Five Star Christmas (2020)

Hallmark Summary: “When a travel writer shows up unexpectedly at their dad’s B&B, the Ralston family all pretend to be guests in hopes of a good review. Lucy falls for guest Jake but can’t share her secret. Stars Bethany Joy Lenz and Victor Webster.”

My Reaction? FIVE STARS! The engaging and layered storytelling charmed me from start to finish. “Five Star Christmas” has so much going on for all its characters, and that’s something I relish in a Hallmark movie.

Often, there is the main plot (How will the H&H discover they are right for each other?) and a subplot (Save the Farm/Inn/Business/Toy Drive, Repair a Family Relationship, or Ditch the Unbearable Boss/Job/Partner) which gives the H&H a way to connect and help each other as love blossoms. There might be a few relational add-ons here and there, but so far in 2020, a lot of the films I’ve watched have been plot/subplot focused without much additional layering.

Then there are movies like “Five Star Christmas” which have subplots for almost every character (meaning each is facing some challenge/dilemma) alongside the main plot and dominant subplot. Not only do the heroine Lucy (Bethany Joy Lenz in Radiant Powerhouse mode – love her!) and hero Jake (Victor Webster in Big Softy mode) have plenty to do, but Lucy’s family brings an additional four subplots (one of which is SAVE THE INN) to the table. The writer (Stephen Witkin) deftly layers all of these so every scene contains dilemma, conflict, or chuckle-worthy tension of some sort. That said, the movie never feels choppy, disjointed, or overloaded either. Everything flows smoothly along.

Lenz rocks it yet again with the character of Lucy, and I find myself in awe of how she brings something new to the many characters she has played in Hallmark Movies. She flexed these same nuanced acting muscles in “Bottled With Love” where she also played appealingly and refreshingly against type.

Interestingly, this movie does not include many of the Hallmark Christmas Movie Tropes: Awkward Mistletoe Moment, Cookie/Gingerbread House Decorating Contest, Tree Lighting Ceremony, Romantic Sleigh Ride, Spontaneous Snowfall or Falling off a Chair/Ladder/Stool. I can’t say I missed any of them. Even the Christmas festival is less a focal point, more a seasonal backdrop for the real action. True, the meet-cute involves reaching for the same candy cane, but the amusing barrage of factoids that follow distracted me from its tropiness.

Added Bonus: Grandma! What a hoot! Lucy’s dad should hire her as a full-time fake guest for the B&B just to keep things lively.

Festival, Wedding, or Ball? Festival

Teachable Moment: How to Pull Taffy. (Helpful hint: Dress down – it’s messy.)

My Verdict? LOVED IT! Pairs well with sassafras candy canes and eggnog (booze optional but recommended)