Christmas Under the Stars

Christmas Under the Stars premiered on November 17, 2019 on the Hallmark Channel. This movie stars Hallmark Dreamboat, Jesse Metcalfe. My husband said, I thought you said the guy from the last movie was the cutest one? Well, I forgot that Jesse was in one of these, okay? I’ve got two more movies to get through this weekend though so let’s dive in.

Our lead, Julie is wearing a fabulous dress as a secondary education teacher. She does a little bit of teaching and a poor little mouse comes in late. Out in the hall, Julie is chatting with her Vice Principal and friend. There are an OBSCENE number of Christmas trees in the hallway. But any number over zero would be obscene. Were there EVER Christmas trees in your high school? Can you imagine the dumb dumbs that would just wreck those ornaments? Not here, apparently. They chat about it being her son Matt’s first Christmas without his grandpa-her dad. They also chat about her dealing with all her dad’s medical bills. Y’all only have 3 minutes to get to your next class though so quit yapping!

Our boy, Jesse shows up to a building in a FANCY car. I learn later that it is an unremarkable 1994 Porsche something. He is trying to get in to a fancy condominium? A Co-op? What is that thing where you live in an apartment complex but there’s an HOA type organization and those people decide if you can live there or not? Anyway, that’s what’s happening here. He wants to live in this fancy apartment building. He name drops his famous at business dad’s name and they all seem impressed. As the board members walk out, an ELDERLY WOMAN WINKS AT HIM. We are under ten minutes in to this movie. What is happening?

Nick is back at his business office and feeling good about himself and his life. He talks to his work bro about the apartment and how he expects to get a promotion. His boss calls him in and talks to him about all the risks he’s taken. Apparently one of those risks caused some problems for their biggest client, Finnler Co. I think he is like a stock broker or an investment person? PEAK BUSINESS ACTIVITIES HAPPENING HERE. His boss is not pleased about any of this so he gets fired. Finnler Co wanted a head to roll, but not literally of course. So Nick is out.

Back at Julie’s house, she is trying to chat with her son. He is not interested. He is just perpetually down. She asks for his advice about a chronically late student. He tells her something her dad would have said, but I didn’t write that down so I can’t tell you. It is definitely PROFOUND though. Oh, he said-you should just ask her what’s going on. See? She then gets a call from a collection agency or something and they want her credit card over the phone RIGHT NOW. She tries to explain that she’s being double billed and THEY hang up on HER. How are they going to get their money if they are hanging up on people?

Nick is back at his place looking at selling his “fancy” car.

The next morning, little Mia Mouse is late AGAIN. She does know the answer to whatever science question Julie asked though. After class, Julie asks Mia if she has some time to chat and she says no. She seems like a shy, cute little pup though; not an angsty teen.

Nick is outside feeling flustered and walking around his block. Clem, a Christmas Tree lot owner, is trying to hang some stuff up and set up his wares. He calls Nick over to help him, much like how every elderly person at the grocery store asks me to get stuff for them on the top shelf. Nick helps him get set up while wearing his business clothes. Clem offers to give him a free tree for his trouble. GIRL TAKE IT. No, Nick hasn’t had a tree in 25 years. Why start now? Clem offers him a job. He pays $1/hour OVER minimum wage. Clem, can’t you see he’s wearing business clothes? Why do you think he needs a job? Clem can just tell. He’s wandering the streets in the middle of a work day, for starters. What is this, France? No. He definitely doesn’t have a job.

Julie and Matt show up to the tree lot. It is clear they know Clem really well. Nick and Julie look at each other and smile. Clem talks to them about hot chocolate and trees. When Clem tries to introduce them to Nick, we see that Nick has ducked out. Nick gets a call from his dad. He seems nice. They talk for a while about what busy businessmen they are and Nick’s dad lists a bunch of foreign cities he’s jet settled to and from. Nick doesn’t share that he was fired.

Back at the tree lot, Clem and Julie are talking about her dad and what a nice guy he was. Later, Clem relays the whole day to a photograph. This picture looks really modern so I feel it is a current photo. Like his son or something. But we will find out later that it is an “old” photo of his wife and him.

