Holiday Hearts (2019)

When it comes to the Williams sisters – the Hallmark ones, not the tennis ones – I admit that Kimberly is my favorite. Chalk it up to Father of the Bride or Darrow and Darrow. Little sis Ashley’s latest, however, has me giving her a second look. Maybe I haven’t liked her work because she’s been getting shitty scripts or maybe I should check out her non-Hallmark oeuvre, but I have to give her credit for, er, really putting the heart in Holiday Hearts.

Then again, I’m predisposed to liking Williams’s character. I probably relate more to her than anyone I’ve seen on this channel, for better or worse. Peyton is an accountant at her family’s inn but really wants to take over as the event planner. This Christmas, she gets the chance to prove herself by overseeing the annual Christmas Eve party, one of the glitziest and most talked about dates on the Birch Creek calendar.

Actually, scratch what I said. I don’t relate with any of this part; I don’t do numbers or social events. I do get, however, Peyton’s angsty, unrequited love for her longtime, now somewhat estranged, friend Ben (Paul Campbell). The way she looks at him and gets sucker punched by memories is…real. And suddenly I wonder if I always look so transparently broken even as I’m trying my damnedest to keep it together in front of my crush(es).

So you can imagine what a trial it is for her to pretend everything is cool when she and Ben get roped into babysitting duties. Ford (Matt Hamilton), widowed dad of Lily (Payton Lepinski), gets banged up hanging his thousandth strand of Christmas lights, and asks his best friend to help out. Peyton, upon seeing that Ben is a smart doctor but a dope around kids, lends a hand. The two play parents to Lily over the course of a few days and indulge in her family traditions. The awkwardness though.

For once, my romantic trials are very well represented. I also like that Peyton is kind of a mess. Again, feeling very seen with this movie. On the surface, she’s put together and looks a stunner in her red silk dress, but that party of hers is struggling and it may become the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. That’s when she has to turn to her sister, Olivia (Lisa Durupt), who’s taking out her Christmas frustrations on bacon.

Despite Ben being the main object of affection, he’s a bit of a punching bag in this movie. He’s not totally clueless about Peyton’s feelings towards him but still manages to act a fool. I’m not sure where the attraction comes in, and the story doesn’t go out of its way to show his better qualities. He’s a do-gooder doctor who wants to work in Honduras, but he also seems so emotionally distant. As a result, Peyton sometimes seems silly for pining over him. Williams sells it so well though, that I just want to have her back all the way.

Released: 2019
Dir: Allan Harmon
Writer: Susan Brightbill
Cast: Ashley Williams, Paul Campbell, Payton Lepinski, Jillian Fargey, Lisa Durupt, Matt Hamilton, Fred Henderson, Graeme McComb
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019