I met my first Hallmark Christmas movie in November of last year. It was far from love at first sight. I was staying with my friend Laurie in Atlanta. Back then, I was traveling every other week for work and she was kind enough to host me for most of my visits. We’d settled into our nightly routine, after dinner, climbing the stairs to the TV room with either a large glass of red wine or a mug of decaf in hand.
It had been a rough month. The elections had just passed. Work was absolutely insane. My family was going through a lot. My body and my brain were exhausted from the constant travel, the stress, and the drama.
We each settled into our overstuffed armchairs, propped our feet up on ottomons and turned on the TV. We made a full pass through our usual stations, HGTV, the Food Network, DIY, BBC, and the major networks and found nothing of interest. I watched as Laurie stopped on the Hallmark Channel on the channel guide.
I looked over my shoulder at her with one eyebrow up.
“You’ve never seen a Hallmark Christmas movie?” Her North Carolina drawl made her sound even more incredulous.
“You say that like I’ve committed some sort of Christmas crime.”
“I’m just surprised. Are you up for trying it?”
“I’d like to insert the ‘cheesy exit clause.’ If this gets ridiculous, we’ll change it, right?”
“Deal. I’ll warn you, we’re definitely not going to get any smarter watching one of these, but oh my word, they are fun!”
We settled on Christmas Incorporated, a story about an attractive, perpetual bachelor, William, who lives in New York city and inherits his father’s toy factory in a small town in New Hampshire. He is tasked with shutting it down. Riley, the female lead, enters the story when she lands a job as a personal assistant to the rich, bad boy, possible-factory-closer in a case of mistaken identity.
The movie had just started and I’d already rolled my eyes so many times, it was like I was trying to do some sort of yoga eye-therapy. After I was done rolling my eyes at the possibility of a toy factory existing in rural New Hampshire, I rolled my eyes again at the circumstances under which Riley is hired. Even the most mediocre of HR departments wouldn’t offer a job to the wrong “Riley” (because there are a ton of female Rileys running around applying to be personal assistants—insert third eye roll).
The Hallmark Christmas movie was not making a good impression so far, but with few other options, I hunkered down, took a swig of wine, and half watched while I attempted to answer the emails my boss loved to send after his fourth bourbon every night after 8 p.m.
In the movie, Riley convinces Will to visit the town prior to shutting down the factory. There are lots of red plaids, twinkling white lights, and fresh baked cookies. Riley falls into her boss’ arms as they ice skate. They decide to decorate Christmas trees together as a very G-rated sexual tension builds between them. All of the townspeople are very kind and offer lots of unsolicited relationship advice.
I stopped answering work emails on my phone and watched as Riley and Will went with Santa to deliver toys. I almost cheered when Will decides not to shut down the toy factory and my eyes watered when Riley and Will kiss for the first time just before the movie ends.
“So, what’d you think?”
“Oh my god, I loved it.”
“Wanna watch another one?”
It was almost identical to the first one. Girl meets boy. They have the hots for each other (in a very Disney kind of way). They visit a small town in which everyone wears perfectly matching hats, mittens and scarves. The couple does some sort of Christmas decorating interspersed with an ice skating scene or a flirtatious snowball fight where the girl “accidentally” lands in the boy’s arms. The couple is delirously swooning over one another until they have a miscommunication and all is lost. Enter elderly person who drops a wisdom bomb. The clouds part and the couple then has a conversation no dating couple has ever had in the history of dating about how much they love each other and then they kiss as the snow falls and the camera zooms out. I love them. I watch one movie, after the next, after the next.
The beauty of these movies is in their predictable happy endings. And sometimes, I need a little happy. The stress of the holidays. The sadness of missing my mom, Captain Christmas. Something to escape from the politics, the violence, and the fear that seems to have become so pervasive.
If you need a little pick me up this holiday season, might I suggest a very innocent rendezvous with a Hallmark Christmas movie?
Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/575095/