Okay, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries is releasing their movies on Thursdays and Fridays. Nostalgic Christmas aired on Thursday October 31. Halloween! Hallmark coulldn’t care less. Let’s dive in.
Our leading lady, Anne is working at Sinclair’s-a big fancy New York Department store. She is their toy buyer. She is on the phone talking to her dad, Bill. He is retiring from running his own small business right after Christmas and moving from Maine to Connecticut to be closer to Anne and her sister. He wonders if she’s sure she doesn’t want to quit that stable job with insurance, paid time off, stable hours and other benefits and take over his small business. Anne then finishes her presentation about the Christmas toys and she is off to Maine for Christmas.
Now we learn that Garrison toys actually only makes wooden toys and that Bill makes ALL of them. This feels more appropriate as an Etsy shop rather than a brick and mortar store. Also, is each toy like $100 if he’s got to make them all by hand? Anne knows how to make toys too. But it seems like Anne was able to like, take what she learned from her dad and actually be really successful? The store is fabulously decorated for Christmas and so is Bill’s house Anne shows up in a taxi and really, Bill? You can’t pick up your daughter from the airport? What were you so busy doing? Oh, I see. Covering every square inch of your house in Christmas decor. I’m not complaining. It is clear that this Dad is retiring and packing up against his will. How far can Connecticut be from Maine? In a surprising twist, I am rooting for Dad to move to Connecticut where he can run his Etsy shop from his daughter’s basement. Everyone wins!
We get our first glimpse of our male lead, blondie Keith and his daughter Jessie. Keith has also taken the time to decorate his home from top to bottom in Christmas decor. How many storage bins do you think I’d need to decorate my house like that? We learn that Keith is a single dad and he’s working at “the mill”. He has to go to work and Jessie doesn’t understand what a job is so Keith takes a few minutes to explain it to her. Jessie wants to try out for THE CHRISTMAS PAGEANT. Maybe sing a song. The Aunt and Keith discuss how “the mill” may be closing. But not because the government is preventing the company from harvesting timber. No, it’s because the owner is tired of making money and wants to retire and sell the company. The mill seems to actually be doing well. But for some reason all the buyers just want the land? Or to do something different with the building? I’m not sure. But the mill employs half the town so this seems a little crazy. But it’s no skin off Keith’s nose because he has a job offer in Vermont. Jessie comes downstairs and the little silly has forgotten to put on her shoes. But frankly, I’m glad because I didn’t know about those slippers she was wearing and I NEED THEM.
Anne and her bff from FIRST GRADE are walking down the street with their little holiday coffees. They NEVER get to spend time together because Anne is SO busy in NYC and again, I’m not from the East Coast but isn’t Maine like, not that far from NYC? But BFF is super busy because the town has THREE CHRISTMAS EVENTS. Which is all put together through volunteer committees. There has got to be a better way, right? And then we learn that Anne had a boyfriend in high school and maybe never stopped loving him?
And of course, Anne used to the do the pageant EVERY year but she doesn’t have time this year. She is too busy killing her dad’s life’s work and all his hopes and dreams. Back at his store, she is furiously trying to box up all the memories. She is just so over Christmas because at her work, the toy companies pitch her all their Christmas ideas in January. And now I’m wondering if this is the female version of the Santa Clause and she is Scott Calvin?Dad wants to make this the BEST Christmas at the store EVER. He pulls out a big box of hand carved Santa Claus figurines. Remember these, Anne? Uh, yeah Dad. It took me a literal year to carve these. I wanted to give them to my college friends but they all told me they’d rather have alcohol. Look, I want one…okay maybe I want five. I would put them all up on my mantle. Do you think they sell something similar at Home Goods? But Anne is like, let’s just throw these away Dad. I can’t possibly store this small box anywhere!
