Relatives and Hallmark
2019-12-29, 9:54 a.m.
recently on Chaos Attraction
Note: this covers the events of 12/28/19.
Today we went up to Folsom to hang out with my relatives from that side, which went well and everyone got along, huzzah. Mom was all “well, who wouldn’t get along with Roger?” True, but Roger would actually go back to talk to these folks again. It kind of gives me hope for ...whatever. Then we went over to my aunt’s for around an hour to meet their new adorable shaggy rescue dog Maddie, and her cute Christmas squirrel sweater. She was very sweet and fluffy. The baby cousins loved the gifts (except for the construction set where the battery refused to work), but they really loved the giant bags Mom brought them in, climbed inside them, kicked them around, etc. I said they were basically cats for that.
Then we came back here because Mom has been invited to a surprise birthday party for her (rather annoying, to be honest) friend Jan. Tom ain’t going, his wife doesn’t want to go, Roger doesn’t want to be around Jan or her husband ever again, I’m not invited but wouldn’t want to go either, so here I am home watching recorded Hallmark shows because even though I’ve seen like five of the new movies in full this season (I’d have more reviews, but Mom yakking on speakerphone to relatives ruined my ability to finish some of the movies), all of the ones I’ve seen are the ones on tonight.
Mom just called. She said, deadpan, ‘I’m so excited to be going to this party.” I said “Well, at least you get a good meal out of it,” and then she said that Tom saw a bunch of chickens in the dumpster behind the restaurant with flies all over them.
I am still trying to figure out (a) if I should bother getting Christmas gifts weeks late and (b) if so, what, and also, guess what, they have winter birthdays coming too!I actually have some ideas craftwise but can’t execute them without making a run home for supplies (or buying stuff I don’t need to buy twice) and I couldn’t talk Mom/Roger into making a detour by my house. Sigh. So instead I am finishing baby Yodas. It just occurred to me that last year I also spent Christmas break making Star Wars toys, and the year before that, I started making the Carrie Fisher Memorial Sweater. There’s a theme here. Whatever shall I do next year with no movie?
And now, more Hallmark reviews.
Lacey Chabert is Angela, a tour guide in Rome who gets Christmas fired on the first day for (a) taking a kid with a gluten allergy to a bakery (b) asking the baker if the food was gluten free, (c) actually believing the guy when he said it was. Since I am now hanging out with several dudes with food allergies these days, I can’t help but think various things on this topic, such as “Does an Italian baker have any idea what that means? I would bet no and I would not trust his answer.” Anyway, between that and some sword stealing incident and the time she lost a drunk rugby player or something that wouldn’t listen to her...she’s fired. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to think she’s incompetent, or unlucky, or just has idiots that she gives tours to. That last one may be the factor here, actually.
Angela meet cutes with Oliver, a cocky businessman in town to land a deal with a ceramics company. Angela advises him that doing business in Rome is different (like, you have to chat first! and bake!), and soon finagles this into a job in which she advises him and he advises her on starting her own business, which he talks up to everyone they encounter, including her old boss when he starts having regrets.
Angela also, no joke, plants a GPS button on Oliver so she doesn’t lose him, a tour guide’s worst nightmare. This will be convenient later on for the inevitable airport chase scene on Vespas.
Angela and Oliver get interested in each other, but oh, the horrors of an LDR! (Though she randomly gets offered a job in Seattle at one point.) Also, she shouldn’t date clients, it’s against the rules....of a business she is theoretically running and making up rules of. Mmkay. But Oliver threw three coins in the fountain, which means true love! I guess he’ll just run a ceramics company then!
Suggested names for Angela’s business:
It was okay. Scenery is nice. Oliver is a bit much. Angela is okay. I don’t feel strongly here. Lacey Chabert is always a “meh” for me and the guy is a bit much.
Ooh, Hot Mountie is in this! I like Hot Mountie. I have vaguely considered watching When Calls The Heart (which otherwise seemed dull) for Hot Mountie, but never did. Ironically, last year I watched an episode and it turned out to be after they killed him off, but before Lori Loughlin was erased from the face of Hallmark Earth. Still dullish.
