christmas at the plaza header

Hallmark Countdown to Christmas: Christmas at the Plaza Recap/Review

I’ve heard It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year so much in these films, I feel like I work in retail. This particular film takes place in the magical metropolis of New York City. It appears Hallmark decided to put its hatred of the place aside for an hour and thirty minutes and make it the setting where two bland people fall in love.

Synopsis:

With Christmas approaching in New York City, Jessica, an archival historian enmeshed in a declining romantic relationship, is hired to create an exhibition honoring the history of Christmas at The Plaza Hotel. There, she meets Nick, a handsome decorator who’s been commissioned to deck out the iconic landmark. When they’re paired together to prepare the exhibition, they wind up enjoying a host of holiday traditions together and find themselves falling for each other. Tensions soon rise as Jessica must figure out her romantic priorities and decide with whom she’ll ultimately spend Christmas at The Plaza.

Wow, enmeshed is quite the word to use, Hallmark!

RECAP

We get some generic shots of New York covered in snow. It’s like Home Alone 2. Our Hallmark Heroine Jessica arrives at the luxurious Plaza Hotel. She’s here to do some research on the famous establishment’s activities during Christmas. She’s some sort of archival historian…that studies Christmas for her PhD.

She’s greeted by a friendly bellman named Reginald Brookwater. This film was definitely a cheesy book at some stage.

While wandering the premises, Jessica receives a call from her boyfriend. She’s nervous as she’ll be meeting his parents soon. Jessica quickly gets distracted by a rogue ladder and ends the call so she can deal with it.

Turns out someone was using it. She gets an eyeful of butt.

She pushes the ladder back into place and meets the handyman she almost manslaughtered. He’s young, handsome, and works with his hands. She’s (also) young, intelligent, and pretty. They become platonic friends.

Jessica moves on to meet with Mrs. Clark, the lady who runs the Plaza. The woman shows her around and tells her to get started on doing her research. Jessica will have to do a big display for the hotel in three weeks.

Unfortunately for Jessica, the research requires her to dig through 100 years’ worth of boxes. She asks, “Which ones are the Christmas files?” and is shocked to learn that Mrs. Clark doesn’t know. Because everyone makes sure to separate the documents that relate to Christmas into different folders.

Side note: What the hell is Christmas history research? No PhD program would accept this as a dissertation topic.

To make matters worse, Jessica has to work with the hotel’s Christmas decorator: the guy she almost killed, Nick. Instead of decorating the illustrious city institution, he begins digging through the boxes. The amateur historian kicks him out after he accidentally rips an old newspaper clipping.

Jessica heads home and chats with her friend about her day, making special note of her run-in with Nick. We’ve only met Nick once and have gotten no real indication of his personality. This doesn’t stop the friend from saying that he’s “pushy, overbearing, and full of himself.” She then asks if he’s single. Jessica’s friend clearly doesn’t respect herself.

They quickly move on to discussing Jessica’s boyfriend. They’ve been dating for almost two years and there’s still no ring on her finger which is a SERIOUS problem.

They blab on while putting up a fake tree in Jessica the Student’s mansion.

Later that night, Jessica meets with her boyfriend. He wears a blazer and a turtleneck which means he’s not boyfriend material.

Back at the Plaza, Jessica sits in the basement and attempts to look through the boxes. Reginald provides a helpful hand.

He even gives her a badly photoshopped picture of what is meant to be him and his lady love circa 1963 in the Plaza lobby. Also, Reggie was a Grade A nerd.

After about a grand total of one day, the amateur historian decides she wants to quit this whole thing.

She runs into Nick who is disappointed with her departure, but gives her a free ornament to make her feel better. Yeah, this guy is totally “overbearing.”

Jessica heads over to Mrs. Clark’s office to hand in her resignation or whatever it is you do when you’re a researcher but is taken by a Christmas tree topper on the assistant’s desk. The assistant says that they’ve had a different topper every year since 1907. This apparently inspires Jessica to stay on the project. She’s super flaky and this continues to sound like a stupid PhD project.

We then get what I suspect is Hallmark’s very first PhD research montage. Her first page looks promising.

Meanwhile, Nick gets a call from some lady who asks him out to dinner. He basically hangs up on her.

Downstairs, Jessica finds a tree topper from 1949. Nick passes by and she bores him with the concept of a hotel having different decorations for every year. While perusing through the archives, Nick and Jessica bond. She tells him about her difficult childhood as a diplomat’s kid. God, I hope he grew up in a bedsit with his single mother.

Reggie sees ghosts.

At home, Jessica’s boyfriend pops by to pick her up for dinner. His girlfriend has forgotten as she was so enthralled with Christmas ornaments. They head to a fancy party where the people laugh at Jessica’s Christmas ornament thesis.

Everyone is embarrassed. All Jessica wants to do is eat the hors d’oeurves, but she keeps getting interrupted. This is highly relatable. The boyfriend sort of berates her for mentioning her crap project. He then gets excited for how well things are going for him. He pretty much sucks.

Jessica wants to leave, so the boyfriend calls an Uber for her (he wants to stay at the party, so taking his car is out of the picture). Thankfully, the driver is a nice young man who listens to her problems. However, when it gets too heavy, he nervously sings Jingle Bells to her. He actually makes this work.

In a tween, multi-cultural version of this film, he would’ve been the love interest.

Rather than going home, Jessica goes back to the Plaza. She runs into Nick who is sad she didn’t get any hors d’oeurves. To remedy this, they go for a platonic meal where they speak about their lives and ambitions.

There’s never been a more platonic dinner. It’s totally like she’s looking at her brother.

The next day, Jessica shares her exhibition idea with Mrs. Clark. It will feature all the Christmas tree toppers and the artists who made them. Unfortunately, 1969’s topper is missing. Mrs. Clark has a mini meltdown and demands Jessica fix this problem.