Keith and Jessie are having a lovely walk to school. But, OH NO! She forgot a toy for the drive! Keith says, no problem girl! Let me just find something real quick on Amazon prime and it will be here tomorrow. Jessie is like, no Dad. We have to support small local businesses. Let’s get a super expensive wooden toy from Garrison Toys.
Keith and Jessie frantically knock on the door. IT IS A CHRISTMAS TOY DRIVE EMERGENCY!! Anne’s like, no we’re not open. We don’t want to make any extra money. But Bill is like, don’t be crazy! Come on in. Keith, now an elderly man in his late eighties, grumbles about the Great War and these new fangled computerized toys that teach girls STEM skills. Anne is like, oh selling those kinds of toys is my entire job. And Keith feels a little uncomfortable. Bill and Keith take turns being PEAK dads and both daughters roll their eyes affectionately. Bill and Anne decide to give away a Santa with each purchase. They give Jessie a super hero Santa because she is nervous about her audition. And well, that is super sweet. Jessie looks at the Santa and it gives her courage to do the audition. Again, this is very lovely.
Now Anne and Tom (the old high school flame) are walking over a lovely bridge. Tom says she’s looking good and Anne tells him to chill.
Keith finally makes it to work and it is ALSO decorated fabulously for Christmas. Who else’s office is this decorated for Christmas? And now we get the full, ridiculous scoop about business at “the mill.” Mrs. Wentzell’s husband’s family ran the mill for centuries. But he’s dead and she’s tired of doing it all herself-cutting the trees, running it through the machines and doing all the business things. She just wants to retire for heaven’s sake!! And the only option for a a tired old woman is to sell the whole thing and best of luck to the employees. She thinks the town might be mad (probably not just mad…also broke and forced to move) but it’s just business!! Right!! But they might just want the land too…but that honestly makes zero sense. She’s still mulling it all over. Do people realize you can retire and not sell your business?
Anne shows up to the town Christmas event planning meeting. There are a bunch of people there but no one seems to actually want to help. Keith and Anne accidentally volunteer to do everything. So this movie intends to show us a Christmas Tree lighting, carnival AND pageant. Who does this movie think she think she is?!
Keith and Anne’s volunteer gig seems to be an actual full time job. Poor Bill is like, hey let’s please not sell this thing I poured my heart and soul into for the last 40 years. Anne is like, Dad, I’ve told you 100 times, this whole concept really only works on Etsy. Dad is like, just focus on the Christmas events, okay? But at this point the store has more Christmas decorations than toys. Then Anne says, planning all of these events is piece of Christmas fruitcake. So now I’m wondering if she means planning is something no one wants and never expires?
Uh oh. The 40 foot fake tree the town uses every year for the tree lighting is missing! What are they going to do? Maybe the town Christmas Tree lot has one big enough? Not a chance. But Keith does decide to take one home for himself. It is here, among the dead trees, that Keith shares with Anne that his wife passed away a few years ago. He also says he could never live in NYC and honestly? Same, girlfriend. And now I feel that these two just could not be more opposite. There is just no chance they could make it work. Jessie has a cute little twisty ponytail and I feel Keith is not capable of that kind of artistry.
Jessie needs some help with her solo. Anne, you‘re not doing anything, right? Why don’t you help her. You had a solo when you were 15 so honestly why are you not helping Jessie practice her song?! Anne decides Jessie is too cute to say no to, but I think Jessie is too old to have an irresistably cute face. Anne is wearing another unbearable cute jacket though.
Back at the store, Tom is a bit miffed that Bill wants to read all the real estate docs before signing them. Keith walks in after freshly redying his hair blonde in time to hear Tom remind Anne that they‘ve got to catch up over dinner soon.
Keith and his work colleague drive into the woods to look for a tree for the Tree Lighting. Keith is dressed inappropriately for the task. Wait, all the trees used for the Mill appear to be on the Mill’s private land. Mrs. Wentzell’s dilemma makes even less sense now. I don’t have time to dive into this. Keith and his coworker find nothing.
