When Riley Vance is hired after a case of mistaken identity, she keeps the truth a secret so she can help her boss William Young save a town at risk of losing their main livelihood just before Christmas even as she gets closer to William.
First of all, this is what I would call a typical Hallmark holiday film. The story is one that may sometimes leave you wanting a bit more, but there are some actors who give a memorable enough performance that I believe it is worth watching. Moreover, this is the holiday season, and this is Hallmark. No matter what, it is a splendid way to spend the evening together as a family while sipping hot chocolate and sharing a bowl of popcorn. This is a film where you can turn off your brain and just decompress.
In order to review this film, I certainly had to do some detective work as Hallmark has only truly promoted the main two actors. But without the supporting cast, I sincerely believe this film might appear somewhat insipid.
In the role of the discerning and charitable Piper, Hannah Spear is worthy of an honorable mention. She is the character who welcomes Riley to their small town, and oftentimes, she is the one to whom Riley opens up. After all, she is the “personal chauffeur” while Mr. Young is in town. Although I haven’t seen her in anything else, I always enjoy seeing fresh faces in supporting roles like this, and I look forward to seeing more from Hannah in the future.
It is absolute bliss to see Ron Lea in this role as I had just been reminded of his talent as I rewatched Christmas at Cartwright’s yesterday. As Mayor Keegan, he is one that illuminates the screen every time he is on it. In fact, as I tried to capture a picture of him in this role, he was constantly gesticulating and rarely still–absolutely describes his outgoing character in this film. As I surveyed his resume, I realized I had seen him in more things than I realized, and every time he expertly adapts himself to his role. Mayor Keegan is one to never be overlooked, and his “type A” personality and outgoing optimism keep the audience entertained whenever he is on the screen. Ron’s interpretation of this character is unimpeachable and is probably the most noteworthy character amongst the supporting roles.
Although I do not believe I have seen Jane Moffat in anything else, she is impeccable in the role of Amanda Sage. She is the no-nonsense woman who mistakenly hires the wrong girl to be Mr. Young’s assistant. But it would appear that in the long-run, that case of mistaken identity is actually a fortuitous mistake. While Amanda believes in following the rules, at the end of the day, she cares about doing the correct thing even if it is not the socially acceptable thing. She does have a heart (just watch until the end), but oftentimes she hides it behind a frosty demeanor. Don’t let appearances fool you. Furthermore, it is Jane’s sincere portrayal has made this character the arduous but sensitive creature she is.
Of course, at the heart of this film is this couple. I have not seen Shenae in anything else, but I recognized Steve immediately. I remember how I adored his character last year in The Best Christmas Party Ever. Together, it is their interactions and story that propel the story to its foregone conclusion. While there are no shocking twists and turns along the way, there are plenty of smiles and even some mild laughter every once in awhile. Though this is not one of the most profound stories Hallmark has manufactured, this is one of those films that is perfect for snuggling with your loved ones in front of the cozy fire.
Now I will be honest–at first, I didn’t really think too much of Shenae. I was hard pressed to witness much depth to her character of Riley, but then again, it is not fair to blame her completely. The character of Riley is probably two-dimensional at best, and it is only when she interacts with William that more complexity and warmth are displayed in her character. In fact, it is the pairing of Shenae with Steve that caused me to finally take notice of Shenae. Sometimes, films can be a bit sluggish at first, and not all characters will resonate with every person in every situation.
Teaming Shenae with Steve was probably the most intelligent decision Hallmark made in this film. It seems as though these two had a blast filming together, and whenever they are on screen together, I found myself riveted. It was as though I was reliving what is best about the holiday season through the eyes of these two. Shenae’s character cherishes Christmas, and in spite of the “Scrooge” nature of Steve’s character, she is able to draw him out. In so doing, Steve has enabled Shenae to rise to the occasion and create a character with joy and warmth who only cares about the happiness of everyone around her (even though her character has concealed her true identity and in many ways, is living a falsehood).
By the time the film was halfway done, I found myself actually appreciating Shenae’s portrayal of Riley, and as the film spiraled towards its conclusion, I was genuinely concerned about her character. As would be expected, the misrepresentation is going to be revealed, and it is the only positively dramatic point in the film. But don’t worry–this is Hallmark after all.
In regards to Steve, he is one of those actors with whom I fell in love from the first time I saw him. I recall seeing him for the first time last holiday season, and the moment I noticed his character in this film, I was entranced. His depiction of William Young is solid, but I have to say I think his prowess is better than this character and film. But what he is able to do with this character certainly is a testament to his acting ability. While I am not belittling anyone involved in this film, for me, this film was a bit “fluffier” than I would like, though I can state that for me, Steve made this film worth the watch.
There are certain actors (and people) who exude a distinctive quality that makes them appealing from the moment they walk on screen (or into a room), and without a doubt, Steve is one of those people. Every scene in which he appears is more enlivening because of his presence. In fact, I frankly don’t understand why he is not featured in more films on Hallmark and other networks as he is swiftly becoming one of my preferred actors. He is the one who has an affable way of delivering clever and well-timed lines that are humorous and sometimes laced with deep emotion. I seriously question whether we have seen the best of his capabilities, but this role is assuredly a testament to what an actor can do with what might be categorized as an “under-written” role.
No matter what may be wrong with this film, these two on screen together remind us of what is right with this film. While the storyline could have been better and sometimes the acting might be minimally lacking, this film is a delectable reminder of what is right with the world at Christmastime. I invite the viewers to watch this film without a critical eye and merely for sheer enjoyment if nothing else.
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