The next day, Nick comes back and asks for the job. He starts doing some work but he is not dressed for it. He tells Clem he doesn’t know that much about the business of trees. Clem says those darn developers, developing vacant lots and renovating old buildings have hurt his business. Wouldn’t that just mean MORE people are coming around your place? Plus, you deliver! But, this is PRIME real estate in the city of Chicago. So they are going to pave this parking lot and put up a building. Isn’t that how the old song goes? Nick finally realizes he is not dressed properly and Clem offers him some gloves and a different coat in his RV. Nick sees the photo and asks if he has always done this alone. He says he used to have a partner, but doesn’t want to talk about it further with Nick.

Outside, Julie and Matt are back again. Nick, Matt, and Clem have a cute little fight about who will be in charge of the hot chocolate. I think Nick asks Matt if he knows how to work a saw. Matt feels shy and wanders off. Clem tells them their tree isn’t ready. What? Clem gives Matt some tree scraps to…tide him over? As they leave, Nick can’t remember Julie’s name. Or is he joking? It’s not clear. Clem knows what is happening.

After they leave, Clem tells him about being in the Air Force and knowing Julie’s dad 50 years ago. Then we hear a siren. A group of firefighters show up to help Clem set up. They’ve been doing it for 10 years. And they’ve brought a reporter to do a little story on his 30 year anniversary. Does this come back up again at any later point in the movie? Absolutely not.

Then we learn the history of the lot. Clem’s wife Gracie died 4 years ago. The tree lot started 30 years ago when they were drivin and just saw a big pile of discarded pine trees right after Thanksgiving. What?!! Someone just had a bunch of Christmas trees and they threw them in the ditch? Clem, what did you guys do to the person driving those trees into the city that fateful day in 1989? So anyway, now they actually purchase or cut down the trees every year. All the boys take a picture together in the pitch black night. As Nick is leaving, Clem asks him to drop off a tree on his way home.

Back at Julie’s, Matt plays with a toy airplane. There is a casual plate of cookies on the table. He seems to be in a perpetual state of ennui. The doorbell rings. What? It’s Nick, with the tree! But it wasn’t “ready” yet! How could he possibly be here? Julie seems so confused. So am I. How can a tree that is already cut down and in the tree lot not be “ready” for purchase? But that’s not what she’s confused about. She was just so sure it wasn’t “ready” and she would pick it up later. She is devastated about not having another errand to do.

They have a nice chat about her dad. Nick shares that his mom died when he was really young. They ask Matt to go fetch some water. He constructs a little set up so that water doesn’t spill or maybe it is too heavy? Anyway, he has a little engineer brain. Julie says that’s how she was as a kid too and we’ll find out later that this doesn’t quite add up but maybe it turns out to be a nice thing. Stay tuned for further down this page! Anyway, business person Nick would like to demonstrate how he now knows how to use a pocket knife. He cuts the netting off the tree and fluffs it. He is DOING HIS BEST and Matt and Julie both pat him on the head for his trouble.

Julie says she is a 7th grade science teacher. Nick makes an inadvertently sexist comment about his expectations of what a science teacher looks like. (Spoiler: old white dude.) Look, he’s not wrong. All my science teachers were old white dudes. Except, OMG I just remembered both my junior high science teachers were women! Anyway, she says her dad loved science too. They look at each other for a long time and then she kind of gets defensive about the tree. Like, hey I didn’t ask you to bring this tree over. I don’t need any help. I am 5 feet tall and could have definitely carried that tree in and set it up by myself. And he is sort of like, where did that come from? I just looked at you. And she was like, well don’t.

Back at Nick’s apartment complex, or co-op.. did he get the apartment or not? Who cares. Mr. I-Don’t-do-Christmas has a beautiful wreath on his door. Clem has left a tree for him also.

The next morning, Nick is dressed more appropriately for tree lot employment. ALOT OF PLAID and VESTS, guys. It’s working for Nick though, obviously. Clem greets everyone like old friends. He knows everyone. Oh! We even have a troop show up in his uniform to get a tree before he ships out.

