The Ringer’s 25 Days of Bingemas is a guide for people who love original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who hate original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who occasionally watch these movies and want more; it’s a guide for people who never hope to watch these movies but would like to watch one writer descend into madness as she attempts to differentiate between 25 unique forms of holiday magic, 12 different fake countries, and eight different male leads who make you wonder, “Wait, is that the guy from Mean Girls?” (It isn’t, except for that one time when it is.) Every day for the next 25 days, Jodi Walker will feature one of this season’s 169 original holiday movies, answering a curated series of questions in order to showcase the genre’s masterful formula, the dedication to chaos, and the commitment to consistently widowing lumberjacks that launched an entire genre of TV movie. On the 10th day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to …
What are we watching?
Where are we watching it?
Why are we watching it?
Because, per Hallmark, “When Jen gets the chance to enter a brand’s design contest, she poses as a family influencer, enlisting the help of her best friend, Max, and her baby nephew. When her video is selected as a finalist, Jen is torn on whether to go on with her perfect ‘family’ or reveal the truth.”
There are no Vanessa Hudgenses in this movie—however, Australian actress Clare Bowen stars as Jen, as does at least 60 percent of her southern accent from Nashville despite this story being prominently set in Oregon. I’m thrilled to see her paired with Hallmark Hall of Fame hunk Brant Daugherty, and henceforth this movie shall be known as #Dimples.
How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?
Jen is allegedly a designer … of … interiors, I guess? Mostly we just see her bustling around a shop she owns with her sister. Both sisters have Felicity Season 1 hair, and that goes a long way toward making me not care about the legitimacy of their decorative expertise. Max, meanwhile, is a photographer who currently seems to be doing most of his photography for free to help out the businesses of family and friends, as is the occupational practice for all holiday movie photographers. Creative industries in Hallmark movies—they’re just for kicks!
Is there a building in disrepair, or a business facing financial ruin?
Jen’s shop isn’t bringing in the cash it needs to, and there could be a couple of reasons:
- It seems to only sell Christmas decorations and open around 11 a.m. when Jen decides to roll in with coffee.
- The store is called “JEN.UINE” which is supposed to be a play on her name “genuine,” but definitely reads more like “Ginuwine,” the American R&B singer of “Pony.”
Now, I can see why Elgin Baylor Lumpkin changed his name to Ginuwine, but I do not see why Jen named her store this. (The second part also looks like it says “urine,” so maybe run this by someone before you pay for the marquee letters next time, Jen?)
How problematic is the meet-cute on a scale of “one saved the other from falling in a snowbank” to “one is the other’s boss and they fall in love on a work trip”?
When we meet them, Jen and Max are already best friends who bring pizza over to one another’s houses every night and answer the door in pajamas and watch movies together—but they are absolutely not fucking. Just two of the most gorgeous people you’ve ever seen who get along great and have the same interests, platonically coexisting in the same tiny town as best friends. That is until Jen’s sister sees a social media competition hosted by @hyggeathome, a couple who are … also … interior designers, I think? Jen doesn’t think they would possibly choose her to represent their brand because she’s so…clumsy, I think? So her sister convinces Jen to borrow her baby, get Max to stand in as her husband, pretend to be a picture-perfect family, and then record a video about their perfectly imperfect Hygge lifestyle. And it actually is the perfect plan because Brant Daughtery looks so much like an HGTV carpenter that absolutely anyone would buy this ruse.
Say, are these two opposites?
Oh yeah. Max is kind of like if that dog from Up became a human, and Jen has a crippling fear that she’s unworthy of love, a deeply embedded aversion to pain, and a cadence and disposition that is, at times, eerily reminiscent of Pearl from Pearl.
Is there any singing/crafting/baking/blogging?
There is no singing. There is no crafting. There is no blogging. There is only Hygge. Hallmark’s rare foray into modern technology—everyone is using a nameless, brandless form of social media—entirely centerting on a trend that reached the height of its popularity in 2017 is perfect. Just perfect, I tell you. I love listening to these people try to say “hygge.” I love how Jen’s store seems to have nothing to do with Hygge. And, ultimately, I’m not going to tell you what Hygge is because the movie doesn’t explain it to us until a full hour in, and even then they’re like, “Hmmm, kind of hard to say, you’ll know it when you see it.”
The old Jen can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.
Jen’s dad actually is dead, but that’s beside the point. In order to make the application video with her fake family for the Hygge competition, Jen adopts a personality she calls “Jen T,” which is just a slightly more put-together version of herself. There are no notable differences except that Jen T talks with her mouth full of candy a little less. But every time Jen gets on camera, she nails Jen T on the first try and is utterly charming. It’s almost like she could have truthfully introduced this cute baby as her nephew and this hot muscled man as her best friend and had the exact same results. Eventually though, Jen grows convinced that she’s being overtaken by the fake and phony Jen T, and that’s the only reason the audience is loving her. She does one single bad thing where she accidentally takes credit for a gingerbread house that Max’s dad made, and then she freaks out that Jen T has taken over her body. She genuinely (jen.uinely) acts like it’s a Venom/symbiote situation and she’s about to start eating whole chickens.
Is there any magic?
Well, the magical moment came for me when I realized this movie has pretty much the exact same plot as the Angela run in Nathan Fielder’s bonkers psychological experiment, The Rehearsal. Jen T’s perfect videos keep getting her fake family further and further in the Hygge competition, so when she makes it to the top three, the Hygge couple just up and announce that they’ll be coming to stay with Jen’s family for Christmas in order to really get to know them. That means Jen has to rent a giant house, decorate it like a perfectly curated holiday home, and pretend like she lives there with Max (not her husband) and a baby (not her baby). The best part of this is that Jen and Max have to sleep in the same bed, which is the most scandalous thing I’ve ever seen in a Hallmark movie (they’re fully clothed, on top of the covers, and somehow 14 feet apart in a king-sized bed, but still). The funniest part is when she passes a baby through a window at nap time, which like I said, is literally a scene from the fever-dream-TV-show The Rehearsal.
Is there a villain who sows discord?
This is just a claaaassic case of “you are your own worst enemy.” Or to borrow even more words from Taylor Swift: It’s Jen. Hi—she’s the problem, it’s Jen. It’s actually kind of unusual for a Hallmark movie to just be like, “Yeah the problem here is deep, deep insecurity that stems from childhood abandonment trauma,” but they really go for it here. Clare Bowen even gets to do a little acting with Karen Kruper, who plays all the rich moms on Hallmark (it was time for her to come home for Christmas just this week). Jen doesn’t believe she’s lovable, and therefore doesn’t believe she can have a successful relationship with Max, and pushes him away before he can get close. In real life, this is an issue that could be solved with time and therapy. In this movie, it is solved with a series of photo albums and the enduring love of a hunky man who has been absolutely poured into some crewneck sweaters.
At the end of the movie, does the title make sense?
The absolute funniest part of this frequently unintentionally funny movie is that in attempting to make a more modern movie about social media, and calling it #Xmas, Hallmark has made a movie that is almost impossible to search for on social media. Never change #Hallmark.