If you’re going to watch a movie about saving the great-aunt’s inn, it might as well be one starring Rob Mayes. I know Tia Mowry-Hardrict is the main character, the one who inherits the inn, wins over the town, and learns to love Christmas, but Mayes is the one who makes it all work. Without him, it’s just another sappy romance. I mean, it’s a sappy romance regardless, but the actor has a mischievous quality that is simultaneously adorable and alluring, and I’m here for all of it. More Mayes, folks.
Jen (Mowry-Hardrict) is the lucky one who gets to spend the holidays with Brian (Mayes), lawyer by day and sleigh-maker by whenever. She takes a short break from her advertising firm and flies out to Chestnut Hill, Alaska after learning her Aunt Helen left her a whole ass inn and not a collection of ventriloquist dolls. It’s a nice surprise to put it mildly, but Jen’s about to be promoted to creative director and doesn’t need to be taking care of an inn as a side hustle. The plan is to spruce it up, sell the place, and then jet back to the office Christmas party.
The longer she stays in Chestnut Hill though, the more attached she becomes. Not one for Christmas festivities, Jen is forced to partake in some holiday merriment by people like Lana (Melanie Nelson), who puts her in charge of the gingerbread booth. She also befriends Molly (Erin Gray), Brian’s mother and owner of a popular café, and Molly’s regulars. Jen’s involvement in the community gives her another perspective, one that’s different from the fast-paced advertising world she’s used to. Her new relationships don’t get her ahead professionally but are fulfilling in other ways, and she rediscovers her love of art. As she leafs through Aunt Helen’s letters, she starts to see the importance of the inn and her aunt’s legacy.
The movie draws you in with some compelling supporting characters. Even those with smaller parts have a story to tell, and like Jen, it’s easy to become invested in everyone’s business. Still, I can’t look away from her and Brian. They have a charged relationship and set off sparks the moment he sees her at the airport and realizes she’s not a sixty year old woman. Both can give and take a joke, which makes it fun for us to watch. The movie’s not going to win awards, but at least the actors elevate the game.
Someone should win an award though because Balsam Bloody Hill has its fingers all over this thing. Golf claps to the online Christmas decorations company for most conspicuous product placement. And I don’t mean amateur stuff like copious shots of box labels. I’m talking whole chunks of script set aside for advertising copy. I just hope Mowry-Hardrict gets a cut of that overpriced tree money because she sold that shit.
Dir: Peter Sullivan
Writer: Anna White
Cast: Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Rob Mayes, Jackee Harry, Tim Reid, Erin Gray, Tanya Wright, Melanie Nelson, David Starzyk, Melanie Stone, Mason D. Davis
Time: 90 min
Country: United States