It’s been a very busy few weeks. Family vacations, back to work, rehearsals for a production of Macbeth. Every time I have tried to sit down to escape into the delightful world of Hallmark Christmas movies, I have just gotten too stressed to enjoy them. But, thankfully, Macbeth opened last night, I have a whole morning with the TV, and nothing is going to stop me from enjoying one of the two Austen-inspired Hallmark movies – Christmas at Pemberly Manor, starring 2 people we’ve seen before in previous movies, but who I can’t be bothered looking up right now.
Snowy New York! It never looks this magical – just check the news feed from this past Thursday. Elizabeth is a party planner working in an all-white office, and she already is one of my favorite heroines because she has color-coded binders for her work. This office, though, is full of white Christmas trees, and no offense to those who like those, but I feel that they are extremely ugly. Elizabeth works for a demanding blonde woman named Caroline, who has very arched eyebrows. She is also working on the Lambton’s Christmas Festival, which is a town with snow, and her friend, George, is the mayor. Caroline is pushy with the details – does Elizabeth want more with George? And Elizabeth is all like, no, but I did write a letter to Santa asking for my true love, and Caroline’s face says it all. It says “Excuse me, you are a professional woman with color-coded binders and you just wrote a letter to Santa for a boyfriend? Have you tried eHarmony?” Caroline also gives her some backhanded compliments about how she’s good at getting things done, but that she’s really more of a “behind the scenes binder type” kind of girl. I do not like Caroline at all. But we’re not supposed to like her, her and her weirdly arched eyebrows, especially when she just threatens Elizabeth’s job if she screws up the small town Holiday party.
Second scene – Darcy Holdings – William Darcy is super nurturing with his new assistant. He’s got a ton of work to do – he’s got to sell his uncle’s estate (the titular Pemberly Manor) in Lambton, CT before Christmas.
Right now, Younger Son is walking around whispering “Sassy Friend” as if that will make one appear in this movie. I’ve taught Younger Son well.
Lambton, CT – Mayor George looks like Clark Kent, but not the dreamy Henry Cavill kind. I’m guessing he’s the Wickham, but who knows. He and his assistant, Jane, are talking about Elizabeth’s plans for the Christmas Festival – they are Extremely Intricate and Ambitious, and George is clearly in love with Elizabeth, who just arrived at the Inn and handed her suitcase to a porter and it is SO CLEAR that this suitcase had nothing in it. Readers of this blog know that I cannot stand that.
Reunion of Elizabeth and George, and we get their backstory – they met in college, and they had one date, but she decided they were better off friends, right George? (George’s face clearly says he accepted The FriendZone begrudgingly).
Darcy arrives in town – and he tries to joke with Assistant Travis about his job depending on his getting his coffee right, but Travis takes it literally because Darcy can’t tell jokes. (We all know Darcy is not a Henry Tilney – maybe he should realize it too!) So Travis jumps the outdoor coffee line, which does not impress Elizabeth, who takes Travis at his word about the job dependency, and off she goes to yell at Darcy. Darcy is So Impressed by Elizabeth’s take charge attitude.
Pemberly Manor has a Santa-like caretaker named Christopher. Big Sigh. He’s going to sell the Manor – more because his board of directors wants to, rather than what he wants, and he clearly loves this house, so he’s going to have to change their mind before the end of this movie.
Disaster #1 – Water Main Break in the Town Square! Oh No! And so off Elizabeth goes to Pemberly Manor, as it’s the best thing ever in this little town. And finally she figures out that Darcy is the one she yelled at in the car the day before. And when Darcy says no, she basically says Darcy will end up on Santa’s Naughty List. Seriously.
Take a Shot! Heroine says something about Christmas being Magical.
Elizabeth and George are in a tree lot, trying to figure out how to get Darcy to change his mind. She also just said “Nothing is impossible at Christmas” so I can see that if I was doing the Hallmark drinking game, I’d be absolutely snookered by the end of this movie. As it happens, it’s not even 9am, so I’m not doing that.
Christopher the caretaker is decorating the estate with greenery. (Oh, and Drink! Santa guy just asked for a Christmas Miracle). Elizabeth and George did some sneaky emailing to the company who is going to destroy Pemberly Manor in favor of condos, and so Darcy is commanded to engender goodwill in the town before the sale in order for the new owners to look good, so ba-bam! Christmas at Pemberly Manor is on, with the condition that Darcy’s name is not involved. Somehow methinks that caveat is going to go out the window.
For some reason, Elizabeth and Darcy are now shopping for supplies for this Festival. What I don’t understand, writers, is if you make Elizabeth incredibly organized and detail-oriented, why wouldn’t she have bought her supplies already – or at least placed orders for them to be delivered? Why must we have cute scenes where Darcy is holding a million packages, while they debate about the magic of Christmas? Couldn’t they have had this conversation doing something else? But we establish that Darcy’s background (rich, smart, busy) and hey get more shopping done. Oh, and btw, the supplies they are getting are in cute shopping bags with tissue paper poking out, so they are clearly not really shopping for supplies.
Travis and Jane have some cute awkward flirting going on, so we’ve established that Travis is the Bingley. Awwwwwww.
Drink! Magical Gazing at the Christmas Tree that Elizabeth forced Darcy to get for his house. And they have some soul-gazing while discussing Darcy’s sad childhood until Darcy abruptly says he’s got to work more. The music tells us that this is an important moment, but Elizabeth is confused by Darcy’s weird behavior and goes to Friend George to understand him – and now is the perfect point in the story for Friend George to become Dastardly Wickham and tell lies about Darcy, but instead, for some reason, FG tells Elizabeth about how much charity Darcy does, and how he’s a great guy, he just doesn’t like the spotlight.
