Hello, world. We’re close to this year’s Countdown to Christmas. In preparation, I’m going to watch a film that I meant to watch in July but didn’t. Consider it an early Christmas present.
The film is called Christmas at Cartwright’s and it’s got all the bonkers bananas that one could ever want in a Hallmark film.
With the holiday season at hand, single mom Nicky Talbot is unemployed and struggling to afford a nice Christmas with her 8-year-old daughter. Hearing that Cartwright’s Department Store is hiring temporary holiday help, Nicky rushes in to apply, but is rejected by Senior VP Fiona Aldrich, who considers Nicky a threat to the relationship she hopes to have with Bill, a charming and handsome store manager. In a whimsical turn of events, Harry Osbourne, claiming to be a consultant from corporate headquarters, encourages Nicky to dress up and begin working as Cartwright’s store Santa Claus. With the magical help of Harry, Nicky keeps the job, but nobody knows Cartwright’s Santa Claus is a woman. Will she be able to keep her job if her secret gets out?
The film begins with our red-haired heroine Nicky wandering around town dropping resumes at various boutiques and shops. She looks young but she’s clearly 75 if that’s her approach to job hunting.
As any teenage job seeker will tell you, it does not go well for her. While taking a short break, Nicky realizes she’s late for a parent-teacher meeting and races off to her daughter’s school. Once there, lovely schoolteacher tells mom that little Becky is pretty smart but has trouble reading.
Nicky catches up with her daughter and the child spills all the school’s juicy gossip. One of the other kids’ moms is getting remarried on Christmas Day. Apparently, this classmate has been part of their own Hallmark movie. The news is Becky’s subtle hint for her mom to get hitched. She even suggests the checkout guy at the supermarket.
As the two walk back home, Becky finds a “pocket angel” which is a coin that brings the owner good luck. The kid gives it to her mom because she thinks she could really use the help. So far, the child is playing the role of a typical Hallmark mother.
After seeing the landlord from afar, Nicky and Becky escape to a friend’s house next door. However, the landlord follows the delinquents to demand the late rent. Nicky manages to finesse her way out of it for a little while longer.
The next morning, Nicky’s friend bursts into the house and hands the woman a dress so that she can apply for some seasonal work at the high-profile department store, Cartwright’s.
Nicky arrives at the store for an interview and comes across a handsome man named Bill. This enchanting meeting is interrupted by Fiona, a lady with black hair who has a managerial role in the store. This means she is a bad person.
Unfortunately, Fiona is the interviewer and quickly dismisses Nicky. Safe to assume the coin ain’t gonna work its magic on this lady. Defeated, Nicky departs.
However, due to some electronical mishap with the elevator, she is dropped off at a random floor for “Employees Only.” She meanders into a room full of Santa outfits and gets trapped. Lucky for her, Wallace Shawn appears.
Unlucky for her, he doesn’t open the door and instructs the would-be Santa to put on the costume. He rattles off all the benefits that come with being a Mall Santa.
Unable to resist the free healthcare, Nicky dons the Santa gear and adopts a deeper voice.
Nicky waddles into Santa’s workshop with the help of Corporate Christmas Consultant Wallace and greets the numerous cheering children. However, Fiona arrives with her own Santa and argues with the Christmas Consultant. Wallace magically conjures up an email that states that HIS Santa is the official Cartwright’s Santa. With Fiona temporarily vanquished, Nicky assumes her fraudulent role.
Back at Becky’s school, Becky is still bad at reading and spelling. That’s it for that scene.
At home, Nicky divulges to her friend that she’s Santa and now has psychic powers. She knows what the kids want before they tell her! The friend isn’t all that fazed by these insane ramblings and simply congratulates her on nabbing the gig.
The next day, Nicky runs into that hot department store manager, Bill, at a coffee shop. They hit it off. Like a banshee, Fiona materializes and breaks up the impromptu coffee date. She then uses this time to inform Bill that she is “free this weekend.” The desperation wafts through the coffee shop.
Time marches on and Nicky goes tree shopping with the kiddo. Who should also be shoppin’? Hot Bill! He isn’t even turned off by loud Becky! He tries his best to hook up with Nicky in front of her kid by handing her his business card.
