Maggie Chalke is torn between her journalistic integrity and helping her long time crush Mitch O’Grady when her boss orders her to write a story for the paper about the Secret Santa gifts she’s been sending Mitch to help him relearn his love for Christmas.
First of all, let me mention what I think are the negligible “criticisms” concerning this film. For me, this story is a bit slow at times. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s all bad–quite the contrary. In fact, this is one of the more clever storylines that Hallmark has devised this Christmas, in my humble opinion. I found myself considerably intrigued by the way in which the story unfolded, and that more than kept my interest. Unhurried tales can be entirely agreeable on a chilly winter’s evening, and of course, the whole family can experience this together without any hesitation or anxiety that something inappropriate may come across the screen.
One other trivial criticism concerns the aging of the characters. Now, I know this is truly insignificant, but I did notice it. At the beginning of the film, the main couple is supposed to be ten years younger than they are for the vast majority of the film. I was a bit surprised to see absolutely no difference between who they were ten years earlier. I’m not sure why Hallmark chose that, and I know it is but an unimportant thing in the midst of a well-written story, but it does seem like the powers that be could have done just a bit more to clear this up as the flashbacks in the film also didn’t ring true. I would have liked to have seen something that told me this was ten years ago rather than just little words at the bottom of the screen. I don’t mean to be nitpicking, and I am sure there was a reason behind what they did, but I merely found it confusing sometimes. However, if that is the worst mistake that is made in this film, I can’t say that is too dreadful. And in the grand scheme of things, it is relatively miniscule.
Now, I don’t normally feature an actress with such a tiny part (unless it is one who I have reviewed before or one who is well known in the acting community), but I just had to mention Eva in this role. Her character is unnamed, but for me, this is possibly my favorite scene in the film. I adore seeing people give of their time and resources, especially during the holidays, and this girl plays a mission child who receives just that special gift.
She is so endearing in this role, and I found myself smiling at her character and being moved by her story. I do hope that Eva will continue to be featured in more works in the future. She is an absolute doll, and she fits this part perfectly. On a side note, this young actress has her own website, so check her out here if interested.
As the sister who only desires the best for her sister, Dani plays the kind but direct Grace. In this picture, you can view how poor Maggie (played by Brooke Nevin whom I will review a bit later) is cringing as her sister steps in and calls out to the man that Maggie has been discussing all night. While Grace is a relatively minor role, I relished seeing the devotion, caring, and candor Dani injected into this role. While she never stole the limelight from Brooke (I’m always amazed how supporting actors can sometimes do that with such ease), she is remembered and noticed for the glittering personage she is. I have only seen Dani in one or two things, but I am going to definitely keep my eyes open for this actress in the future.
Now, Geri grasped my attention the moment she stepped onto the screen. I will admit that the red hair was the first thing I observed, but then I discerned that her portrayal of Rita had just the precise personality to match the hair. She is bubbly, zealous, and unquestionably a “go-getter.” Rita is not one to let “sleeping dogs lie.” She does what is best for business even if her new radio DJ doesn’t agree. I was most fascinated by her rapidly changing facial expressions as I always knew exactly what she was thinking at any given moment. While I do not believe I have seen Geri in anything else, I will decidedly keep an eye out for this actress as I was thoroughly engrossed by her character’s vivacity whenever she appeared in a scene.
Yet another actor I feel like I should recognize but don’t–Alan C. Peterson’s depiction of the character of Alan Kramer is exactly the way one would expect. He’s the guy who spurs Maggie on to write her stellar article, and he never stops believing in her no matter what happens. Indeed, it is a treat to see the effortlessness with which Alan portrays this man who practically lives and breathes the newspaper life. Alan’s character has seen it all, and he is even willing to change and oversee all the changes that are about to take place in his beloved company.
One other honorable mention is that of the town yoga instructor, Brianna, as played by Tess. This is one actress of whom I am assured I have never seen prior to this, and as the “wannabe other woman,” she is ideal. Tess plays this role in such a way that I don’t think anyone likes her.
Her character is haughty, pretentious, and self-absorbed. I have a strong suspicion that we will continue to see Tess in supporting roles (and maybe one day a lead) in the future as she is a breath of fresh air.
Of course, at the center of the story is this splendid couple, Maggie and Mitch, as characterized by Brooke and Robin. Maggie is the one who is constantly working behind the scenes to help Mitch remember the authentic meaning of the Christmas season. She hates to see what he has become since their college days, and it is through her secret charity towards him that she trusts he will come to his senses and be reminded of why Christmas is a season filled with promise, love, trust and joy. I have nothing but generous things to say about Brooke and Robin in their respective roles. As a couple, their chemistry is comfortable and simple without being sultry and complex. I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed, but I also realize that the confines of time sometimes cause the endings of Hallmark films to conclude too quickly and a bit unnaturally. So again, that is a minor objection. But one thing you can count on is that every interaction between these two will be entirely suitable, and even the kiss they share is sweet and innocent.
As Maggie, Brooke is pleasant, solid, and saturated with the true spirit of Christmas. Maggie’s character is one that is quietly assertive and even years after college, she is filled with a naivety that is alluring and charming. She is focused on her job, as it appears that her heart was lost long ago to the very handsome Mitch. But she is not one who wants to coerce him into a relationship that he may not want. In fact, it is her method that her gentle hints will be what leads Mitch back to Christmas and feasibly to her. Thankfully, her job requires her to interact with Mitch, and in so doing, they both lose their hearts to each other. She is also trapped in a rock and a hard place due to what she cannot reveal to him, lest everything for which she has labored goes up in smoke. Brooke is quite convincing in this role, and I can only say that while I have only seen her in one or two things previously, here’s expecting we will see her soon in another engaging role where she can fully display her gifts and talents.
I knew when I saw Robin in this film, I recognized him, and once I read his credits, I realized why. I first saw him in Real Murders: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery. Upon further inspection, I realized one other item of interest. He is listed in the writing credits for this film. This means not only does he star in this film as Mitch, but he also assisted in the writing of it. In fact, he has several writing credits listed, but this is the only one with which I’m familiar. I remember how impressed I was with him as the young, handsome author in Aurora Teagarden, but I found his performance just as engaging (if not more so) in this film. As Mitch, he is impeccable. He fully immerses himself in this radio DJ who has somewhat lost his way in life. Before his mother’s death, Christmas was the best time of year, but now he dreads it with a passion. Robin has a knack for conveying the image of the self-sufficient guy who doesn’t need anyone or anything in his life to make him happy. However, the memories that his secret Santa dredges up demonstrate exactly what he is missing in life, and Robin is able to take us on Mitch’s soul-searching journey as he finds his way back to what is positively essential in this life. Maggie is the driving force behind this winding road, and she even becomes a fringe benefit. So I tip my hat to Robin for his exceptional acting skills as well as his writing contributions (along with Carley Smale and Robert Vaughn). As darling as the interactions amongst the actors are, the story itself is even more appealing. In my modest opinion, the intensity and uniqueness of the story transcend the prowess of the actors associated with it. Don’t get me wrong–the film would be nothing without the choice acting, but I believe that Hallmark has provided us with a skillful story that accurately causes us to treasure and celebrate the rapture and beauty of the season.
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