Anyway: Layla got engaged to Jack, some dude named Seth introduced Jack to Layla’s cousin Jessica, and now Jessica and Jack are engaged. For obvious reasons, Layla should not be invited to this wedding or be expected to go, but her aunt is forcing her. This seems like straight up cruelty to me and I don’t like her family so much. Layla wants a date, but after her neighbor Cooper gets sick, she’s forced to go with Seth, who she feels a bit resentful to.
I actually expected the wedding drama to drag on farther with this, but no, J&J get married about fifteen minutes in, and Seth gets the bright fucking idea (given the pity looks that Layla is getting, I guess) to announce their engagement. WTF. However, when some guy Layla wants to hire her to stage houses that knows Seth takes an interest, they stay engaged (and agree to have Layla deck Seth’s empty halls for some house tour) for weeks so she can land that job. Meanwhile, while her brother and his dad have reservations, everyone else they know is all, WHEN’S THE WEDDING? and LAYLA ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A DECEMBER BRIDE, DONCHAKNOW. Aunt Whozums is insistent on getting the cousins back together and forcing them to work on a toy drive, and J&J continue to apologize to Layla a lot. Layla also gets Christmas Fired when her boss finds out that Layla has been booked to work on a house, even if it’s her (fake) fiance’s house.
Seth and Layla deck his halls, talk about how everything Christmas is awesome (literally, don’t be specific, just say it’s all awesome) and how his dad was too into business to be into it. Meanwhile, everyone goes, “When’s the date?” Oddly, it takes over an hour for “where’s the ring?” to come out of someone’s mouth. Uh, it’s being resized....a lot. We find out that Seth wanted to ask her out years ago, but Jack got there first. Eventually Layla realizes she and Jack were drifting apart, or whatever. Layla nails the job, she wants to fake break up, they get surprise partied, Seth decides to propose for real instead, and next thing you know, DECEMBER BRIDE! even though we have no idea which December, or when the hell they had time to plan anything after all the house staging going on.
I watched The Perfect Date on Netflix recentlyish (I read the book it was based on, plus well, Noah Centineo) and yeah, I felt like I was watching the scene from that movie again with the fake breakup discussion.
I dunno here. These are attractive Hallmark leads, but Seth feels kind of off with this impulsive fake engagement thing and it’s hard to recover from even if you’re Hot Mountie, and while the actress playing Layla is certainly lovely, she needs to be a bit livelier or something. The whole thing feels slightly off somehow.
When it comes to fictional romances, generally speaking there are two sorts:
Most romance novels, romance movies, etc. are slow burn ones, because that gives a romance plot, people like to watch a cute couple hang out and slowly bond together, etc. If you’re doing an instalove (note: something that I see complained about on review sites), you’re probably doing that for kicking off plots of another sort, like Romeo and Juliet (may be about love, but it’s also about fighting and feuding) or Steal The Stars, in which instalove happens to people in a situation where they absolutely positively are not permitted to love anyone and then resort to doing things they would never do otherwise because of that. (It’s a great plot...until the end, which I did not like so much, sigh, and thus I can't recommend it to all.)
Hallmark, for obvious reasons, does slow burn romances. Well, not Holly Lodge! This one has love at first sight right from the get-go, which is unusual. I guess because they are kinda going for the conflict angle, as Evan is supposed to investigate Sophie’s business for financial viability or whatever. There is plenty of hangout time doing Christmas stuff, mind you, because that’s the bread and butter here, but the insta-eyeballing is going on and I have to say, it’s working to give them some vibe. I would not say that they are like, my favorite Hallmark couple ever, but they at least give off something.
“No snow, no customers,” Sophie points out to Bank Guy why she’s been having issues (she’s six months behind on the mortgage yet does not want to sell). Except there’s snow today and things are going great, so...let’s see? But some other employee takes a screencap of what’s on Evan’s laptop, so they find out early on what he’s doing. He’ll be sorry he ever HEARD of Holly Lodge! Now Sophie is Too Busy to hang out with him, ahem. Also, let’s get him like, tired and miserable.
There is a side plot about a military wife and her sulky child and the widow woman who bonds with the kid. I care not. Did they just make up some “-----blankistan” name that her dad is in?
Sophie makes Evan’s shower freezing, ruining his Christmas shower singing. She needs to stall, not “run him out of town,” she says. Sophie gets up in the middle of the night to bang on pipes above his head to wake him up. “Hand over the wrench and step away from the vehicle,” her friend says, sending her to bed. Later the friend suggests that Sophie cozy up to Evan instead, all friendly- like.
