After starting her first job at a country club restaurant, Callie – an aspiring chef – reconnects with her childhood friend, David, a wealthy member of the club. David enters Callie into the club’s Christmas ice sculpting competition, where she will go head to head with her boss, Chef Gloria. Even though ice sculpting is cold work, the romance heats up between Callie and David as they prepare for the competition together! Callie’s passions for cooking and ice sculpting are met with romance and Christmas spirit as she works to create the perfect sculpture.
First of all, my knowledge of ice sculpture is infinitesimal at best but I am consistently in awe of people who are able to create such art from what appears to be a simple block of ice. One of the highlights of the film for me was the viewing of the imposing creations and even witnessing some of the procedures that these gifted and brave artists endure. To all the accomplished artists who brought these creations to life–I salute you all.
Sometimes looks can be deceiving. In the beginning, I was thoroughly convinced that Brenda Strong’s character Gloria was ponderously arrogant and possibly malicious. I was afraid that our heroine was going to be under tremendous attack and possibly her “happily ever after” would be hindered by this contemptuous character. Although Hallmark films are fairly standard, they do occasionally send a villain in every now and then to add a bit of spice. Well, it just so happens is is Leanne’s character who is the rascal and even saboteur. And although I have seen Leeanne in a few things, it was a departure for me to see her portray such a spiteful character. She is the one who has it out for our heroine, and as you can see here, it doesn’t bode well for her. What I appreciated about Leanne’s interpretation of Jen is that she is composedly vicious with a wide grin. Unraveling her wickedness is not an easy task, and Leanne characterizes her with just the right amount of deprecation.
As Gloria, Brenda portrays this role in an illusively pompous way. I have seen Brenda in other works but not nearly as much as I would like to. Gloria’s gruff and unwavering persona is intimidating and demands respect, and Brenda plays her so expertly that I was certain she was this cruel chef who wasn’t willing to give any newcomer a fair chance to advance. She seems inflexible and without emotion. I honestly thought she was going to thwart all the plans of our beautiful and irrepressible ingenue.
But thankfully, the audience is treated to the true nature and character of Chef Gloria as the movie proceeds. It absolutely takes an actress of Brenda’s caliber to be able to generate a character who has so many layers to her personality. The tough exterior softens as she makes a connection with Callie (I will review Rachel’s delightful performance shortly) which was a sweet surprise for me. And even the offer that Gloria makes and Callie’s response makes the story that much more intriguing. The unforeseen cliffhanger at the conclusion of the film even causes me to adore her character all the more.
I knew I recognized the actor who plays Callie’s father, and once I looked up his resume, I was reminded of many things in which I had seen him before. Paul has numerous credits to his name, and it was glorious to see him in this heartfelt role of the father who longs for his daughter to succeed on her own but is still devoted to the philanthropic vision crafted by his deceased wife. As Frank has never forgotten just who he is in the world, it is with joy that I watched Paul take this character on an emotional journey that ends with a promise of better times to come and eventual dreams coming to fruition.
Of course, at the heart of the story is the story between these two–Callie and David. They come from different social tiers, but their love displays the transcendence of all social norms and monetary ties. Rachel and David have an incendiary chemistry that is captivating and beyond delectable. I have not seen David in anything else (but I recognize plenty of his past works), but I’ve seen Rachel in a handful of enjoyable roles. David has perfected the art of infusing his character with the right amount of awkwardness and suavity that exemplifies Rachel’s character in all her resplendence. He has no problem permitting his character play “second fiddle” to Callie. He caters to her without being condescending.
On the screen, these two make such a dynamic duo. While their characters have their own set of issues and setbacks here and there, the power of love is never in question. The audience is convinced that any obstacles, no matter how big or small, will not prevent what is meant to be between them. Moreover, he always puts her needs and desires first, and it takes a strong man (and actor) who is not afraid to let the vivacious nature of the female star shine through. In so doing, the audience becomes even more fiercely devoted to his character.
Although this film is not fraught with emotional drama and danger, this film does exactly what we want it to do at this time of year. It presents a heart-warming story that celebrates family and the season in a way the whole family can enjoy together.
There is never any question that Rachael is the star of the film, but her endearing, unaffected nature is never pretentious nor attention-grabbing. It is merely her charming portrayal that keeps us only desiring the best for her and those closely associated with her. A sheer delight from beginning to end, you don’t want to miss this gem of the holiday season!
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