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‘Loving Leah’ is a funny Hallmark charmer

Published: Thu, January 22, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Frazier Moore

It’s an unusual way to start dating: after you’re married.

“Loving Leah” is a tender, funny love story about an after-the-fact romance kindled between the young Brooklyn widow of an Orthodox rabbi and the rabbi’s brother, who learns he’s obliged to wed her. Huh?

Best known to viewers as the rebel daughter from “Six Feet Under,” Lauren Ambrose transforms herself for the role of Leah, who, after her husband’s sudden death, wants to break from her sheltered past by enrolling in college and finding a career. But under an ancient Jewish law, her brother-in-law, who’s a nonpracticing Jew, is expected to marry the childless Leah to carry on her late husband’s name.

“You’re kidding, right?” says Jake (Adam Kaufman), a handsome Washington cardiologist who already has a girlfriend, when informed of his unexpected duty.

The solution he and Leah settle on: Get married, remain secretly platonic, and live their separate lives.

Of course, these opposites attract, especially while residing under the same roof in Jake’s cramped Georgetown apartment.

Ambrose and Kaufman (“Without a Trace”) are joined in this charming “Hallmark Hall of Fame” by Susie Essman, Mercedes Ruehl, Natasha Lyonne and Ricki Lake. It airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS.

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