The Christmas Miracle is brought up again. Speaking of, Evan rides a sleigh up to her door. She’s only riding in it to gather intel! Of course! Um....no, Evan really has no idea how to drive a sleigh. However, he “coincidentally” found her favorite mountain spot to bring her to. IT’S FATE, Y’ALL. Evan tries to leave a place better than he found it. Does that always work? He’s not sure.
“I think Evan is into my assets.” Would it be so bad if he was into you AND your assets? Um, yes? Sophie wants to snoop on his laptop, let’s not even get into the ethics of THAT one. Also, he’s just letting it sit around without even the passcode on? Sophie concludes, “He knows EVERYTHING, how does he find out?” I hear ya, girlfriend, except in this case I don’t think dude has psychic powers, just probably has access to bank records or some shit. Like if you’re a finance guy, I’m sure they can do research? Not that I pay attention, mind you.
Oh wait, here’s the inevitable scene where Sophie is trapped in his room when he comes in, so she can overhear a phone call from his weird boss. Evan notes that there’s an ordinance preventing new construction and could you just please read my whole report, but idiot boss refuses to. Sophie somehow ends up on the roof, with everybody noticing this. Y’know, she’s like, fixing stuff. “Then why aren’t the lights on?” says one bright bulb child. Sophie turns the lights on. These movies are SO lulzy. Why hasn’t anyone MST3K’d Hallmark?
A kid wants to find an Abominable Snowman. Someone let me know when they make that movie. I will watch it.
Evan wants to see ALL the Holly Lodge financials. He gives the clerk lady some eyebrows (the actor has some very bold ones). He wants to find the “needle in the haystack that will save her from her worst nightmare.” What’s that? “Me.” He says this to Art the clerk, who is hella lost.
“I felt it too, from across the room,” the widow lady comments on the vibe she got when Evan and Sophie first saw each other. Well, yeah, but it ain’t that easy, so let’s go eat some cookie dough.
“What have YOU been up to?” Sophie asks Evan. He presents her with a box. “If it’s your Secret Santa, you’re supposed to wait,” she says. Oh, wait, it’s not like, documents that could help her, it’s his collection of foreign ornaments. I was not expecting that.
As they dance around, he asks if this place is her dream. It’s better than a dream, because it’s real. Also, “why are you trying to convince me to leave my home?” “Because I’m tired of being alone.” They almost kiss and then she runs for it.
Sophie talks to Bank Guy and she can get him enough money to get out of arrears by the 26th. “We’re still open today!” Bank Guy says. Sophie asks her guy friend whose name I have no clue on to distract Evan for a few hours. “You have to change, into ski related clothing,” she says, AWKWARDLY. Then as Evan wants to confess something, she wants to bail, then the ski lift goes off... then her friend stops their lift. Why yes, she IS avoiding you, duh. Evan wants to come clean, she says she knows why he’s here. She thinks he’s been working her, he’s all, did you read what was on my computer, she says HE’s the sneaky one.... and then jumps off the ski lift, as her friend reactivates it.
“No, no, no, I am not gonna pull a George Bailey on everyone,” Sophie says, and even if she did it wouldn’t be enough. Let’s just have a great (last) Christmas instead, mmkay?
It’s time for a very badly done “Jingle Bells” uh....ballet....dance? We’re told that Evan didn’t come home last night, though “I let him out of the chair lift, I swear,” says guy friend. The kids all get awards for something or other. Wait, did they just say they gave out a monster truck award? I guess so since someone got a road rally award. Whatever this is, I have no idea .
Oh look, it’s Santa! Gee, I wonder who’s portraying him? I could never guess. I wouldn’t recognize that guy’s distinctive eyebrows under all the fur. Sophie wants to kick Evan out so he won’t ruin their last Christmas.
Military Dad has been able to Skype in, finally. “You made the Christmas miracle this year,” Sophie says to the widow. “Yes, I did.” Guy Friend is asking Brunette White Friend on a date. Okay then. I still don’t know their names, but whatever.
