You guys, it’s here! Hallmark Countdown to Christmas 2021. We have a full week before Halloween but this is just our thing now and everyone is just going along with it. Some countries have neither Halloween nor Thanksgiving so it really isn’t UNHEARD of to put decorations out this early. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t feel like I’m overstating that this movie was HIGHLY ANTICIPATED. And we’ve only just begun so let’s get after it.
Our movie begins by taking us back in time a few ::cough:: decades. Young Olivia gets in trouble for having her nice clothes on and climbing a tree. She runs through the trees and suddenly is all grown up wearing the same outfit. Today she is a “Christmas Tree Whisperer” but she corrects the person, telling them she’s an “evergreen specialist” because it’s not a Christmas tree until someone decorates it.
Meanwhile, Jack is having trouble on his tree lot. Customers’ trees are just shriveling up right and left shortly after purchase. But the customers like him so much they won’t accept a refund. He promises to provide them with a replacement by Christmas eve. He doesn’t know what is happening!
Olivia has an actual degree in forestry so maybe there is something to her evergreen expertise. Most people use that degree for the working at the Forest Service, not helping sell Christmas trees but to each their own.
Her mom calls and wants to make sure she packs a specific outfit for the “gala” (of course) and on brand for all moms everywhere. She panics because she thought the Gala was cancelled. She was engaged and broke it off! Justin was too…something. Anyway, she doesn’t want to face all those people.
Meanwhile Jack’s mom(whose name I NEVER catch) is at his house…well, her house. She recently moved into a retirement community but she is still cooking there for poor lonely 40 something Jack. She’s got a Christmas apron on. He talks about trying to keep his family’s business in the black…and find out what’s wrong with the trees. His friends show up to eat his mom’s food. They bring a big jar of…alcohol? Maple syrup? Anyway, it’s a consolation for all the bad trees. He is calling a tree expert to figure out the problem. Oh is he?
Olivia is working in her little office and her coworker is wearing one of my favorite Christmas sweaters TO DATE. Olivia tells her friend that she’s “Christmased out” now. Her parents are A LOT. Olivia promises her friend she will try and have some Christmas cheer.
Jack calls Olivia for help with his trees. Olivia works at a college in their forestry program. This is ALL ADDING UP. Olivia, dodging her family obligations, jumps at the chance to check out his tree situation. Also, Jack gives directions and they actually say goodbye to each other! So yay for real phone conversations.
In Avon, as they both enter the roundabout, Ben drops his phone in his coffee and then they get in a little fender bender. She quickly realizes he is the person she’s supposed to meet. They’re kind of bickering about how much damage there really is to her car. Also, I’m not sure why she doesn’t immediately tell him when she realizes but maybe we’re trying to stretch out every last minute of this movie. She finally tells him. Sheesh. She tries to start her car and something drops down from underneath it. It is the TAILPIPE. Oh we’ve got a classic “stuck in a small town with car truck scenario.” GIDDYUP. Except, this time, Olivia is super stoked about it. The part won’t be here until tomorrow. Surprise, Surprise.
Ben takes her to the Avon Inn and it is decorated as beautifully as you all hope. Things in this hotel are more modern than years past. A CODE for a hotel room not a key! The front desk clerk is perky and helpful, telling Olivia about all the Christmas goings on in town. Olivia calls her mom to let her know what’s happening. Olivia’s mom continues to hold her phone at arm’s length while she talks. WHY. Olivia’s mom wonders if she should run a comb through her hair and change her outfit. MOMS am I right? My mom’s rebuttal: Sometimes moms just know when their kids need to run a comb through their hair.”
Olivia looks at the tree at the party in the lobby downstairs. There is a hot chocolate bar but boring wet sandwich Olivia wants hers PLAIN. She prefers things in their “natural state.” So she doesn’t even like Christmas trees to be decorated Also, hot chocolate is CERTAINLY great on its own. But if there are toppings, you MUST take some. Isn’t that a rule of hot chocolate bars? Olivia has a thought based on what she sees from the tree in the lobby. She says she’s going to do some more thinking and they can chat more tomorrow. She tries to head back upstairs and he encourages her to stay for caroling. They start singing O Christmas Tree but she still heads up to her room.