Julie and her VP/BFF are at the cutest bakery/coffee shop. Where are these? I have yet to see a real life bakery that lives up to my Hallmarkspectations. Oh dang, that is a good word. I am pretty pleased about that. She tells the VP that Nick was over at their house for an hour. What? Really? What did I miss? It seemed like he was in and out. The VP has a little surprise for Julie. She found some “extra money” so that Julie could do a special project for her students. Look, either the VP is embezzling or she is just paying for it out of her own pocket. There is no extra money that she can just unilaterally give to her teacher friend. Am I wrong here? And then calls herself an adMIN instead of ADmin. I mean, if you are saying the entire word “administrator” she is correct. I have just never heard a school administrator pronounce the shortened version the way she did. And I know a few school administrators so you’re going to have to trust me.

Back at the tree lot, Matt and Julie brought a KRINGLE. It is part of their Scandinavian tradition. Guess what? It’s part of MY Scandinavian traditions as well. Kringle is SO GOOD. I am dreaming about it as we speak. The one here looks like it has colored frosting though. I have not seen that. So basically, they are giant frauds. Nick decides to teach Matt to use the bow saw. Julie silently panics and so do I. And then, Nick’s old boss is at the tree lot in the middle of the work day getting a wreath. For personal use? No. For business purposes? Also no. Nick basically melts down. And then he is so frustrated, he can’t figure out how to use the bailer. Or has he not yet figured it out as part of his onboard training? And we want this guy teaching our children to use hand saws? I don’t think so.

Nick is on the phone with his work bro. This work bro is dressed like he’s 1980 Charlie Sheen. The work bro says he got the “junior partnership”. OMG he’s so sorry he just let that slip. Okay, enough is enough. Nick is FORTY. Emma from the last movie is FORTY-ONE. She was promised a “Junior staff” position if she worked hard. How old do you have to be for a regular promotion? When does the “junior” qualifier become wholly inappropriate?

The next day, Julie and Matt are inexplicably back at the tree lot. What day is it? Does this kid ever have school? Matt, no longer shy, invites Nick to help them decorate their tree. Julie says it’s okay as long as he knows how to sing Christmas Carols. He pretends to get all the names of popular Christmas Carols wrong and we all agree he is adorable.

At Julie’s house, Nick seems to remember a lot about decorating trees for a guy who hasn’t done it in 25 years. I take notes. They sing carols while they decorate and I die a little inside from embarrassment for all of them. After they’re done, Julie sends Matt to bed but then goes up to read to him? Nick stays for some reason. Julie comes back and says, sorry, he always asks for one more chapter. Chapter?!! Nick, how long were you waiting for this whole exercise? At least thirty minutes. I find this unacceptable. Just go home! Or don’t make your guest wait. Or show the man how to pull up Netflix on your TV. They chat about her parents and other things. Boy they are just really connecting, aren’t they?

Later, Nick finds out he has an interview with a different business establishment. Julie goes through her mail and has a FINAL NOTICE letter from…FinnlerCo!! That evil financial business that wanted Nick’s head to roll!

The next morning, the VP doesn’t want to hear about anything except Nick. Doesn’t care about whether Julie is spending taxpayer money wisely. She just wants that goss. (Short for gossip, for any “olds” out there).

Back at the tree lot AGAIN, Julie is hustlin for HERSELF and asks Nick to dinner. Nick and Matt do some more saw work. Clem is having a tough time. I think he is missing his pal Henry and his wife. Then as Julie and Matt are leaving, Julie says something about meeting at 7 and Matt is like, oh! You’re coming over for dinner? And Nick just goes with it and says, yep! I’m bringing pizza over. And Matt says, oh good. You can come to the tree lighting with us then. Then Nick whistles while he works. Then he and Clem have a nice heart to heart about trees.