Back at Keith’s house, Anne is playing piano for Jessie. Jessie is not singing with confidence. Jessie thinks maybe if they sing carols while they decorate, it will be good practice. Now we are thrust right into a Balsam Hill commercial and I am SO HERE FOR IT. They are singing and putting up decorations and somehow there is music playing and it’s lovely. As Keith and Anne gaze at the tree, I realize that Keith is too old to be blonde.
Martin, the Tree Lot owner is hustling hard for this town. Nothing is quite good enough for Keith and Anne though. But like, what happened to the 40 foot tree they’d used before? It seems like it would be hard to steal or misplace. Martin remembers his magic (?) wooden Santa and gets inspired to do more. He is basically the horse in “Animal Farm”. He returns because he hasn’t given up on giving the town an absurd number of Christmas events. He sings that Jason Mraz song to Keith and Anne, which makes them uncomfortable.
That night at the Tree Lighting, I am wondering where they are. Is it a community barn? With a just…impossibly beautiful sleigh out front? Tom is like, hey girl! Would love to chat but I don’t want to be outbid for that Christmas wreath from the Silent Auction. Also, is Anne’s BFF the mayor? Keith makes such a terrible joke I hide under my covers for the next five minutes out of embarrassment for him. Oh Keith, at least you’re pretty. Thanks to poor Martin the horse, who had a surplus of Christmas trees, the team decides to have several trees light up instead of the one giant one. They are making do with what they have and…it’s fine. They’ll make it up at the Christmas Carnival. Keith is about to ask Anne to dance but Tom swoops right in and beats him. Keith is sad and leaves to go touch up his roots real quick.
Bill makes another tearful plea to his daughter to not sell the place. He says, hey you just focus on the Christmas events and if the store doesn’t sell, well then it doesn’t sell. He reminds her that the first toy she ever made was a reindeer and I think that was probably too complicated to be a first carving project. Also, why is Anne doing this all by herself? She has a sister. Anne realizes for the first time that her dad is not super stoked about selling it all and moving his entire life to Connecticut. Again, I wonder if they’ve really thought about the other options. He could hire a manager. He could diversify his products. He could…bag all of it and open an Etsy shop as we’ve all mentioned already.
Keith runs into old Wentz on the street and she’s just wondering how to dump this mill. Again, I feel it is important to point out that neither the toy shop nor the mill are doing poorly. The owners just don’t want to run either business. Wentz is having trouble finding a buyer that actually wants to use the mill for its intended purpose. And I just have a hard time believing that. She’s like, I just feel like you guys are mad at me. And Keith is like, no, no we’re not mad. Wentz is like, it’s just business. But I’m like, no this feels unnecessary. Wentz decides to pay for the whole carnival so the town won’t be mad. Just me…but I would rather have a job. Keith invites Anne to dinner… TO JUST TALK ABOUT WORK. Bill offers to babysit.
He puts Jessie to work and they have a lovely evening woodcarving. Anne and Keith go to dinner and actually do NOT talk about work. Bless Keith’s heart. He earnestly asks Anne if she ever saw any elves in her dad’s toy shop. Oh sweet, blonde Keith. Again I say, at least you’re pretty. Keith changes back into an elderly man and grumbles about youths, and those high tech dohickeys the kids are always playing with. He offers Anne a Werther’s hard candy.
Back at the wood shop, Bill is like, hey Jessie maybe you should do woodworking as a job. Jessie is like, no thanks. I am going to be a doctor or scientist but THANKSSOMUCH.
Oh shoot. The pageant director had a a family emergency and there is no back up plan in place. I am living for Keith’s Christmas sweater. Anne gets up from the piano and she is wearing like a full (gorgeous) green Christmas dress and high heels. Nobody is wearing heels inside of a home. Unless you are Claire Underhill.