Santa Caretaker reminds Darcy of just how much he loved Christmas as a boy, and just how hard Elizabeth is working on the Festival, which prompts Darcy to leave his study and go out into the pseudo-cold to find out what she’s doing at the fake Santa village. And he finds out what makes her wind down – which is baking Christmas cookies. She clearly does not have a small kitchen because making batches of Christmas cookies in a kitchen with hardly any counter space is not relaxing in any way, shape, or form. But off they go to bake in the gorgeous kitchen in the Pemberly Manor where more flirtations ensue, and it’s actually cute. (And Santa Caretaker is LOVING IT!)
Jane and Elizabeth both deny their feelings for their prospective boyfriends and laugh about it, and then Darcy and George go for coffee. For some reason they are back at the outdoor coffee cart. Why doesn’t this cute little town have an indoor cafe? For the second time, someone tells Elizabeth that she has a nice voice as she randomly sings Christmas carols while she works. Darcy surprises Elizabeth with a carriage that his aunt and uncle had in their barn, and now they bond even more while they paint. She even tells him about her Santa letter (done because she had to encourage her niece to write to Santa, but we ALL know she just really wanted to do it.)
Tree Lighting Time! Darcy still wants to be behind the scenes, so he won’t be a distraction. Um, sure. Whatevs. They also say there’s so many people there, but I guess central casting didn’t get that memo, because it’s not like there’s a lot of people in the shot.
Younger Son wants to know when The Sad Times are. We are only halfway through the movie – so the answer is – NOT YET! And Tree Lighting is lame, but Santa Caretaker manages to make Darcy leave the house to watch it – and after a nice little Darcy / Elizabeth handshake – there’s a photographer who takes their picture – which makes it into the paper, and Caroline the witchy boss sees it and she’s got major scheme eyes going on.
Santa Caretaker has to come to the rescue, as their properly vetted Santa came down with the flu. And Jane lovingly recruits poor, sadsack Travis to be an elf and I laughed out loud at that.
George and Darcy have the conversation about why George accepted the FriendZone, and Darcy is SUCH a good guy that he is encouraging George to ask Elizabeth out again, even though we all know that he wants to do that, himself. But off Darcy and Elizabeth go for more shopping in a deserted town – and they are clearly not carrying anything in their shopping bags. But, more importantly, they are having another really.important.conversation about hopes and dreams – you know, all that stuff you do.
But another wrinkle just shows up – Caroline is PISSED that she wasn’t mentioned in the article, and she’s taking over the whole rest of the festival and changing all of Elizabeth’s plans and taking credit for everything that Elizabeth did. And it also includes shooting daggers at Elizabeth because Darcy wants to take Elizabeth on a carriage ride, and not Caroline. She’s promising a “chat” with Elizabeth when they get back from obviously green-screened carriage ride.
Another Christmas Miracle! The soloist from the choir has a sore throat and can’t do the finale. Spirit of Christmas, Elizabeth – she’s got to sing in front of people without rehearsal, without working with the group at all. But it’s going to be amazing, because it’s Christmas! And apparently, it’s not a group thing – she’s singing O Holy Night a capella. That’s not a grand finale, that’s what happens in a high school show. But it’s worth it because Darcy has swoony eyes as she sings. But then he manfully swallows his love and encourages George to ask Elizabeth out, and then Elizabeth sees Caroline manhandle Darcy after her solo and is hurt because #feelings and oh my goodness, is this The Sad Times?
Caroline is now showing her true colors – she’s basically telling Elizabeth to f— off, she’s got it from here.
Santa Caretaker is now playing matchmaker. Hands up if we saw that coming!!! Darcy then goes off in his chauffeur driven car to tell Elizabeth how he feels, but he sees George and Elizabeth hug outside the Inn, and he runs away in The Sad Times, and now that the sale of Pemberly Manor is over, the Festival is cancelled on Christmas Eve, and Elizabeth is in Super Sad Times because Darcy left without saying good-bye.
But now George is being super nice and encouraging about saving Christmas, and how Darcy does kind of care for Elizabeth, and she likes him too, but the actor is playing it like he’s playing the long game and if he’s just patient enough, he’ll get the girl in the end. Dude, live in the now. But they are scurrying to save the Festival – and due to some kind of legal loophole, they can still celebrate. Joy of Christmas, and everything, and even Caroline says she’ll help – maybe her heart just grew three sizes that day.
Oh, poor Travis just has to give Darcy the whole “you love Elizabeth and Elizabeth loves you” and it’s super awkward.
The fake snow is causing all sorts of problems – Darcy is making his way back to Pemberly and his car gets stuck, and guess who shows up to save the day – Santa Caretaker – and he’s Actually Really Santa come to bring Darcy to Elizabeth to fulfill Elizabeth’s Christmas Wish. And Darcy cancelled the sale of Pemberly Manor, and he’s back just in time to read “A Night Before Christmas.”
And yay – final kiss in the snow because everyone falls in love at Christmas. Sleigh Bells Ring and we’re done.
So as a take-off of Jane Austen, this was really – not great. They didn’t have to be so heavy handed with the names – it could have been fine if her name was Lucy and his name was James Lockwood or something. They are just trying to horn in on Austen’s brilliance with their Hallmarkiness, and I guess it worked, because I have 11 movies on my DVR, and this was the first one I chose to watch. As a Hallmark movie, it hit so.many.notes that I do feel more in the Christmas spirit, even though we are 5 days before Thanksgiving and technically we shouldn’t be doing any Christmas things yet.
There’s another Austen take-off on the way, but not sure when. I have that Countdown to Christmas app on my phone, so I will have to consult that and let you know. I’ll gladly take it on, you know, just so you don’t have to.