Brooke D'Orsay is always on my radar. Years ago she made an impression in the 2012 Hallmark rom-com, How to Fall in Love, and with her recurring role in Royal Pains. So, I hoot and holler whenever she graces the screen. With Christmas in Love, Brooke dives into the "efficiency expert" genre. She's not the first, obviously. This one's preceded by other made-for-tv flicks like Let It Snow (2013), Wish Upon a Christmas (2015), Christmas Incorporated (2015), and Appetite for Love (2016), to name a few.
Brooke plays Ellie Hartman, the H.R. manager of Carlingson Bakery, home of Missouri's Favorite Kringle. To demonstrate my lack of pastry lore, I had to look up what a kringle is.
For a change, Carlingson's is a business that's not floundering. It's doing well, actually. Still, the staff gets nervous whenever a suit visits from corporate. There's one coming in a day or two.
Some plot spoilers.
In San Francisco, the "efficiency expert" comes in the shape of Nick Carlingson (Daniel Lissing), son of the corporate CEO. Nick's dad is lookin' to retire at the start of the new year. But, first, he's dispatching Nick to that bakery in White Deer, Missouri to rub elbows with the people there. Nick's dad thinks his son still has things to learn in terms of valuing people. It's also something of a tradition, sending the heir to where it first started.
And Nick? He's an obedient son, so he's going. But he's got ideas about how to improve the bakery even more, and it's to do with automation. He's a bottom-line hombre who champions efficient time management and maximum productivity. And machinery gets the job done twice as fast as human hands. So, he's leaning towards restructuring.
If he's looking to make a great first impression in White Deer, Missouri, he's blown it. Cue up the painful (for Nick) meet-cute with Ellie. She observes his precarious state on the icy ground and suggests he needs better shoes, to which Nick protests: "These are my favorite shoes. These are Italian." Such a douchelord. Minutes later, when someone asks Ellie who the stranger is, she says, "Just some guy with terrible shoes."
Of course, it doesn't take long before everyone fingers him as Nick "Stanwell," merely a visiting suit from corporate, not at all the CEO's son and heir apparent. He figures to suss out the lay of the land best if he went incognito like those eighth-century caliphs in Arabian Nights who wandered in disguise to take the pulse of their troubled kingdoms.
Still, it's hard to fit in when there's a mighty stick up your bum. Dropping off food at the food bank, Ellie introduces Nick by his name to the food bank volunteers. Which leads to this exchange:
- Food bank volunteer: "From corporate?"
- Nick: "What gave it away?"
- Food bank volunteer, eyeing Nick: "Everything about you."
Except Nick's bottom line philosophy stands zero chance in the face of Ellie's positivity. Observe as Ellie embiggens his mean, shriveled heart. Factor in, too, the charms of a tight-knit community. White Deer, Missouri is a place where no one has to lock their doors at night - me, I think that's asking for it, but, hey, I live in a cruel city where even doorknobs get stolen.
For Ellie, there's some low-key drama going on. There's awkward tension with Carl the fireman with whom she broke up a year ago. And while Ellie is content with her job at the bakery, she's not passionate about it. Maybe there's something more for her out there if only she dared step out of her comfort zone. Ellie's a people person so she excels in human resources. But see her light up when she's making and dropping off those bomb-ass Christmas wreaths that she painstakingly customizes for people.
What's a Hallmark Christmas movie without there being some sort of festival in it? This plot being set with the White Deer Christmas Festival as the backdrop, maybe Ellie can figure some things out. Look, there's a vendor's booth being offered her at the festival, what with her arts & crafts creations being such coveted things. Ellie just can't believe people would actually spend their hard-earned money on her stuff. But it's so obvious that her happy lies in making something out of nothing: "I like to see the beauty in things that aren't inherently beautiful."
The romance plays out in typical Hallmark fashion. We see Nick gradually open up to the spirit of Christmas as he hobnobs with the cordial staff, as he soaks up the hometown hospitality, and dives into learning the skills it takes to work a bakery. But, as usual with Hallmark, the male lead is more a prop to showcase the lead actress. Daniel Lissing does fine, but it's Brooke D'Orsay's show. She just seems one of those chill girls that you want to hang with and is easy to be with.
There's the usual obstacle that surfaces with about twenty minutes to go in the movie. What ticked me off a bit was that everyone refused to hear Nick's side of things. Still, it leads to Nick's giving my favorite quote from this movie. It's a speech by him that conveys his understanding, at last, of how people and tradition matter and how one's success is predicated on those who'd been there before. "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone else planted a tree long ago." Very nicely put.
Lastly, in a rarity, this was the second Hallmark movie in 2018 where it looked as if the girl was gonna leave her small hometown for the big city (the other is Falling for You).