Love in Winterland (2020)

Love in Winterland is a hot mess, which is ironic because everything from the setting to the characters is so damn frosty. Everyone seems to be acting in a different movie or not at all, and the writers can’t figure out what story they want to tell. It’s a failed effort all around and makes Hallmark’s other Bachelor-inspired movie, My One and Only, look like a masterclass in film craft.

The problems are evident from the start when dishy bachelor Tanner (Jack Turner) chooses Ally (Italia Ricci) to go on a final hometown date. Neither, however, looks thrilled to be there, staring dead-eyed into the camera during what should be a moment of high drama. Ally makes it clear that she’s signed on to this dating show to promote her hotel chain, a bold move that goes above and way beyond her prescribed duties as manager. It’s not as if she owns the company, and anyway, advertisements exist last I checked. Her boss and the producer go along though as if this was the normal way of doing business. Meanwhile, international man of mystery Tanner seems a bit too retiring to subject himself to reality show scrutiny, later revealing that he was set up by friends.

So who thought two disinterested singles would make compelling dating show contestants? Not the writers of this movie apparently. To be fair, Tanner is a brighter presence; Turner has a definite joie de vivre to him, and I felt sorry watching him temper his natural charm to match the film’s dull mood. Ricci, on the other hand, sucks the life out of her character. I know the actor just gave birth and probably couldn’t wait to finish the scene and feed her baby or sleep, which I get, but she also looks like this is exactly what’s going through her mind.

So it doesn’t help when the third side of this disconnected triangle also goes for nonchalant, playing things a little too cool and cynical. Chad Michael Murray completes the set as Brett, Ally’s ex-boyfriend and the guy she can’t quit, mostly because he still hangs out with her parents every weekend. He has some roguish appeal, but if it’s a choice between sweet British dude and sarcastic childhood friend, I know who I’m picking. Then again, I’m not the one on a televised hometown date. Ally gets a fresh perspective on who and what she wants when she returns to tiny Winterland, Vermont for the first time in years. Something about competing in the chili championship and enjoying some lights festival help her realize what she’s been missing all this time she’s been climbing the management ladder.

The movie isn’t just about valuing your tiny hometown though. Instead, it toggles between multiple storylines without ever settling on one overriding narrative. Love in Winterland begins as a reality show love triangle and then moves onto a story about saving the family business before making a late pivot into Ally’s career frustrations. The film could have incorporated all of these elements, but the writers’ room seems to channeling the dynamic of their own characters. Everyone writes their own bit that doesn’t connect with anything else to create a coherent story.

Alt Title: Alice in Winterland
Released: 2020
Dir: Pat Williams
Writer: Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky
Cast: Italia Ricci, Chad Michael Murray, Jack Turner, Aliyah O’Brien, Wanda Cannon, Michael Kopsa, Brittney Wilson, Serge Houde, Edwin Perez, Trish Allen
Time: 85 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2020