Guys, we did it. We made it through the last normal week before the chaos and insanity that is Thanksgiving at Hallmark. But we’re all still here and we’re all still going along for the ride. At the outset here, I want to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this movie. I came in with less than zero expectations. I don’t know. I didn’t watch Desperate Housewives. I don’t connect with the more “mature” story lines. So that’s where we began. Also, this title makes NO sense based on the storyline. I thought maybe he would need Joyce to fall in love with him or they would have to kiss before Christmas but Ethan’s quest has nothing to do with that. So, that’s where we are. But it was really cute with a few major exceptions. So, let’s dive in.
The movie begins with our lead Ethan (and he really is the main character of this story; unusual for a Hallmark movie!) in a big office building heading upstairs for a meeting? I realize this is a crucial plot point but I don’t remember. Anyway, Joyce is in the other elevator and holds the door for him.
Then, we flash forward twenty years. Joyce and Ethan are scrambling to get ready for the day. They have two teens who are busy in their own right. Ethan is stressed and distracted. He grumbles about taking the train to work and about all the expenses he has. He notices a brochure for “Winslow College” on the counter and wonders about it. He barely has time to remember to grab the cookies his son made for his office.
At work, he is a man of the people. He passes out cookies left and right. He knows everyone’s name. But Rona, the big boss, barely knows he exists. Time and again, he’s been passed up for promotions and he is just sick of it. At work, he chooses a very interesting way to determine what tuition would be at Winslow College. The information he finds is discouraging.
At home, he remains stressed and distracted. So distracted he doesn’t even have time to help his teen daughter fill out an application to soccer camp. I would argue that a girl that age would be fully capable of filling such an application out herself. BUT the point is that Ethan is a terrible dad. Right? That’s the point? Then we find out that the college pamphlet is actually for Joyce! Joyce tells Ethan that she thought she might go back to LAW SCHOOL now that the kids are getting older. You guys. YOU GUYS. Do I have time today? I JUST MIGHT. So let’s pretend that Terri is not 56 in this movie (which is her actual age.) Let’s pretend that she is 46. MY ISSUES REMAIN. Okay so let’s pretend she’s 46 and is talking to her husband about wanting to go back to law school. Her justification is as follows: she could contribute to their household income. It has always been her dream to be a lawyer. Okay, Joyce. So, law school is 3 years. That puts you at about 50 when you graduate. To be nice, let me send you to the state school I attended at the price I paid over ten years ago. Today, I have not made a DENT in my student loans. NOT A DENT. So, let’s all think about this realistically. Does someone want to hire a 50 year old entry level associate? Maybe. Is she going to make back her 75k in loans while putting her two children through college? When, exactly, is she going to be able to actually contribute to their family’s finances after recovering from the debt? And let me leave you (for now) with the advice I give everyone who asks me whether they should go to law school: NO. Don’t go.
Anyway, Ethan receives a stroke of good fortune when his money hungry boss, Sean, gives him an opportunity. Sean tells him that he lied to their boss, Rona, about the progress of an upcoming development and needs Ethan’s help. They have one final hold out in the existing building. Her refusal to cooperate has the potential to considerably delay construction. Sean promises that if Ethan can convince her to move, he will recommend Ethan for a VP slot. So the game is on.
Ethan heads right over to talk to this woman and cuts a deal. At the Christmas party…that night? Ethan fills Sean in on the great news. Sean is furious because the way Ethan has fixed this sort of still outs Sean’s lie that everything was all squared away already. He’s also mad that Ethan worked out a sweetheart rent deal for this newsstand when they could charge more to someone else. Ethan tries to reason with him but Sean only cares about appearances. I mean, that’s literally what he says. I actually can’t believe someone would be so stupid to admit that, but here we are. So Sean tells Ethan he needs to go fix it the right way.
He leaves the party to go ruin this poor newsstand owner’s Christmas. He calls his wife on the way to tell her he’ll be home late. She’s furious and thinks he’s making a huge mistake. Also, it’s Christmas EVE. While he’s waiting at the train station, he is approached by Santa. He sort of unloads 20 years of frustration to Santa and determines that if he had only gotten in the other elevator back then, his life would be so much better. Then he falls asleep. OH WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
He wakes up in the same bench and panics because it is morning. He is pretty frazzled because he’s spent Christmas Eve on a train station bench and assumes Joyce will be furious. But he can’t find her number in his phone and can’t get through to her. When he walks out of the train station, Sean’s driver is waiting for him which is very confusing to him. He rejects this man’s offer for a ride and scurries to his office, where he sees his own last name on the building. Apparently, he and Sean co own this development company since Rona retired. In the lobby, he is greeted by Joyce! Except she is the attorney that’s suing them over their intention to demolish a youth center for more office buildings. Because what else would a development company build?
Ethan is quite disheartened to learn that Joyce only knows him in this capacity and that his own company is demolishing this youth center. However, he is very delighted to see that this is the kind of lawyer Joyce would be. (To be clear, while endearing, this is NOT the type of practice that contributes much to their household income, which was one of Joyce’s earlier reasons for pursuing her degree. Just want you all to keep up.)
