a 'Twilight' person.” At least, she
didn't say Edith Wharton.
– “Smooch,” 9 p.m. Saturday;
repeats at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., then 6 p.m. Sunday, 9 p.m. Feb. 11
– Hallmark Channel has a romantic
comedy at 9 p.m. daily, through Valentine's Day
– The other new films are “A
Valentine's Date” (debuting Feb. 4) and “Accidentally in Love”