The next morning Jack and Olivia meet at the Christmas Tree Farm. She sees a handful of disappointed families. They exchange a few tree puns back and forth but Jack wins. Olivia observes that the trees look great, until they’re cut. So she asks to see a tree cut within two days. Jack’s friends Elliot and Kelly arrive. Kelly is wearing a FANTASTIC sweater. Wow. 2 for 2 on sweaters.
Kelly suggests some hard cider after hearing Olivia’s bummer of a Christmas memory. (She had to be fully glammed up before coming downstairs to see what Santa brought.) We all say out loud, isn’t it like 8 in the morning? She opts for regular cider and amazes them with her refined palette. Is that…vanilla? She wonders? They stare at her in awe. How does she know what vanilla tastes like? AMAZING. But she is a TOTAL nerd. Then she suggests that Jack diversify his inventory/crops and he shuts her down hard. Kelly and Elliot jump into wingman mode. We’re all here for it.
Another day another dollar. Jack’s mom has NO CHILL. As per usual. She rushes over the next morning to return that pencil she borrowed. Did I mention how great the house is decorated? Jack’s mom becomes wingman AGAIN and urges Olicia to join them for the “Christmas Cocktail Competition.” Jack’s mom wonders if he’s just afraid of losing. Olivia obviously knows about chemistry. So now it’s on. This is a new angle on competition and it seems fun!
Jack sees his mom flirting with a guy and wonders what’s going on. Nothing she says. Jack and Olivia square off. The only rule for the cocktail is that they have to use some of the cider in the drink. Jack and Olivia chit chat as they mix their drink. She is straight up using a chemistry set. Olivia shares she always felt happiest in the woods. JACK TOO.
Okay now it’s time to taste test. Elliot and Kelly get absolutely HAMMERED tasting all the drinks. Olivia also put pine needs in her drink. That seems gross! Jack goes by what feels right and Olivia goes by what is right. Boy they are just two peas aren’t they? Elliot and Kelly thinks Jack’s drink is truly awful. Olivia WINS. Is anyone surprised? I am, considering that pine need business. But what do I know. Wow. Olivia does a little victory dance. It’s…fine. I’m proud of her for doing it.
Dwayne, the Christmas tree lot competitor shows up to thank Jack for giving him more business.
Back at Jack’s house THERE IS GARLAND ON THE LIGHT FIXTURES. An ornament drops off one of the sad dying tree branches. Then Jack gives Olivia an overview of all the ornaments on the tree. They add a new special one every year. Olivia’s mom hires a decorator and chooses a theme every year. This year’s theme was supposed to be a Christmas wedding she admits. So then Olivia has to kind of talk through that whole mess. Then Jack sneezes. They wonder if he’s getting sick but it gives Olivia an idea. She wants to dig up a root ball with one of the trees. She agrees to stay one more night to figure this out. He knows why she’s really staying. They head out to cut down and dig up a tree. It starts to snow. Jack loves it. And to be honestly, they both get a little weird about the snow fall. Case in point, Olivia just wanders away and lays down in a sad little pile of snow. She says being in the trees is her favorite thing in the whole world. Jack stresses about his whole business going under. A little city cop strolls by and shines a flashlight in their eyes. Jack tells them they’re doing scientific research. The fifteen-year old-cop asks, “Oh is that what they’re calling it these days?” They die of embarrassment and I laugh out loud.
They both compete for who is more of a New Englander as they try not to slip on the ice and lift the tree into the truck. For some reason they bring the tree back to her hotel room. She vows to just stare at the tree all night. Surely she could set up a camera? They have a MOMENT as Jack leaves.
The next morning, Santa is downstairs meeting kids. Oh well what do you know, Jack is Santa. Olivia overslept and rushes downstairs to meet him. The candy set up in the lobby looks wonderful. Olivia knows her next step now apparently. She needs to bring the samples back to the lab on campus. Jack offers to drive her back to the campus because she’s so tired and that’s the only reason.
Back at the lab, she is running all the tests. For some reason, there are boxes and boxes of mistletoe in front of her office. They were supposed to be wedding favors. Why would they be delivered to her office though? They decide to take them back to his craft fair and sell them. Not going to bother trying to return them or see if they were sent in error? Okay. They now have to wait ten hours for the test results. Jack says he’s going to go nuts waiting. So she suggests they do some of the town’s Christmas activities.