Poor old Bill is missing his wife. But also, he should be moving to be closer to his daughters and grandkids. There is not much for them to do in this tiny Maine town.
Keith asks Anne if she could ever have a husband and live in the suburbs. Bless his heart. Does he think Maine is the suburbs? Below is a picture I took of my screen because it was just like peak Hallmark Christmas insanity and I love it. These people are sitting outside on a swing in the winter with a lovely little blanket. Every inch of this swing is COVERED in garland and well, why didn’t I think of that? I love it. I want to be part of this entire scene. And I’m not sure if I can go on.
Bill is like boy, offers, escrow….that all seems so complicated. But the Christmas Carnival is now! Put all your energy into that Anne. Anne is like, okay but this isn’t really a vacation. At the carnival, Jessie participates in the snowball toss, which is actually just throwing a plush white ball. And this is actually a really cute idea for a game at a Christmas Carnival. Jessie scampers off with her new Grandpa Bill.
Anne’s mayor BFF and Keith are like, honestly Anne why aren’t you directing the pageant? What else are you even doing. Anne tries to be polite but she’s like, I’m only one person and also, I’m supposed to be on vacation from my actual job that pays me a competitive salary. Slick guy Tom steals Anne away and Keith runs home to dye his hair real quick. He gets back in time to buy some cotton candy. Anne is polite so she eats some. She tells him she has no time for love in NYC. She just works SO much. So does Keith. In between keeping that hair blonde and trying to keep his senile boss from selling the company for no reason, he has no time for love either.
The gang keeps pressuring Anne to take over the Christmas pageant that is now one week away. Meanwhile all the participants are like, why haven’t we been practicing? Where is the director. And no one has any answers. And then Bill pulls out the big guns-MUSIC SANTA to really pile on the pressure. And then asks, Anne? Do you even care about this town at all? Because it really seems like you don’t if you‘re only going to plan the Tree Lighting and Carnival but not the Pageant. Anne looks to her fabulous sparkly sweater for strength and agrees to do it. She tells her friend that nothing can mean anything with blondie because she’s definitely going back to NYC right after Christmas. Plus, he’s an adult blonde man. Also, how many coats did Anne pack?
Keith is feeling merry and humming Jingle Bells. But he is NOT going to talk about his feelings for Anne. And plus, what about Johnny Cool Guy, Tom? Keith’s friend and coworker assures him that Tom is a brunette so no one is going to have any interest in him. Least of all Anne. (Wait, who’s side am I on?)
At pageant practice, Jessie is wearing a turtleneck that 10 year old Cally would have killed for. Are they back? Anne asks her, wouldn’t you rather have a computerized horse that you can teach to talk? Ya doy, says every child in America. But Jessie says, nothing can replace Santa. I respectfully disagree.
Oh look, Bill saved the first tool Anne ever had. But I don’t see Tom anywhere? High five! Actually there’s nothing wrong with poor old Tom. Except his hair. Just kidding. That’s fine too. Also, Anne why can’t you just run this store? And, instead of explaining all the reasons that she would prefer not to run a small brick and mortar store and MAKE all the toys for said store, she is just like, I’m a different person now! Jessie and Keith show up and invite Bill and Anne to go ice skating. Anne isn’t very good! Jessie says, don’t worry, my dad won’t let you fall. JESSIE IS THE ONLY ONE WORKING IN THIS MOVIE. She has forgotten all about her mom.
While ice skating, Anne gets a call that they got an offer on the store! She is inappropriately happy about it in front of Keith. He runs home to do a purple shampoo rinse.
Keith chats with his sister-in-law about the job offer in Vermont. What’s he going to do for all his employees? Again, I feel that isn’t his job and there definitely is a better way.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, but it’s time to bake Christmas cookies. She tries to make Keith feel better about his life by saying that planning all these town events is so much more complicated than her job in NYC. Should Silent Night go before Joy to the World? Arghhh! Also, no it should not.