Upstairs, Ethan experiences surprise after surprise. He is now in Sean’s office and he has a fireplace. Everyone seems surprised when he greets them. But he is very happy with his new office, his color changing fireplace and his new suit. So things are looking up for old Ethan. He also gets his assistant to start working on winning Joyce over.
At the end of the day, Ethan is taken to his VERY NICE house. He is just tickled by this house. It is just what he thought he always deserved. So then Santa turns up again and fills him in. Ethan is getting to experience the reality he thinks he was meant for. It will stay this way if he doesn’t learn any lessons. Ethan asks about his kids. Well, since they were adopted, his kids exist in this alternate universe but are still in foster care. Ethan wonders why Santa can’t just make them his kids real quick. But, for some reason, Santa can only do this one very specific type of magic. He has until Christmas to make it right.
The next day, he learns he has a Ferrari, which is something he thinks his daughter will find amusing. But, he can’t tell her. Later, he wants to keep winning over Joyce and sends her favorite hot chocolate. Joyce is intrigued but doesn’t want him to think she cares. Ethan remembers that he knows exactly where she’ll be that night and heads that way.
Of course, Ethan finds Joyce at a tree lot. He offers to help her get her tree home if she promises to help him with something. He also tells her he wants to help her stop the youth center from being demolished. Joyce is all on board for that so she agrees. But, silly Ethan has driven the Ferrari.
At Joyce’s house, Ethan tells her THE WHOLE STORY. She promptly kicks him out. But then she walks outside and keeps talking to him about his situation. She doesn’t believe him but she kind of thinks he’s coming from a good place. I think that’s where we land at the end of the night?
Back at “home,” Ethan says goodnight to his talking coffee maker.
In the morning, Ethan runs into Rona on the street. She tells him she retired because she was tired of dealing with ruthless business people. H realizes that maybe he could do things his way after all. So, then he heads to the youth center to talk to Joyce.
At the youth center, they connect over similar childhoods-spending lots of time at youth centers themselves. Then he meets Collin and Trisha. He seems very emotional about seeing them and realizing they don’t know who he is. Outside, he tells Joyce that they adopted them when Collin was 3 and Trisha was 1. I think that is quite lovely. So, with a game plan all set, Ethan heads back to the office to fill Sean in. Sean thinks Ethan’s idea is terrible. Ethan’s solution for the dilapidated youth center is to host a few quick fundraisers. Sean hates that idea too. But I guess that doesn’t really matter because the next scene is at a phone bank.
The gang really hustles to answer the phones. Ethan arrives to help and catches a soccer ball that Trisha kicks his way. He asks if she has any camps coming up and tells her he has a daughter that plays soccer. BUT he doesn’t remember what position she plays. So that’s not good. Later, he meets his kids’ foster parents. They are really nice. He hears Trisha call the man “dad” and that just about kills Ethan’s insides completely. THIS dad has plenty of time to help Trisha with her application to soccer camp!
That night, Ethan and Joyce go out to dinner. He tells Joyce what she’s like in his reality. She thinks she sounds happy in that one. Okay so we are going to put this law school at 50 business to rest? No? Okay.
The next day, Ethan and Sean get interviewed on TV about their company going public. Ethan takes the opportunity to pitch their fundraising dinner for the youth center. BUT, after the interview, he briefly forgets about Trisha! His time to learn lessons is running out. The thought of losing his memories of his daughter scares him quite a lot!
That night they hold the fundraising event. They are still haven’t met their fundraising goal and Ethan and Joyce are optimistic but a little worried. He gets to work doing his best to subtly sabotaging everything. He tells Joyce he thinks Ethan is just doing this for publicity. Joyce walks out and Ethan catches her. He’s like, isn’t Sean the worst? And she’s like, yeah I guess he is.
Later, Ethan and Joyce attend yet another holiday party. This is his office Christmas party; annoyingly held on Christmas Eve. Is there a company on this Earth that holds its CHRISTMAS party on Christmas Eve? I want to know. Anyway, Rona shows up and casually announces she donated 2 million to make up the balance of the fundraiser. Sean remains annoyed at the whole thing because he’s the worst.
As Joyce and Ethan dance, Ethan starts to forget EVERYTHING big time. He and Joyce run into the hall and she tries to help him remember. He snaps back and Santa approaches. He tells Santa that he doesn’t want to forget his family and he got in the right elevator after all! That’s the magic word and he wake up on the train station bench again.
THIS TIME though, his office party is still happening, so he storms in and gets into it with Sean over the newsstand lease. Rona overhears and fires Sean on the spot. She offers Ethan his job but Ethan says he doesn’t want to take a promotion that will take time away from his family. Rona tells him that’s exactly who she wants in that position.
When he gets home, he foolishly tells Joyce that she can go ahead and go to law school. Whatever. I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t affect me. But Joyce, it’s a dumb idea. Anyway, the movie ends with Ethan being grateful for his family and promising Trisha he will help her with her soccer application. And that’s it!
Guys, I really liked this one! It was a fun watch and a reprieve from the heaviness of the past few weeks. I loved that even in his alternate reality, Ethan immediately pursued Joyce and had to tell her everything that was going on. He kept saying she’s the only person he can talk to and trust. And I loved that he needed her in any reality he was in. I loved that they adopted their kids from foster care and that Ethan really couldn’t be a bad guy if he tried. He was just a little run down. This was a true treat of a movie!