Oh good. First up is gingerbread house building. MY FAVORITE. But there are NO TREES with which to decorate their ginger yard. What are they going to do? No tree cookie cutters or candy. They head back to the kitchen and I don’t know what their plan is but they do make some trees out of…I don’t know, the gingerbread walls? But by the time they come back someone has taken all the house pieces. They decide to make his tree lot instead. Olivia tries to temper his expectations for her work and ability to fix things. She mentions diversifying again. He thinks his dad would be so disappointed if he diversified. This gingerbread house activity was kind of a bust, in my view. So they move on to the next activity.
Did they have to construct a reindeer out of wood? I’m not sure, but the old barn is all ready for the craft fair I think. And then they wrap empty boxes. Then Jack gets an email from the mayor about the town’s Christmas Eve tree. Olivia wonders why they wait until Christmas Eve to light the tree. Jack tells a wonderful story about the town coming together during a power outage and storm and decorating a big tree in the town square. Very Whoville of them.
The mayor says he needs a tree by Tuesday. He says they can’t risk waiting until the last minute. He’s going to use Dwayne Colson’s tree instead. NO! He’s the worst! Jack asks that he wait and see if he can get the tree figured out by then. The mayor agrees.
Olivia gets a call from her mom. She wonders if Olivia is avoiding going home. Her mom has made a nail appointment for her. Olivia is like well I am SUPER BUSY with this tree mystery so BYE. Then Olivia gets the lab results. Still no answers! They now need a full genetic sequencing. That takes WEEKS to get done. She still doesn’t know how to save this year’s trees. He asks her to tell him what she’s really thinking. She says she’s worried because she doesn’t know how to save them.
Melissa, the Inn Manager, suggests Jack make an actual MOVE. He thinks its not the right time. We all disagree.
Upstairs, Olivia has a breakthrough.
Olivia shows up in the morning with an idea for Jack to try! She thinks she can come up with a plan to save the trees temporarily. She said she can make it seem like this whole thing never happened. And Jack says “except for the part where I met you because I could do that again and again.” OMG. I could watch THAT SCENE again and again. Jack wonders if she shouldn’t do this all back at the lab. And she is like, oh shoot yeah I’ll leave. And then they decide to do some of the craft fair outside so she can stay and work there. At this point my dad walks in and wonders, aghast- You didn’t tell me there was a craft fair in this movie? My mom replies, there is ALWAYS a Christmas Craft Fair.
Everyone loves having the craft fair outside. Who wouldn’t when it’s 100 degrees outside? Jack’s mom things its fate that Olivia’s here. Inside the barn, Olivia works away at her little slow release tree medicine. Jack comes and grabs her to hang out at the outdoor Christmas Craft Fair. We see Jack’s mom and Harry having a MOMENT.
Jack invites Olivia to go for a walk. They HOLD HANDS. Olivia has another breakthrough about the trees. She’s going to add some sap to her little concoction. And then she makes a little nutrient pellet. Now they just need a tree to test it on. They add it to the water of the tree at the house and wait. Olivia wants to wait up and see what happens. She tells Jack he doesn’t have to stay up but he wants to see what happens too.
The next morning, Olivia fell asleep on Jack’s shoulder and feels embarrassed. Jack’s mom and Harry arrive with some breakfast. Olivia tells them they won’t know if it worked for sure until later tonight. So, why did she have to wait all night? Then Elliot and Kelly arrive. They wonder if everyone is going to sit and stare at the tree all day. Jack’s mom wonders if this will impact her gift exchange party. Olivia says she doesn’t have a gift to exchange. Jack asks the friends to watch the tree while he and Olivia go pick out gifts to contribute.
They arrive at a very expensive looking boutique and Jack tells Olivia they can only spend $20. There is no way anything in that store is $20. Yet, they do each find something and have to keep it a secret from each other. Wow the store does gift wrapping.
Later, they do their white elephant gift exchange. Everyone takes turns explaining the rules. Olivia has never played this game? Bless her heart. Wow. Jack and Olivia picked the EXACT same thing at the store. A book about Christmas trees. Olivia gets a robe and slippers. How is that only $20? Anyway, she makes a great pun and swaps for the book. For some reason they swap identical books? And now Jack’s mom has prepared a yule log. They invite her to cut into it to find the ornament to hang on the tree. She resists because she’s not family but they all agree she is! She finds the ornament right away.