Poor Anne. Is SHE the horse from Animal Farm? Everyone keeps volunteering her to do more stuff. Anne! You should just make Santas for everyone!! What? Like it’s hard? Anne is like, well actually I’m feeling a little sore FROM CARRYING THIS WHOLE TOWN ON MY BACK. Jessie helpfully says that anything is possible at Christmas. Anne reminds her that there’s still only 24 hours in a day. But she’s a giver so she puts on her shiniest silk shirt and gets to wood carving. She sits there for 3 days straight and finishes the Santa.
Old Wentz does decide to sell the mill but after the holidays so no one is bummed out. That strategy fails miserably. She’s like, please don’t be mad and Keith is like, we’re all a little mad. He immediately calls Vermont to see how many jobs he can wrangle up. He’s hoping the Pageant can give people the shot in the arm they need to go on living without the Mill. I am not optimistic.
Old Wentz goes to the toy shop to get one last item for her niece. What about this lovely Handmade $600 rocking horse? Bill asks. Sure! Can you ship it? Asks Wentz. Sure! For an extra $100 that is. Wentz is like, no prob. She tries to explain her business dilemma to Bill and he’s like yeah I know. You really should shut down this town’s entire economy. But neither of them know you can own a business and hire someone else to run it. Bill gives her a Santa in hopes it will give her some business sense.
So, Keith got everyone an interview at the new Mill. They NEED to interview on Christmas Eve. Old Wentz would never do that. No, she’ll just shut it down instead. Keith and Anne still don’t care what the other does after Christmas. Keith heads out to do a quick root touch up before the interviews.
Tom and Anne catch up outside the toy store. I am loving both their jackets. Anne wonders if she could sell the toy store and buy the mill and Tom says, oh honey. And then he pats her on the head. And then Tom realizes that they are not compatible and they have a nice friendship moment. Keith is across the street and actually appropriately misinterprets the scene.
Back at Keith’s house, his poor sister in law is desperately trying to get her shifts covered so she can watch other people’s kids. Anne walks in while the Aunt is on the phone and keeps trying to talk to her while she’s in the middle of a conversation. The Aunt is like girlfriend, Keith isn’t here. He’s trying to get a job in Vermont. I am on the phone!! Anne is devastated. She leaves the present she made for Keith and heads home.
Alright, it’s pageant time. Keith is hustling to get home in time. Jessie and Anne have a really lovely moment before her performance. She will be a great stepmom. Will Jessie call her “mom” or Anne? Keith makes it in time and is so proud of his daughter. All around it’s a great moment. After the performances, Mrs. Wentzell gets up and people throw tomatoes at her. Actually, people aren’t as mad about this as they should be. She and Keith have cooked up the scheme I’ve been talking about since the beginning. Keith will run things. But somehow she’s giving the Mill to…the town? So now is it a government owned Mill? I’m going to just keep this moving for the sake of time.
Anne takes her dad outside and, surprise surprise, wants to run the toy store. Bill can split his time between Maine and Connecticut. I’m a little disappointed. I hope Anne decides to sell more than just homemade wooden toys. Then Keith comes out and is so stoked about the heart Santa she made him. I actually really want one. They decide they might as well get together since they’ll both be in town.
Alright, I feel we checked off quite a few items off our list.1. Small town person2. Workaholic 4. Single Parent7. Christmas Pageant 9. Christmas Festival10. Christmas Tree Lighting11. Christmas Baking12. Winter Athletics (Ice Skating)14. Christmas puns (remember that horrible slice of Christmas fruitcake line?)18. Someone working in a corporate job instead of their dream job-here it is more like, she forgot where she came from.20. Christmas activity montage (decorating the tree at Keith’s)
Since neither business are closing due to losing money, I’m not counting 16. I also didn’t find anyone’s best friend particularly wise or sassy. And I felt the dramatics were appropriate.
11/20! Our most Hallmark-y movie so far!