At Julie’s house it is a full on pizza PARTY. Nick helps Matt with his toy plane. Julie is cleaning up and thanks Nick for being flexible. They obviously did not plan on including Matt in this evening but she is grateful he was cool with it. They have a nice chat about dating with a kid. He asks when she got divorced and she shares that she was a foster parent! Well this is exciting because we were foster parents too. Then she says some very wrong statements. She says she wasn’t a very good foster parent because she asked to adopt the first placement she had. Wouldn’t we ALL LIKE TO ADOPT ALL OUT FOSTER KIDS, JULIE!!! That’s why people don’t want to do it in the first place. But unfortunately, this was exactly our experience so I’m not helping anyone learn any lessons. We had three foster placements and adopted all of them. That is not a typical foster care experience though. So this is why it was weird that she implies that Matt is genetically predisposed towards certain skill sets that match hers. Look, it does happen-I mean, my kids somehow have my dance skills. But here it just seems like an oversight! Okay, back to Hallmark movies.

They are at the tree lighting and there is ANOTHER shout out for foster kids. Great work Hallmark-a fundraiser that actually makes sense. Julie gets emotional about stars. They have more good conversations and then go back to Julie’s. They are standing outside in the freezing cold August evening. He shares that he was actually fired from his business job. She somehow connects the dots about investment banking and her medical bills. She shares that it’s been really difficult to figure out that whole mess. She mentions that one of the companies she now owes or that claims that she owes them money is called FinnlerCo. Wait a minute! He says that was his firm’s biggest client. She then personally blames him for all her medical bill drama. Nick tries to explain that’s not how any of this works but she is too worked up to have a rational conversation. But we are only an hour in at this point so this is UNCONVENTIONAL TIMING.

Nick talks to Clem about it. Clem is like, boy, I didn’t realize how crazy Julie was. I’m sorry I tried to push you two together. We learn that the 1994 Porsche is actually a gift from his dad. It was his dad’s and it was a business school graduation present. It’s not a STATUS SYMBOL so shame on you for judging him.

Julie goes to Mia’s house to figure out what is going on with her. I can’t decide if I love this or hate this. On one hand, I am thrilled that a teacher would be so invested in figuring out what is going on with a struggling student that she takes the time to investigate; rather than just marking her tardy and sending passive agressive emails to her parents. But I feel a house call borders on inappropriate. Anyway, she finds out that Mia is struggling because her mom just remarried and had a baby all within the span of a year. I am not sure if they reach any resolution about next steps.

Back at school, Julie is passing out permission slips for her special project, which is a night viewing of a meteor shower or something?

Nick does some research on the company with whom he is interviewing and they seem focused on socially responsible investing. This is great news for all of us.

Julie comes back to the tree lot but they kind of avoid each other. Nick is saved by a phone call from his dad. Nick still doesn’t share that he was fired or that he is now working at a tree lot. I am now realizing that Nick is actually the main character in this movie. It seems rare that the lead is actually a man instead of a woman. But we all know Jesse can carry a film on his own.

Nick heads home from work and Clem has dropped off another tree and some ornaments. Back at Julie’s house, she doesn’t put the star on her tree.

In the RV, Nick learns more about Clem and Gracie. Gracie allegedly made him promise to keep the tree lot going. Clem tells him not to waste time if he loves a woman. Even 41 years wasn’t enough. Preach, Clem. Nick heads out to do more deliveries. Why are they always delivering trees in the dead of night? His job interview is tomorrow!

It’s the night of the big science field trip. Julie does some teaching and star gazing.

Nick returns to the tree lot to drop off the truck. He calls and leaves his dad a message. He drops the bomb that he was fired and is now working at a tree lot. He tells him he has an interview the next day but knows his dad is disappointed in him. He goes inside to drop the keys off and sees Clem on the ground in his RV and his hand is bleeding. Clem fell while holding the picture frame. They get him all cleaned up and Nick insists that Clem should stay the night at his place. Clem is worried about opening the next day and about Nick getting to his interview on time but Nick promises to figure it out. They go to his house which is OBSCENELY decorated for a single dude. He has all sixteen of his trees up and decorated. Clem insists on taking the couch. The poor old boy falls asleep instantly. Nick leaves and asks Julie to meet him at the tree lot and asks for her help. Why can’t he step out into the hallway or close his bedroom door and call instead?

The next morning, Nick finds parking right in front of the place he needs to be as per usual. He has his interview at Wardstone Partners. There is NO TIME FOR HR. He is meeting with the president or whoever directly. She is scrambling for people to do investing. He gives a great interview.