Evan has a gift for Sophie and it’s....old certificates? I have no idea what he’s talking about (life insurance wrapper....what?), but whatever this is, presumably her mortgage should have been paid off after her parents died and the bank has to refund her ass. “And you’re going to have a nice little nest egg to take care of the banging pipes and whatnot....” Sophie is relieved and impressed. He’ll find another job. “They don’t exactly grow on trees, y’know,” she says, but he cares not. He wants to come back for Christmas and maybe she can travel with him offseason? “You’re going for the miracle trifecta here,” she says, and they make out a lot more than you normally see in Hallmark, so good for them. Everyone else stops to stare and then the widow starts singing “Joy To The World.”
Okay, you know what? For all my snark, this oddly enough ended up being pretty good. Go figure. I wasn’t expecting that. I like the love at first sight leads to “he’s stealing my business!” dramaz, there’s snark, there’s actual hormones going on for a change. I coulda done without the side plots, but overall, not bad.
Double Holiday: The other partly Jewish Hallmark movie! Yesssssssss!
Oooh, someone just quit and there’s a senior executive position open! That’s the hot goss today! You don’t want to be reporting to Chris, do you? Also, happy Hanukkah! Chris, for the record, is the love interest that Rebecca the Jew feuds with at work. Of course he’s named Chris.
Rebecca has been assigned to the holiday party. This was not what she was going for, but that’s what the departed Vanessa did, so it’s on you, babe. And you too, Chris. Chris also objects. Chris also gets nowhere. Boss also doesn’t know Rebecca’s name.“Who better than to give their all than the Jewish girl who can give fresh eyes on Christmas?” Rebecca says. Chris is all, “I seriously have the boss’s house keys, let’s go snooping.” Whaaaaat? The house clearly needs a professional stager, I’m sure we can borrow one out of another movie. Rebecca gripes that the departed Vanessa had to have known she was leaving for weeks, so where’s the plan, if any?
Chris admits he doesn’t know much about Hanukkah. Rebecca explains the concept of it by telling him to imagine not charging a cell phone for 8 days and it still works. I seriously LOL at that so much, it’s both terrible and a delight. She also says her family is REALLY competitive about dreidel.
Chris drops by Rebecca’s house and both interrupts and critiques her baking. “It’s kind of amazing” that she knows nothing about Christmas. Once again, I’d like to refer to “Holiday Date” and that I’m sure that everyone who’s not an Orthodox Jew has picked up a ton of Christmas crap via pop cultural osmosis. He also is all, step aside, Rebecca, I’m a chef here.
More Hanukkah explanation about the oil. “No one loses weight over Hanukkah, and I haven’t even explained the gelt.” Chris makes a crack about an ex-girlfriend and guilt. I would also like to say regarding pop cultural osmosis that even as a non-Jew who is slightly more interested in Judaism than your average bear, I have heard almost all of the stuff mentioned in these two movies about Hanukkah, I just can’t spell the jelly donut dish from Holiday Date and god knows I couldn’t say the prayers (I didn’t have to learn them, see below, so I did not). That’s about it.
Rebecca’s sister drops in and is all, that’s Chris from work? You never mentioned he was cute! No, he’s not. “Awful Chris?” someone else yells. The entire family drops in and suddenly Chris knows how to make latkes, I guess....? He’s staying, and he slaved away all day! Rebecca is all, don’t disclose anything you learn about me here and Chris is all, OOOOH SECRETS and Rebecca is all “everyone puts on two suits in life, don’t reveal my home one.” Chris is now invited to all damn 8 nights and the dreidel tournament. He can’t wait!
We know Chris is a good guy because he plays basketball with children. He goes on to his friend about getting ahead at work or whatever. Y’know, priorities. Rebecca is annoyed at having to wait on his ass. Hey, Rebecca: you are not up for promotion if the boss LITERALLY DOESN’T KNOW YOUR NAME, and calls Chris instead of you. I say this as a veteran of ten auditions this year. They can’t recall who you are? They don’t want you. Also, we find out later that she only moved to Jane’s team in January. Seriously, girl, you ain’t getting that promotion.
Chris has already canceled on something so he can attend the Hoffman Dreidel-A -hon, or whatever it was called that amused me but I forgot what it was already. Her dad told him that she wins every year. “I don’t lose. At life or in work,” she says. Eeeek.
