Our second Winterfest movie, Hallmark’s “Love in Winterland,” aired this past weekend. Starring THREE Hallmark actors in Italia Ricci, Chad Michael Murray and Jack Turner, this movie was filmed in and around Vancouver, Canada, as well as Big White Ski Resort which is about 5-6 hours due east of Vancouver. It was directed by Pat Williams, who also directed Chad Michael Murray’s last movie, “Write Before Christmas,” and written by the Dobrofskys, who are prolific Hallmark screenwriters going back at least as far as 2013 when Neal wrote “Window Wonderland,” one of my favorite Hallmark movies of all time (albeit not ranked at the moment because Hallmark didn’t air it on their regular channels this year!!!) and 2015’s “Love on the Air.”
In a nutshell
Despite having the Dobrofskys as the screenwriters, Williams at the helm, and a solid trio of actors, this movie was a letdown, which made me sad. I had high hopes for it since it fought so hard to make it on the air.
Plot (from Hallmark Channel website)
Ally (Italia Ricci), a final contestant on a dating show, must face her high school sweetheart Brett (Chad Michael Murray) when she is chosen by Tanner (Jack Turner) for the show’s week-long Hometown Date.
There were some things I definitely appreciated about how this show tackled the whole reality tv plot compared to other Hallmark attempts, but it still left us with plenty of questions that shouldn’t be ignored. I did appreciate when Ally asks the show’s producer about the other women and “why do they cry after only three dates?” because while I am not a member of Bachelor Nation, I am aware that many of these women begin crying over the Bachelor after only spending a couple hours in total time with him, which is absurd.
First, let me say that I like all three actors. I’m glad Jack Turner finally got to use his own accent in a movie. I think Italia Ricci is funny and cute (and considering she was only 2-months post-baby in this movie, a real trooper, too). I know people love Chad Michael Murray because of “One Tree Hill,” and I think he can be good with the right material (see: 2018’s “Road to Christmas”), but I had issues with his character in this movie. CMM was fine, but his character was not.
Six Degrees of Kris Polaha: Chad Michael Murray is only two steps away from Polaha. He was in a movie called “Fruitvale Station” in 2013 which also featured Kevin Durand. In the same year Durand took a turn in “Devil’s Knot” with Polaha.
All three actors did well together, for the most part, although I do wish Ricci and Turner had more scenes together because I think I saw signs of a future movie with those two being pretty sparky. With his British reserve and her engaging spunkiness, that would make a really fun movie to watch. Get on that, Hallmark!
I think had Murray played his role differently I would have seen chemistry with Ricci, but the fact Ally had to scold Brett like a babysitter attempting to corral her recalcitrant ward made many of their scenes off-putting. However, I did like the scenes when Brett was helping Tanner despite his overwhelming jealousy.
There were a few tropes in this movie. The movie opened with a scenic shot of the big city. The movie featured the ex-boyfriend plotline, obviously. They drank some hot cocoa, and there was a snowball fight. There was the aggravating “he saw something happening and completely misunderstood what it was and walked away” moment that is popular in these movies. There were probably others, but those were the only ones I wrote down.
Did I Hear/See That Right?
First a minor nitpick. When she arrives back at home, Brett attempts to help her with her suitcase and it results in the suitcase flying open and her stuff spilling out. Two things: what kind of crappy suitcase is that? NO SUITCASE IN OUR MODERN WORLD would just randomly pop open like that. And why was one half of the suitcase completely empty? She’s coming home for a week. In winter. She had maybe three days worth of summer clothes and NO toiletries that I could see. Impossible. I’m not a girly girl and even I would have a full-to-the-brim suitcase if I went home to visit my parents for a week.
Okay, it’s time to talk about Brett. Former high school boyfriend Brett. Brett who seems to have not matured SINCE being a high school boyfriend. The tone of this character confused me. He didn’t come off as a guy pining for his former girlfriend so much as a guy who resented (and acted out because) she moved on even though he didn’t. I have to believe that the writers intended for Brett’s personality to come off as funny, but it only came off as infantile. And while he did show a few small token signs of being an adult towards the end of the movie, it was not enough to redeem his petty behavior for the first 3/4ths of the movie.
More than a few things bothered me about the reality tv show itself, while I appreciated other things. I appreciated that the hometown “date” was actually for an entire week. Actual reality shows should TOTALLY do that so that these couples can actually REALLY get to know each other and the families before deciding whether or not to pursue a permanent relationship. That was good. What was bad? One cameraman. ONE. And yes, the movie early on talked about cameras being installed in the house, but we never saw those camera angles again in the entire movie, but we sure did see plenty of shots of the lone cameraman standing next to the producer whispering in his ear.
For a movie that was about filming a weeklong hometown date, we sure didn’t see Ally and Tanner spending much time together other than a few meals, some skiing (without the aforementioned cameraman) and making s’mores by the campfire. Of course those two decided not to pursue a relationship. They clearly spent just as little time together in that week than they did while filming the rest of the show.
I had one feelgood moment in this movie, and the surprise was that it came from Brett. And while I don’t think Brett earned the response he got from Ally, I still appreciated the moment from a standalone scene perspective.
Brett admitted that he followed Ally to college and saw she had met so many new people that he didn’t want to interfere with her pursuit of her dream, so he left without telling her he had come. Ally responds to this by saying, “You broke my heart.” After a pause, Brett counters with, “I broke my heart too.” Again, based on his previous behavior toward both her AND Tanner, I didn’t necessarily feel that Ally should have become flustered/undone by that, because I didn’t think that ANY of his behavior leading up to this point would make her realize she might still had feelings for him. Brett did NOTHING to earn that. But I still thought that the dialogue was nice – even though I wish it was in a different movie.
No, I do not plan on watching this one again.
“Love in Winterland” scored significantly lower than Winter in Vail. Based on last year’s overall results, I suspect this movie will end up in the lower third for the year when all is said and done.
- Winter in Vail (air date: Jan 4) – 623 pts – weighted score: 108.8 (76.4%)
- Love in Winterland (air date: Jan 11) – 508 pts – weighted score: 90.7 (63.6%)
To see where this movie lands in my overall rankings of Hallmark movies, visit my Hallmark Movie Rankings page!
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