Apparently, going 18 years without once having seen any of Hallmark’s critically acclaimed Christmas films is sacrilegious to White culture. Not that anyone ever explicitly told me that, it just seemed like that was the case. Gasps of horror, drops of jaws and wrinkled brows were all common reactions to my confession of being a Hallmark movie virgin, and eventually I had enough. I needed to see what I was missing, to learn what truly lies behind the dead gazes of the pasty protagonists fixed upon those recycled movie posters.
I’m not going to lie, the prior research process required an amount of conscientiousness I rarely come across. Googling “hallmark movies” caused my analytical skills to be heavily tested, as I could’ve sworn the first five promotional posters that were listed had the same characters on them. After some fervent scrolling, I managed to narrow my choices down to three options: “A December Bride” (it gave me “The Proposal” vibes), “Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses” (probably the most intriguing title I’ve read) and “Cranberry Christmas” (I just really like cranberries). One random number generator later, I decided on option two.
“Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses” tells the story of Abbey (Jill Wagner), a single mom whose initial dream of being an interior designer became stifled after the birth of her son. This fact was brought up a minute into the movie, when she helps fellow nursing home employee Caroline Sinclair (Donna Mills) decorate the lobby of the building. Caroline tells Abbey she’s wasting her talent, which I couldn’t help but laugh at. You wrap one ribbon around a tree and suddenly you’re Joanna Gaines.
As horribly put together as that opening scene was, it was definitely a straightforward way of delving further into the plot. No Hallmark Christmas movie is complete without a love interest, who — when I saw him in the promo pictures — I thought looked eerily similar to Alaric from “The Vampire Diaries.” Watching the movie, I soon realized it actually is Alaric (Matthew Davis) who plays our male protagonist, Nick Sinclair. I was surprised, considering the amount of range one would need in order to go from being a vampire in one of the most popular supernatural teen dramas to a businessman in a Hallmark production.
Once Caroline informs Abbey about the upcoming gala at their family estate, her son Nick, hires Abbey as event decorator. The movie continues with the light-hearted interactions between brooding workaholic Nick and Christmas aficionado Abbey, whose holiday spirit is enough to dissipate Nick’s Grinch-like tendencies. Things go well between the two, up until an outing together causes Nick to lose a business deal. Their developing relationship takes a hard hit when Nick decides to abandon his chance at romance to focus on work, instead of approaching the problem with a normal solution like a time management class.
Since I don’t want to spoil the rest of the film’s passion-inducing plot, I’ll just mention some thoughts on my first time indulging in Hallmark cinema.
It was about what I expected, with just the right amount of cheesiness, festiveness and artificial niceness. I honestly don’t know what I’d give to be Abbey in the Hallmark universe, where I’d have a healthy relationship with my dad, a happy experience raising my son all on my own and my most pressing problem being whether to engage in a relationship with the extremely rich man whose mansion I’m decorating.
While the first world nature of the movie’s main situation is laughable, its ridiculousness is the only trait that makes it bearable in the first place. I’m sure there are some people who can look past its unrealistic qualities and embrace the film as a guilty pleasure, whereas others likely enjoy it for the sake of making fun of it. In this case, I guess I’m part of the latter.
Aside from its laughability, “Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses” lives up to its Hallmark potential, and I couldn’t imagine any other movie I would want to lose my Hallmark virginity to. Was it a cinematic masterpiece? Absolutely not. If anything, it’s probably the furthest from that. On the other hand, I can see why people watch these films every year and I wouldn’t mind taking on that tradition myself. From a technical standpoint, I give it one star. But first times are hard to forget, and for that, I’ll give it three.