Rebecca is forced to ask Chris how to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. He really enjoys that. (As it turns out, he worked at a Christmas tree farm.) The amount of smarm going on here is pretty bad. Now, I like the actor playing Chris in other films and he is dealing with playing a charming sorta jerk fairly well, but there’s a fine line you’d have to walk in this show and he’s slightly over it in most of his scenes. Rebecca can’t figure out why Chris wants a promotion when he seems like a natural coaster, and he’s all “so I can build youth centers” and she’s all “I love watching an open space become a building.”
Cut to night 2 of Hanukkah. “By night 8, I’ll be off book,” says Chris. The Hoffman family has some kind of charity/volunteering thing going on instead of gifts most nights. This gives Chris an opportunity to pimp his own group with the basketballs. Sure, let’s go with it, says dad.
Chris won at dreidel and really likes her family. He always wanted a big loud one with “crazy” traditions. Our traditions aren’t crazy, they’re unique, she says. (This remark seems like it could be culturally awkward. Also, seriously, none of that is insane. I could think of so many other weird things that would count.) “When I have a family, they’re going to be on the crazy side,” says Chris. Rebecca isn’t shocked at this.
Chris says she’s different with her family and Rebecca notes that she has to act like a boss at work. He likes that one better than Office Rebecca. Boss Jane calls, Chris puts her on speakerphone and she doesn’t think the decorations are personal enough. They BS about “phase 2” to shut her up, but they already spent the entire decorating budget.
Rebecca has a crush on “Fancy Suit Guy” she sees in the elevator, and finally makes a move. His name is Spencer. Chris horns in on this, like he does EVERYTHING. However, he will bail on her nephew’s holiday show, which she is FINE with. But he’s going to mansplain who she is to her face, for fuck’s sake. “When you want something, you really want something, you clam up and pretend to be something you’re not.” Like with Spencer and Jane. Rebecca’s just trying to get to an extraordinary life, but her last company went under. “I’m so ready for my turn that when the stakes get high, I lose myself a little bit.” My heart’s breaking for her a bit here. He’s all, if they could see what you’re like with your family... That gives Rebecca some inspiration on the decor.
Cut to the very obviously Christmas show the nephew is in. “What are they going to do with the set when it’s over?” Rebecca asks. “Break it down and use it for parts?” Yeah, that’s what we did with my play.
Chris actually talks Rebecca up instead of taking all the credit. GOOD JOB, SIR. Rebecca talks up Chris’s charity, which in all honesty makes me zone out and I start thinking about the timing. This movie takes place in 2019, right? The first night was on the 22nd, then they had the 23rd, then I guess the nephew’s show was on the 24th...so they’re having a business meeting on the 25th?
Spencer asks Rebecca out on a coffee date. Huzzah! She has six minutes but let’s cram it in! “I’m a lawyer, I can talk fast,” he says. Cut to Spencer’s schooling and out of state living. She never lived out of town ever. He hasn’t seen his nephew since he was born and it’s been 8 years. THE HORROR! Rebecca obviously thinks but attempts to be tactful about, then she runs out of time to talk about herself. Why don’t you give me your number, says Spencer. She’d like that. Chris nosily asks about the date and wants a ranking (he says 2, then 8 “with option for upgrade”).
Oh, remember the Christmas set? REBECCA HAS BORROWED IT. She’s bailing on the family tonight, and Chris has hired a decorator.
“One thing for sure, one of us is going to get that promotion.” “I think so too.” God, this makes me wish a third candidate would get it.
The Hoffmans show up at the center. Chris finds his little basketball buddy and hauls him over his shoulder. That’s classy. “I’m a mentor, I didn’t tell you that?” No you didn’t, you showoff. Everyone skates around. It’s Chris’s secret life! Hmmmmm. He used to be mentored and his will be in his wedding someday.
The Dorothy Jensen Center (the basketball join) was founded by a lady who invented a super mop, apparently. So this is ripping off the Joy movie, then? Just wondering. Both of them go suck up to the lady’s son who just showed up with a microphone.
Wait, their boss’s full name is JANE BENNET?!?! There are no Austen references in this otherwise?