Nick kindly offers to help Jessica hunt the missing ornament down. They visit the business who was commissioned to make the tree topper and discover that the person who was responsible for making the topper in the 60s was… Reginald, the bellman! He just didn’t make it for some mysterious reason. Nick and Jessica head back to the Plaza, having just wasted a load of petrol.

The kindly bellman stonewalls Jessica and treats her as he would someone who tries to enter the Plaza, but doesn’t look like they “belong.”

Jessica goes to dinner with her boo. Boo romantically asks her if she would do him the honor of working on HIS research project. She can give up the Christmas thing. Jessica, expecting a marriage proposal for some dumb reason, drops him like it is hot. She stiffs him with the bill.

She runs into the arms of Nick, telling him she’s taking him up on his earlier offer of linguine. He counters by saying he has a better idea. They go to a place that serves up the “Christmas spirit”: his parents’ house. What the ever-flying fuck is this.

He makes Jessica put on an ugly Christmas sweater which goes perfectly with her beret.

Jessica is thrown into the deep end. Nick’s mom is excited that her “Nicky” brought home a girl. He hasn’t done so since that harpy Alicia broke his heart. After wrapping gifts to donate to local charities, the family does Christmas karaoke and it’s trash. Jessica and Nick do a Jingle Bells duet.

I would never subject a coworker, especially one I liked, to this.

The point of this scene is that behind that handyman exterior, Nick is whimsical and his family is perfect.

Nick and Jessica return to the Plaza (which is mysteriously empty all the time). He explains who Frank Sinatra is and tells the story of how his grandparents got together. Nick tries to lay one on Jessica while they dance to no music. Jessica freaks ouuuuut and runs off. To be fair to her, Nick was a little too quick to lunge.

Reginald creeps on the entire scene from above.

Nicky’s rejection inspires Reginald to return to his old shop and make the ornament he refused to make in 1969.

The next day, Nick apologizes for being too forward. Jessica explains that she’s still with her boyfriend. Her storming out and spending the night with Nick’s family was not actually her dumping him. It was her getting some air. This is Alicia Part 2 for our emotional handyman.

Later, Jessica meets her boyfriend. She realizes that he doesn’t meet her expectations and properly dumps him.

“Wait, are you breaking up with me?!” asks Boyfriend, incredulously. “I’m not sure there was anything to break up,” retorts Jessica in an incredible burn that should have melted all of New York’s snow.

Jessica returns to the plaza, AGAIN. She receives the tree topper from Reginald who tells her why he didn’t make it in the first place. His lady love’s parents thought he wasn’t good enough for the girl, so they broke up. He couldn’t look at tree toppers anymore. He tells her to just get with Nick already.

The film introduces that lady that called Nick in the first act; it’s Alicia. Predictably, Jessica sees them almost suck face and runs off. Nick tells Alicia to step off and that’s the end of that character.

Jessica still has to do her presentation. She gets her tri-fold ready. All the old rich people are impressed.

After her little Christmas speech, Reginald informs her that he’s going to make decorations again. He then gets approached by the girl he liked in 1969. She hoped he’d be here. She never bothered to look him up in 50 years, but ok sure, let’s shoehorn this happy ending in.

Nick and Jessica hash things out. Nick decides to be rational about everything seeing as there were many misunderstandings and such. He suggests they give each other a little space.

With her project done, Jessica departs from the Plaza. She plans to go skiing with her lovesick friend. Before she goes, she sees that her house has been made into an electricity sapping trap.

Somehow Nick managed to put up all of these decorations while Jessica was in the house and not have her suspect a thing. Maybe he’s Santa Claus! NICK AND JESSICA OH MY GOSH. LIKE FROM THE PUPPET MOVIE!

Jessica meets Nick in the ballroom of the Plaza where he tried to mack on her. They dance to no music again. They kiss. FIN.

Yummy in my tummy

REVIEW

A lot sort of happened in this film. So far, this is the film I’ve liked most. I think because I don’t totally hate Nick. He seemed nice and I feel like he barely spoke which may be the key to me liking a male lead. Everything was really contrived, so maybe my brain is overheating.

There were a few brief sequences that I found enjoyable: Nick’s excellent fever joke (noted in Stray Thoughts, don’t miss out), the Uber driver, every scene with the selfish boyfriend, Reginald’s lady love reappearing because sure, and the unnecessary Alicia. This film verged on bonkers realism. I think I also liked the coloring of the film. It was bright and warm.

Finally, I really enjoyed this…

Because whaaaaat?!

Rating: 4 out of 5 tree toppers from 1969.

STRAY THOUGHTS

  • Why are they holding bags of nuts in the header?
  • The head concierge calls Mrs. Clark Amanda. Mrs. Clark gives him daggers. She’s either in a relationship with him or a stickler for the rules.
  • Jessica lists all the degrees she has to which Nick replies, “You be careful. One more degree and you’ll have a fever.” This is the cleverest line to ever be uttered in a Hallmark film. It deserves better.
  • My first proper relationship lasted for almost two years. By Hallmark’s standards, I should’ve been married and on the way to a divorce.
  • A lot of the computers in these films are unabashedly Macs. However, Jessica has her Mac’s logo covered up. Wonder if this film forgot to get the rights.
  • I love how Nick is meant to be the Christmas decorator, but since that’s usually a girl’s job in Hallmark, they make him wear a toolbelt.
  • Jessica’s boyfriend is spray tanned.
  • Jessica’s boyfriend’s parents paid for her flights, so her no-show is going to be pretty irritating.

NEXT UP

We head back to small-town America in Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy. The third part in a series that takes place in the idyllic Evergreen. The last one had a serial killer.