He and Clem go to the tree lot and he is so surprised that it’s open! And they have also decorated his RV which is supposed to be a fun surprise too but he doesn’t really seem to care about that.

Clem wakes up from his nap or whatever he was doing in the RV and asks Nick about the interview. Nick says they wanted him to start that very second but he said no. I actually think this is a fair response. What kind of job is like, start this second or you don’t have the job? Well anyway, Clem is furious at Nick for this. He’s like, this is just a stupid tree lot and we only have a few more days…which actually seems like a perfectly legitimate reason to ask for a start date after the New Year. But then Clem reveals that Gracie actually wanted him to sell the lot or stop doing it or whatever if she was gone. Nick says he’s just had a really lovely time working at the lot and wasn’t ready for it to end so abruptly. So they are just really developing a great relationship.

Nick calls Wardstone Partners and seemingly asks if he can still accept the job but also doubles down and asks for a favor. Oh, and also he does this via voicemail. Come on Nick! Be brave. Don’t leave that stuff on messages.

Julie is working on some Christmas miracles of her own and calls on Mia’s mom for a favor. Is this crossing a boundary? I think yes. But no matter! It’s Christmas and we only have ten minutes to wrap this puppy up.

Nick shows up at his apartment and his dad is outside waiting for him.

Mia and her mom show up at Julie’s house and there are apparently no boundaries anymore. Mia’s mom is working on that secret favor for Julie so Julie offers to watch Mia. They’re just casually making Christmas cookies! Oh and Mia got a binder full of late work done. They are all chipper about this fact but I’m sure she and her mom were both in tears as she tried to get all caught up. Probably lots of yelling. She also had time to draw a picture for her teacher because that is what 7th graders do. She drew a start that looks EXACTLY like the one her dad made for the top of their tree that she hasn’t yet hung.

Nick takes his dad to the tree lot and they have a very lovely heart to heart. Lots of good bro talk in this movie. His dad says he didn’t mean for Nick to just be all business all the time. He cares about more stuff than that!

Julie and Matt come back to the tree lot and meet Sydney, Nick’s dad. Nick passes out a couple of gifts. He has purchased a new frame for Clem and he is over the top touched about it. He gets Matt a tool kit which is actually a really lovely gift for him.

And THEN the head of Wardstone Partners shows up at the tree lot. They figured out how to buy all the medical debt from FinnlerCo and they’re going to figure out how to handle all of that fairly so people aren’t double billed and stuff. Nick calls Julie over to hear the good news. What is great about this scene is that they actually don’t commit to just wiping out her debt. They commit to getting to the bottom of it. So that seems like a reasonable thing to do. And then Wardstone offers Nick a job wading through all of that. For some reason, Nick accepts. That job seems overwhelmingly unbearable. But Nick is stoked, so good for him I guess.

It’s Christmas Eve though, for heaven’s sake so lets get to celebrating! They all head to Nick’s. What a rag tag little crew they have for Christmas. But isn’t that what it’s all about? They share with Clem that they’ve figured out how to keep his tree lot around for each Christmas season. He is really touched because he loves doing it so much. They all toast with a drink that looks revolting. It looks like…so yellow I thought it was orange juice but I think it’s egg nog. I try not to throw up. Then, Nick and Julie finally get a moment to themselves and reflect on the last two months…or two weeks or three days…however much time has passed. And THEY KISS.

Let’s see how we scored:

  • 2. Workaholic too busy for Christmas
  • 4. Single Parent
  • 10. Christmas Tree Lighting
  • 11. Christmas Baking
  • 14. Christmas puns
  • 15. They are considering building something on this lot so I’m counting it
  • 16. He is in danger of going out of business though not because he’s struggling financially
  • 17. Dramatic pretend conflict-yes-when Julie blames Nick for FinnlerCo buying her medical debt and making things more annoying for her
  • 19. A sassy and wise best friend. Clem is Nick’s sassy and wise best friend!!

Total score: 9/20

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Send me an email if you are curious about foster care and adoption: hallmarksthespotmovies@gmail.com

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