Chris has suggestions for the centers, like tiny basketball hoops for the littles and nobody wants to play tennis so why not turn it into roller hockey.... “You’re already in the running. You don’t need to sell me so hard,” Mel the son says to both of them. Ouch. “I just told a man that his late mother’s passion project needs improvement,” Chris notes. They both think they should keep their mouths shut from now on. Jane hears from Mel the son, raving about them both. Jane kisses their asses for that one, more or less. “And that is how you land an account,” says everyone.
Rebecca’s going home to make 300 cookies. Of course the master baker says he’ll help. Is Spencer going to be your date? Because I’m bringing a date, Chris says. (Fifty bucks sez it’s his kid mentee. Fifty bucks sez he’s deliberately making this unclear to make Rebecca jealous.) Rebecca is making dinosaur cookies, which Chris bitches about. “Kids love dinosaurs.” “Not at Christmastime.” DUDE, LEMME TELL YA HOW MANY CHRISTMAS DINOSAURS I SAW THIS YEAR. SEVERAL SWEATERS AND SOME GIFT WRAP. I am too lazy to upload the photos, but I swear I have evidence. I think Rebecca’s right on this one, so fuck you, Chris.
Coffee date #2 with Rebecca and Spencer. They both work the holidays and eat Chinese. But holidays aren’t a priority to him until maybe after he makes partner.
How does Chris know the prayers after a few nights? Again, the play I was in that covers Christmas and Hanukkah? Our Jewish characters rehearsed that shit OVER AND OVER AGAIN. (And two weeks later when she had to say them again at the party, one of the actresses was all, “I’m not even sure I remember this.”) More than six nights, which appears to be what we’re on here. I can only concur at this point that this show is in an alternate universe where Hanukkah has started a lot earlier because otherwise we’d be done with Christmas and Christmas party planning.
Wait, Chris is meeting with Mel Jensen at the center RIGHT NOW without me?! Need I say more? Spencer wants to dance with Rebecca at the party later, but I don’t think she’s thinking about this so much right now. Rebecca hauls ass to the center (where Chris is crafting) and is all, I thought we were a team? Chris is all, I just said the same stuff I already did before. The movie seems to argue that Chris is more into mentoring kids than the job, but Rebecca starts being all “no, you’d be a great leader” and I’m all, I dunno, man, I mean, I know he’s a charming white male and that’s all anyone ever wants or needs in A Leader, but also he just doesn’t seem that into it? However, he can schmooze like fuck every time Jane speaks, so...
Rebecca’s friend and sister both keep talking up Chris and say she’s glowing. She says she’s sweaty. “I don’t want him to lose so I can win, is that weird?”
It’s Rebecca in a hot dress! It’s Chris! It’s Spencer! It’s Jane running up in a panic because Mel showed up with four kids and “I don’t know what to do with grandchildren.” “I do!” Rebecca says. She hauls them off to decorate cookies. Look, much as I hate to note gender stereotyping going on here, it’s nice that Jane’s finally noticed that Rebecca exists.
Chris starts giving a speech mentioning “the other holiday” and has his mentee break out a menorah. Now it’s the eighth night, and will the Hoffmans come up here? Mel wants both of them to handle his account, but she still hasn’t decided on VP, wanted to see who rises to the top, but so far it’s both of them....Mel has an idea.
Spencer deduces that Rebecca’s interest lies elsewhere, he shall wander off.
In the last scene, they play dreidel again. They make out. The end. The screen wishes you a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.
I feel like the actor in this one has similar issues to Hot Mountie in December Bride: actor is great, part is written kinda divey. Chris is a mansplaining kinda douche who horns in on a girl’s holiday and makes latkes better than her, plays dreidel better than her, can say the complicated prayers within several nights and we don’t even see him rehearse that in his spare time, he does everything Jewish better than her when she’s been doing it her whole life.... and I’m like, not even competitive as a person and I am finding this irritating. DON’T HORN IN ON MY TURF, DUDE. I think the “everyone’s embracing” aspect of Holiday Date was better on this than making it a creepy competition.
On the other hand, there’s less weirdness about acting/faking Christian in this one, I think the Hanukkah aspects get more play, I like that we’re hanging with a Jewish family and clearly Chris just wants to be adopted by somebody and as someone still looking for a holiday adoption myself (though this year went better), I have to feel for him on that.
In some respects, it’s better on the Judaism, and in other ones, I’m all BACK OFF, DUDE, YOU’RE BEING TOO MUCH, a lot, watching this.