Imagine having a job in December. Imagine needing to both work AND wrap presents. Impossible, right? I mean, truthfully, I think a lot of us manage it, but in Hallmark movies, they’re always the protagonist’s undoing. They simply cannot manage the epic balancing act of going to work and listening to loads of religious Christmas carols. It’s tough. It’s nearly insurmountable, which is why the protagonists must always learn some important and hopefully heartwarming lessons about priorities and the meaning of Christmas.
Laurel, a Chicago business woman, travels to Memphis around the holidays to secure the acquisition of a local bank for her Grinch of a boss. Laurel (Kellie Pickler) is in fact a Memphis native, so she’s got an inside edge when it comes to the bank owner, who actually cares about his employees. But she’s also got a lot of old connections to rekindle – a best friend from college, and an old flame-slash-music partner with whom she “almost had a record deal.”
Laurel is excited to show her daughter a real Memphis Christmas, and Graceland most of all, and she connects with the bank guy who practically folds her right into the family. And of course stuff between she and her ex, Clay (Wes Brown) heat up, predictably (why did they even break up?), so when Laurel’s boss calls her back to Chicago suddenly, oh boy, Christmas gets very, very sad.
Now, you can’t have an Elvis-themed Christmas movie with a country-western singer as its star and not have LOTS of musical numbers. While they do in fact film in actual Graceland, they clearly cannot afford actual Elvis songs, so don’t get attached to anything specific, but Laurel and Clay find every excuse in the book to duet. They even go Christmas caroling, and I think we need to talk about that for a moment.
The transaction of Christmas caroling has always felt very awkward to me. I mean, you stand on someone’s lawn, unbidden, and sing until you’re noticed. In 2018, it’s a rare person who will come to the door unless they’ve ordered a pizza. Well, a rare person under the age of 60 anyway. And if you do answer your door, you just stand there like an idiot, shivering, letting all the warmth of your house escape, sending your heating bill through the roof trying to heat the outdoors, so you can listen to a song you explicitly skipped church to avoid – and then what? Applause? Are you supposed to tip? How grateful do you have to be when someone interrupts your evening with something you never asked for? I mean, they’re like the holiday version of a mariachi band who serenades your table until you literally pay them to leave.
Anyway, there’s lots of Memphis twang to this Hallmark movie (there’s even a scene dedicated to the appreciation of a Hallmark card, almost as blatantly as when Netflix movies have people watching Netflix movies in them. Kellie Pickler isn’t really an actress but she’s still better than 60% of the wooden puppets usually cast in these things, and Wes Brown is sexy as hell. So if you’re happy to have a little gospel in your Christmas viewing, I guess you could do worse. I’ve done much worse, believe me.