I don’t know if fooling your relatives during the holidays is a thing in real life, but A Holiday Engagement is the second movie that I’ve watched in as many days about two people who pretend to be a couple to appease nagging family members (Hitched for the Holidays is the other). It would be nice to see folks try to deal with life as it is rather than circumvent the messy parts. Hallmark needs movie plots though, so the lesson here is that concocting fake relationships is the surest way to starting a real one.
Thank goodness then then that Hillary (Bonnie Somerville) gets dumped by her ambitious fiancé right before she’s set to introduce him at Thanksgiving. Of course anyone could have predicted the split; the guy hates Christmas music and drives an impossibly shiny sports car. He’s clearly no match for David (Jordan Bridges), the semi-employed but loveable piano-playing schlub who ends up posing as Hillary’s partner. Why she needs to keep up the pretense instead of simply admitting the truth to her devoted if overeager parents is beyond me, but she underestimates her mom (Shelley Long) and insists that she simply can’t arrive fiancé-less. David is happy to play along because he’s a nice guy and because Hillary’s promised him free cruise tickets, but it’s clear as a diamond engagement ring that he’s getting more than he bargained for.
There are plenty of built-in laughs and the plot is ripe for some awkward encounters. Very little of that comes through though, leaving everyone and everything about the movie feeling like one bad decision. The tension doesn’t build gradually so much as it sporadically bubbles up. Hillary’s sudden announcement that she’s set a wedding date ends up being a cheap way to shove the plot towards its climax, and the resulting denouement lacks any emotional payoff. Somerville is a chirpy lead and she and Bridges complement one another, but the cordial couple don’t make for a very interesting one.
Prod: Tosca Musk, Nichole C. Taylor
Dir: Jim Fall
Writer: Jim Fall, Barbara Kymlicka
Cast: Bonnie Somerville, Shelley Long, Jordan Bridges, Haylie Duff, Jennifer Elise Cox, Sam McMurray, Chris McKenna
Time: 92 min
Country: United States