If you, like me, are creeped out by Hallmark headers, then this one is a doozy. Is the fella doing one of those Dwayne Johnson circa the Rock era circa the Attitude Era of the WWF eyebrow things? Also, is he made of wax? Are BOTH people made of wax? Am I irritated or terrified by this?
Anyway, the two maybe-wax people are the leads in our next Hallmark film: Christmas Under the Stars.
When Nick is fired from his high-powered firm, he takes a job at a Christmas tree lot where he meets Julie, an astronomy teacher who’s always looked to the stars for hope. As the Christmas spirit washes over him — and he begins falling for Julie — the once self-centered Nick discovers the joy of helping others.
We begin the film with our female lead Julie telling her students to write down what they did for Thanksgiving. I suppose it’s an icebreaker exercise because this has nothing to do with astronomy. She finishes up class and talks shop with her vice principal friend.
While chipper, Julie is having a hard time. DEAD PARENT™ ALERT: her father is dead. Literally two minutes into this film and we’ve ticked off one of the big squares in Hallmark bingo. Julie has to help her son Matt cope with the death AND deal with some unscrupulous debt collectors. Even Hallmark can’t escape the realities of healthcare in America.
We move on from the schoolyard to see our male lead Nick step out of his snazzy Porsche and into the Big City. Nick is, as they say, “killing it” as an investment banker. He’s super confident, successful, handsome in a waxy sort of way, and very rich. He’s even expecting to be made junior partner any day now.
He gets called into his boss’s office…AAAAND he’s fired. He screwed up on some sort of stock and must pay. Nick leaves the office, dejected.
While meandering the streets of Big City, an old man calls out to Nick and asks for help putting up some Christmas lights. The man is so grateful that he tries to give Nick an entire tree from his Christmas tree lot. This kind of offer would work in a coffee shop, but I would think less so for a place that sells Douglas Firs.
When Nick refuses the tree, the man changes tack and offers the investment banker a job that pays “a dollar over minimum wage.” Before Nick can accept, Julie and her son step into the picture to greet the old man whom they appear to have some sort of relationship with. Nick uses this opportunity to slink away.
The next morning, Nick arrives for work. He decided that instead of being unemployed, he’d just do this tree thing.
He and his new boss discuss the inner workings of the tree business. Unfortunately for Clem, all the new big business buildings have hampered his sales. On top of that, some awful developers finally bought him out of his lot. Come January 1st, no more tree farm.
Julie stops by once again with Matt and they formally meet Nick. He charms them both.
The two tree men continue to work and meet a few other kindly tree patrons. Nick learns that Clem’s wife died four years ago and he’s just sort of existing.
Back at Julie’s, Matt is still struggling with his grandfather’s death. Thankfully, Nick arrives at their door with a tree, stopping any potential tears from flowing. Although there’s tree prep to distract them, Julie keeps bringing up her DEAD FATHER™. Nick departs before things get too sexy.
Nick continues to work at the Christmas tree lot as well as into the hearts of Julie and Matt. He helps them decorate their tree and even tells them that he has a DEAD MOM™! It’s beautiful.
After Matt heads to bed, Nick and Julie talk about how her DEAD PARENTS™ met which is boring. Amped from all the dead people chat, Julie asks Nick out. The former investment banker accepts.
Julie forgot that she told her kid that they’d go to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, so her romantic dinner for two turns into tree lighting for three. Nick is fine with it though. While sexily washing dishes before the event, Julie tells Nick that Matt is actually her foster child. A heart of gold, this one.
At the ceremony, Julie and Nick talk about their DEAD FATHER™ and DEAD MOTHER™, respectively. Apparently, they were wonderful people who shouldn’t be dead. Nick was raised by his father, a high powered businessman who is hard to impress.
Julie changes the subject to her money woes and discovers that her debt collectors were once Nick’s biggest client. Julie, sad and incensed at this revelation, walks away from her would-be lover. I said it once and I’ll say it again: This film is depressing.
Nick returns to Clem’s place and they talk about how his DEAD WIFE™ died and that the Christmas tree farm is his way of honoring her. Sadly, he won’t be able to keep his promise thanks to those developer people. Jesus H Christ. Someone needs to talk about Christmas pageants or something.
Nick leaves to deliver a tree and comes back to Clem lying on the floor.
Clem is fine, but Nick decides to bring him to his apartment to ensure he doesn’t die or something.
In the midst of all the gratuitous tragedy, Nick managed to secure an interview with a small investment firm. He almost missed it because Clem is a clumsy-pants. During the interview, Nick makes it a point to tell the owner that he wants to head the firm’s ethical investment arm. The Christmas trees have truly changed Nick.
The next morning, Julie and Nick bring Clem back to his bustling farm. All is well until Clem learns that Nick may have turned down the new job. He has a little fit, but Nick calms him down with a grand speech.
Nick even brings his big business father to the farm. They have a heart-to-heart about their strained relationship. Dad is proud of his son, no matter what.
Nick goes for broke and invites the head of the greenwash investment company to the farm. Through some plot machinations, Nick’s old firm was able to sell the medical debt to the ethical investment company. This means that Julie might not have to pay her DEAD FATHER’s bills!
The investment head then offers the job to Nick.
The whole cast goes to Nick’s apartment to celebrate Christmas.
Julie happily announces that she pulled some strings so that Clem can keep his lot (There was a subplot the involved a city planner and her kid and that’s how she got the lot back).
Nick and Julie kiss. FIN.
This didn’t feel like a rom-com. It felt like the story of three struggling people who had to overcome a bunch of hurdles. Interestingly, the film focused way more on Nick than it did Julie. We were mainly on his journey towards being a better man. I’m not certain why they said Julie was a foster mom. I feel that was a thread that was meant to be fleshed out, but it never happened.
The romantic storyline felt shoehorned in. I’m not a romantic, so I kind of appreciated the focus on the job and life stuff. However, they could’ve toned down the dead parent / wife thing.
Rating: 3 out of 5 poorly decorated Christmas trees.
- When Nick is at the firm, he spouts out stupid phrases like “24/7, 365!” or “I’m making the big swings!”
- Julie spends a portion of the film trying to Stand and Deliver a student who is brilliant but seems to be struggling.
- This whole film takes place in the Big City which is ok by me.
- Jesse Metcalfe looks pretty young for his age.
- According to Clem, the photo he has is meant to be from 1974. It surely is not.
Write Before Christmas. A delightful pun, so my hopes are high.