Jack’s mom gives Olivia some good advice about speaking up for herself. She says she can’t expect her parents to fix a problem they don’t even know he has. I mean, yeah is that the case? I didn’t realize. Anyway, Jack tells Olivia he trusts her to fix their tree problems. Kelly hopes the tree isn’t fixed quite yet so Olivia stays longer.
It’s time to check the trees! It worked! They hug and he picks her up. As a tall girl, this is something I’ve never been comfortable with. Olivia makes it awkward and asks for a double high five. But I felt that awkwardness in MY BONES.
Jack and Olivia pass out their tree pellets to all his customers to revive their trees. Olivia takes a look at a tree getting loaded into the back of a truck. She tells the tree good luck. It is the town tree. They get it all set up in the town square. The mayor is RELIEVED.
Olivia tells Jacks she is actually enjoying Christmas. She wants to take this feeling home with her. But she has to go home because her parents would never forgive her. But Jack wants her to stay for the Christmas Eve event. Olivia wonders what would happen after Christmas. She lives an hour away for heaven’s sake. And then they KISS. He asks to meet her there in the morning.
Back in her hotel, Olivia tells her mom that she’s going to stay in Avon and head home on Christmas morning. She is finally honest with her mom. She tells her they have ALOT to talk about. Maybe like 30 years of suppressed emotions? SOUNDS FUN. Actually, it sounds more like Festivus.
The next morning Olivia and Jack meet up at the town square. They are happy until they get a text. The tree in the town square is dead and brown. Dwayne arrives just in time to gloat. He says his tree will be there in a few hours to save the day. Olivia feels terrible. I wonder if Dwayne was up to some sabotage? Olivia then brings up diversifying Jack’s crops again. Then Olivia kind of has a little melt down about her own personal problems. So she just bails. She heads straight to the hotel to pack up. She slowly packs up her little mixology award and ornament from the yule log.
Back at the town square, Jack and his mom pack up ornaments and Dwayne asks to use them to put them on the good tree. Jack’s mom wonders where Olivia is. Jack tells her she left. She’s like why? She gets the whole run down from Jack. Her mom is like, this seems like manufactured drama. His mom wonders why he doesn’t diversify. Jack sings that song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof. His mom is like, Jack you are a silly goose. So she encourages him to go after Olivia. Olivia is on her way out of town and is stuck in that same silly roundabout. She runs into her parents! They meet at the coffee shop.
She gets a little huffy with her parents about having tree branches in her hair. She goes on a little rant about how she’d like to celebrate Christmas. Her parents seem to take it all in and they apologize for making her feel bad about herself. They agree to revamp some of their traditions. Just like immediately. No push back. Then she tells them about Jack. She thinks she blew it with him and wants to just go home. Did they really just drive that whole way for a ten minute chat in the coffee shop? As Olivia walks to her car she hears two idiots bragging about helping Dwayne make sure he gets the town tree. Olivia sees all the weed killer in the back of their truck. She smartly gets a “selfie” with those two idiots and the weed killer displayed prominently in their truck. She runs to the town square and puts a little tree tablet in the soil and explains to the mayor what happened. Dwayne digs in and says they should still use one of his trees.
Our favorite little fifteen year old cop takes Dwayne down to the station.
Now it’s time for the special moment. Oh wait, Jack’s mom says “Tree now, Talk Later!” Haha so then it’s time to decorate the tree as a town. I hope she let her parents know. Oh they stayed! They don’t care about that silly old yacht club party. And Olivia is wearing the coat her mom loves so that’s all good. Then they meet Jack! They are now super cool, breezy parents. Olivia is like, yeah I was wrong about my parents for my whole childhood I guess. Jack tells her he IS going to do some diversifying of his crops. They have their silly little “ no I was wrong” chat and then they kiss again! Then the whole town counts down to the tree lighting. It looks beautiful despite the dead branches.
My mom and I agree this movie really got us in the Christmas spirit. It was SO Christmasy. There was a lot more comedy infused into this than a typical Hallmark Christmas movie and I loved Ben and Danica together. I don’t think I’ve seen a Benjamin Ayres movie I didn’t love, honestly. Cranberry Christmas was one of my faves last year. So yes, this was a great way to kick off Hallmark Christmas season and honestly gets me excited for the rest!! Let’s GO! What did you think?