Bethany Joy Lenz plays Emily, a rising star at a marketing company working on a significant project. That actually could take her career to the next level.
The trick: The project sends you to Fulton, Illinois – the hometown of your ex Jamie (Tyler Hines)! Emily was nervous because “You can’t swing a stick without hitting your family members”. By the way, Jamie is now the vocabulary of the Illinois gubernatorial re-election campaign.
And Emily’s fears were justified, because once she got to the train station:
He saw not only Jamie’s entire family but Jamie as well. To make matters worse, Jamie still hasn’t told his family that he broke up with Emily a few months ago! Now he has to toy with Jamie’s lies (he has his reasons, believe me) while Jamie contemplates painful inner thoughts. Oh, will the two of them fall in love again? Or have you ever been in love before?
Cast Alison Wandzura as Jamie Becca’s sister! She has a degree in cinema. She is a single mother, she is lesbian (!) and knows how to put her complaining sibling in her place.
The way Wandzura and Hines interact captures the brotherhood dynamic. And unlike many supporting characters, who are primarily there to listen to and perform, Becca is a complex character. That drives the plot and even gets her romantic subplot – albeit a minor one.
You know, maybe “An Unexpected Christmas” is the right title for this movie. Because I didn’t expect it to be that great. Yes, the whole plot is Hallmark Mad Libs, from the fake couple to the Christmas-obsessed small town. To the extensive promotion hanging in front of our principal. But what makes this film so unexpectedly fresh is the incredibly humorous script. And a presentation that is relaxed but at the same time sincere.
I don’t joke around much in Hallmark holiday movies. But there were a few trade-offs at An Unexpected Christmas that worked for me. I mentioned above and the another one between the Jamie and Becca.
When she asked to borrow their car, which got two enthusiastic thumbs up from me. It’s a trademark Christmas movie with characters who talk about how people talk – not just people but also millennials. Congratulations to Hallmark Paul Campbell for being behind the camera and writing such a great script.
And then there’s the show!
How often can you actually call the female lead in a Hallmark Christmas movie hot or cool? We have many girls next door, many Type A professionals, and even some geeky scientists.
Bethany Joy Lenz plays Emily, making her feel like many real women might know you. For example, one of the first things he says in the movie while throwing clothes in a suitcase is, “Unless it’s a bacon date, I don’t care.” I love him, and his well-behaved anger at Jamie’s cowardice works.
As for Jamie, at first, I thought he was a complete idiot – and then I remembered that Tyler Hines often plays excellent, confident roles. He couldn’t be here because it was a Lenz concert. Then I realized that Hines did a great job playing a guy who is just a mess of uncertainty and fear.
Which is 100%, not the kind of leadership we get in these films! James is beautiful because he has the face of Tyler Hines, but that’s all he has for her. The person has real related issues that they need to work through for this relationship to work. And those issues have nothing to do with common obstacles, like a lack of Christmas cheer.
Overall, “Unexpected Christmas” really looks like the future of Hallmark Christmas movies. It’s inclusive, funny, honest (well, real enough) and fun. An unexpected Christmas is wonderful.