Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses (2019)

It is hard work keeping all these Hallmark decorators and party planners straight, so let me clarify that Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is the one where Jill Wagner gets it all wrong and chooses the vanilla businessman over the hot doctor with Ioan Gruffudd vibes. It shows a gross lack of judgment on her part and is reason enough not to take this movie seriously, though if we want to get technical, the story is also boring as hell.

Wagner plays Abbey, an interior designer thinking about returning to full time work. She lands a big job with the help of her friend, Caroline (Donna Mills), who happens to be the matriarch of the wealthy Sinclair family. Caroline’s son, Nick (Matthew Davis), hires her to decorate the family estate, one of them anyway, and prep it for his company’s Christmas gala. The grand building looks like it’s been abandoned for years so it’s going to take a lot of work, and that may keep her away from her young son (Wyatt Hunt).

Luckily for Abbey, she can count on support from all corners. Her dad (Darby Hinton) provides free babysitting on top of general career advice, she gets style tips from colleagues (Marquita Goings and Charles Green), and some old folks set her up with said hot doctor, Mike (Brandon Quinn). Her problem lies with Nick and his senior vice president, Kate (Rachel Hendrix). One is a Christmas grump who’s curiously using an unfurnished estate as his company’s home base while another is just a bitch who has it out for Abbey. Neither make it easy for her to do her job with Nick not having an opinion on any of her ideas and Kate perhaps having too many.

The story boasts some intriguing characters and relationships but then turns its focus elsewhere. Nick, the least interesting person in all of this, is at the center of things, almost more so than Abbey, but Davis has the personality of a dead fish and it’s no wonder Abbey gets frustrated with his apathy. Even when he starts to appreciate homemade ornaments and gingerbread parties, he never really warms up to her. The one time he’s relatable is when he learns that Abbey is on a date with the good doctor. In a flash of jealousy, he intrudes on their dinner, a desperate move that almost makes me root for him. The moment passes though, and in the end, I’m still all in for Team Doctor.

If Nick is a dull, stiff board, then Kate is the opposite. She gets the rawest deal of all. A poorly written character who deserves a far better arc, she’s just the resident B for much of the film. It isn’t until the end that we finally understand why she acts the way she does, and you know, I get it. I’d be snippy too if I was in her position. The problem is that the film never gives us a chance to sympathize with Kate. She’s there simply to antagonize Abbey without any regard for her whole damn backstory.

Abbey, by contrast, fails to inspire much of any feeling despite being the main character. I’ve come to realize that I’m not a great fan of Wagner. She’s a competent actor for sure, but I have a hard time connecting with the people she plays. Abbey is another one of those strong professional women, someone who always has her shit together even when she seems to be on the verge of losing it. Her characters bounce back from everything with barely a bruise, and they leave me feeling like an unnecessary observer.

Released: 2019
Dir: D.J. Viola
Writer: Liz Sczudlo
Cast: Jill Wagner, Matthew Davis, Donna Mills, Brandon Quinn, Darby Hinton, Marquita Goings, Charles Green, Wyatt Hunt, Rachel Hendrix
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019