At work, Nicky eats a sad lunch by herself while dressed as Santa. Bill engages with her and, after briefly talking about trees, spills that he’s into Nicky. He then splits. Bills really gets down to business. The whole scene is about three minutes real time.
The coin strikes again and Nicky finds herself in an elevator with Bill. He asks the single mother/Santa out on a date for the following evening. Later, Nicky recaps the plot so far to her friend.
At the swank restaurant that looks sort of like a cafeteria, Bill and Nicky do some world-class bonding. However, she gets cold feet and runs off from the date. She moans to her friend about her disaster date as if it wasn’t her fault.
But no time for love gripes! Nicky does some magic psychic thinking for some kids and Becky learns to read the Night Before Christmas as a gift for her mom.
Aroud noon, the staff lunch room turns into a therapy session for Bill. He asks Santa and the other seasonal workers if he should see Nicky again after the stunt she pulled. Thanks to biased help from Santa, he decides to ask her out again.
In a distressing turn of events, Becky catches her mom moonlighting as Santa and runs off in shock. Thankfully, Wallace intercepts the kid. Becky quickly realizes that he’s actually an angel – the same one whose face is stamped on the magic coin. After telling her about the bureaucracy involved in angelhood, he lets her know that he’s been sent to help her mom. Becky is chill with the whole scam.
Disaster averted, Nicky calls Bill to set up first date part two. Things appear to be going well for the single mother.
Clear sailing ahead…oh wait no Nicky gets caught in the dressing room and is apprehended by security. She is dressed down by Fiona in front of Bill and Santa’s elf and summarily booted from the department store.
Nicky returns home to lick her wounds but is quickly distracted by a new story on television about her. It seems “female-Santa-single-mother fired four days before Christmas” is breaking news. Considering that Nicky has no idea about this report, the local news appears to have doxxed her.
Female Santa returns to the office to attend a meeting and apologize to Bill. Apparently, she wasn’t banned from the premises. Bill isn’t all that delighted with Nicky and sort of takes off. Meanwhile, Fiona gets her own dressing down by THE Mr. Cartwright for firing Santa.
Mr. Cartwright then meets with Nicky to give her job back. The re-instated Santa mentions Wallace but the head of the company doesn’t recognize who he’s talking about. Once she realizes that it’s Wallace’s face on the coin, she abruptly leaves the meeting to discuss this finding with her daughter. The coin is really watching her back seeing as she should be facing more consequences for disappearing from dates and meetings.
After a busy Christmas Eve rush, Nicky tries to leave the department store but is stopped by Mr. Cartwright.
He offers her Fiona’s job in front of all the Christmas staff. Is the woman even qualified? She just lied and played Santa! What is going on???? I’m in between projects right now so might have to employ this strategy.
Although everything seems wrapped up in a nice bow, there’s still the Bill question. But that gets sorted too when Bill arrives at Nicky’s house to give her a third opportunity.
Becky approves and celebrates the union by competently reading a bedtime story to her mom and new dad. FIN.
…Oh, and Wallace Shawn watches from the window and reports back to Santa on his flip phone.
I love me some bonkers film. Female Santa? Sign me up! I felt as though Bill had something a bit more beneath him, but they didn’t flesh that out. That’s no surprise. The actor did the best with what he could so kudos to him. Alicia Witt plays kind of childish in all her films. I’m not sure how to describe it. Anyway, she did it in this one, too. She’s one of Hallmark’s leading ladies but second tier. Seeing how many she’s been in and the fact that she has red hair, she needs to be bumped up a level.
Anyway, Wallace Shawn improves things, so that’s good.
Rating: 4 out of 5 angel coins.
- Nicky’s love interest finds her resume (that she DROPPED) and notices that she used to work at “Millie’s Dress Barn” which somehow impresses him.
- “Christmas is about profit and numbers!” declares Fiona. A villain for the ages.
- Honest question: Has there ever been a female Santa?
- Regarding a previous failed engagement, Bill believes that “Once you decide to marry someone, you should stop dating other people.” Fair.
- Nicky-as-Santa puts on a weird accent.
- Everyone really rubs the whole “Bill’s fiancée cheated on him” in his face a lot.
- There is no mention of what happened to Nicky’s husband so we can assume Becky has a DEAD FATHER™.