Christmas List (2016) – A Grown Up Christmas List

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Not only does this Hallmark original reunite co-stars, it also pus a new spin on an oft-retold concept. 

In Christmas List, we meet Isobel Gray (Alicia Witt). When she was a child, Issy made a list of all of the things she wished Christmas could be. Time passed and she grew into a version of her perfectionist mother. But when that list again comes into her possession, she decides to revisit the magic she envisioned Christmas might have been.

First she makes an updated kind of Christmas “Bucket List,” then with the Internet as her guide, she seeks out a Christmas-y vacation spot, and travels there. Only trouble is, she planned this trip for herself, and her boyfriend, who is suddenly called away on business. Still, Issy travels ahead of him and with the help of handsome local (Gabriel Hogan), Issy experiences each of the activities on her list, and maybe, the real joy of the season.

Scripts that give characters lists which they use as guidelines to“live by,” at least until each is checked off, is not a new concept. But this film seemed to breathe fresh life into it. Isobel’s character is an “OCD” perfectionist, or a form of one who can’t quite “let go” of her expectation of Christmas. Or what it should be.

In many ways I felt bad for her and in others, I relate to her. When you are brought up one way, it’s hard to let go of some of the traditions or “way of doing things” that you know best. This doesn’t mean that way is “bad,” it just means they’re different. If I had one minor complaint about Christmas List, it’s this. The script makes it seem as if Isobel's traditions aren’t important. Specifically this is true given how Jamie's role helping Isobel accomplish the wishes on her list.

That said, and yes I realize this contradicts my prior statement, I did like Jamie as a character. I felt like the way he “pulled” her out of her safe shell and helped her experience the joys of the season (with an almost “childlike” wonder) is charming. The romance between them is cute and fun though the timeline stunts the possibility of their “love” being deep. Gabriel and Alicia also co-starred in Christmas at Cartwright’s so that connection was fun to revisit.

There are two things that really made this one stand out. One being this wasn't afraid to let the actors "play" a little more with the romance of the script. Jamie's pursuit of Issy is a little more obvious than some (for example, most barely let the couple share a kiss in the end) that have come before this. Then I liked the way Issy’s list is accomplished as she tries to recapture the magic of her childhood wishes. I also appreciate that the tasks come about in unusual ways. For example, nothing she does is exactly how it’s written on her list, but rather a form of what she wanted to do.

As is the gold standard of each Hallmark film, this is sure to entertain Hallmark movie fans. Catch showings of it during the month of December on Hallmark Channel.

Photos: Hallmark

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