For the third year in a row, I am participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon, hosted by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews! This time around, I went back to the Hallmark well. When I first joined the blogathon, I reviewed a Hallmark film titled Christmas Camp. If you read that article, you would know that I wasn’t a fan of it. Last year, I wrote about Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, a film that was a fine, family-friendly picture. Since I still had the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Holly and Ivy, on my DVR, I chose to review this title for the 2021 blogathon. In 2020, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas films from Hallmark. In fact, the only newer release I watched and/or wrote about was The Christmas Bow. Within a year, I have heard good things about Holly and Ivy, with my family sharing similar sentiments. Therefore, I figured it was time to finally check the movie out. How does it compare to The Christmas Bow? Like a child counting down to Christmas Day, you’re just going to have to wait to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: If the interactions between the characters feel like they are having real-life conversations with each other, that’s how you know the acting in a given film is good. That was certainly the case within Holly and Ivy! All of the characters got along well with one another, as they had good on-screen chemistry. It also helps that the cast as a whole was talented! I’ll be honest, I have never seen any of Janel Parrish’s projects from her filmography. However, I did see her on Dancing with the Stars. The way Janel’s character reacts to various situations came across very naturally. While Melody and her neighbor, Nina, are decorating Melody’s Christmas tree, she shares her reason for collecting elf ornaments. The tone of Melody’s voice and the look in her eyes highlights how reminiscent she is over something as small and simple as ornaments. These acting techniques helped make Janel’s performance feel believable. While we’re on the subject of Nina, let’s talk about Marisol Nichols’ performance. While portraying this character, Marisol embodied what a good mother should be. Despite dealing with her own medical issues, she always tries to take an active role in her daughters’ lives. While decorating her family’s Christmas tree, Nina reveals a special tradition that involves Nina performing a dance routine with Holly and Ivy. This scene shows how much she enjoys the life she has created for herself. While I like the performances of Sadie Coleman and Piper Rubio, the actresses who portrayed the titular characters, I want to talk about Jeremy Jordan’s performance. Similar to Janel Parrish, I am not familiar with Jeremy’s filmography. However, I still liked seeing his portrayal of Adam. His on-screen personality was easy-going and care-free. While he took his profession and hobby seriously, Adam just wanted to have a good time. When he interacted with Melody, you could tell just by watching them that these characters were made for each other. It helped that both Adam and Melody had similar personalities, but were traveling on similar paths in regards to their respective careers.
The presentation of Christmas tropes/activities: Hallmark is known for featuring a plethora of Christmas related tropes and activities within each story. But sometimes, these films are oversaturated with them, as if there is a checklist that needs to be completed. Holly and Ivy shows some Christmas related activities that have been featured in other Hallmark films. It’s the way they are included in the story that sets Holly and Ivy apart from the network’s other titles. In one scene, Melody is decorating homemade Christmas ornaments with Holly and Ivy. The purpose of showing these characters creating Christmas decorations is to give the audience some of Melody’s backstory. That small piece of information was emphasized more than the activity. This scene is an example of how there was enough presentation of Christmas tropes and activities for the viewer to get the intended point. At the same time, if you were to put this same story around any other holiday, it would still work.
An emotional balance: In films that revolve around a serious, real world topic, such as a potentially terminally ill relative, the overall tone tends to be heavy. There are times when viewers warn one another to “have a box of tissues at hand” or share that the film will “pull at your heartstrings”. While there are somber moments in Holly and Ivy, the movie itself never felt sad. In fact, feelings of sorrow and despair never crossed my mind. That’s because the script doesn’t rely too heavily on the sadder parts of the story. Instead, the creative team strives for a balance by also focusing of happier, more joyous moments. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Nina is dealing with medical issues. Even though these issues are discussed and an emergency plan is created if the worst-case scenario happens, Nina puts her energy toward helping Melody and being present in her daughters’ lives. In fact, I can think of more scenes where Nina is enjoying the company of her friends and family than worrying about her medical situation.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Adam’s conflict: It’s typical for the male and female protagonist to have their own conflicts within a Hallmark picture. However, I didn’t like Adam’s conflict in Holly and Ivy. Throughout the film, Adam’s parents wanted him to come work at the family car dealership. But Adam would rather stay a contractor and focus on his woodworking hobby on the side. This conflict reminded me of a young, college-bound adult not seeing eye-to-eye with their parents on a potential degree. Because of this, it felt a bit immature for a character that appears to be in his early 30s. One of the film’s messages and Adam’s parents’ mantra is “help where help is needed’. By being a contractor and taking up woodworking, Adam is doing exactly what his parents wanted; helping where help is needed. It baffled me how his parents failed to realize this until the end of the film.
Chippewa Falls Library being unbelievably ill-equipped: I understand that some libraries deal with more challenges than others. But based on what the movie presented, the town of Chippewa Falls appeared to be doing just fine. There’s no evidence of the town being a predominantly low-income community or having a high crime-rate. What the characters said about the library’s issues didn’t match up with the visuals. During her time volunteering at the library, Melody comes up with several ideas in order to solve some of the library’s problems. Two of these ideas are renting out meeting rooms for events and setting up a “Mitten Tree” to collect hats and scarves for citizens in need. I can only speak from my own experience, but my local library already does these things. With that said, I find it hard to believe that the Chippewa Falls Library wouldn’t utilize these resources already.
The inclusion of Betty the dog: Holly and Ivy have a dog named Betty, who periodically appears in the film. While I don’t have anything against the dog itself, I don’t think it was necessary to include a dog in this story. Having Betty in the movie felt like she was there just for the sake of being there. If you had written the dog out of the script, I don’t think it would make a difference.
My overall impression:
Like I mentioned in the introduction, this is my third year participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon. Out of the three movies I’ve reviewed, Holly and Ivy is, by far, the best one! Within the past few years, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has, in my opinion, made stronger films than their companion, Hallmark Channel. This is because Hallmark’s second network appears to try different things when it comes to storytelling. Holly and Ivy is a good example of this, as I highlighted in my review. There wasn’t a heavy emphasis on Christmas tropes/activities like in other Hallmark films. Creating a balance between the happier and sadder moments of the story also helps shape the film’s identity. I ended up liking this movie almost as much as I liked The Christmas Bow. Come to think of it, I wish Holly and Ivy was the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for 2020. This story certainly has the ingredients for that to have been a reality. But I guess that wasn’t meant to be.
Since we’re still talking about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, it’s time for me to share who I’d invite to Drew’s Christmas party! This year, I chose John Christian Plummer! For those who are not familiar with him, John is the father of Charlie Plummer and is one of the screen-writers of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Mystery 101 series. When I look back on the celebrities that have been “invited” to Drew’s Christmas party in the past, actors and actresses made up the majority of the guests. While choosing an actor or actress as a guest is totally fine, I wanted to change things up a bit. To an extent, screen-writers are underrated, especially from Hallmark. Therefore, my invitation will, hopefully, give recognition to at least one of them. Like in 2019 and 2020, my invites are about giving “standing ovations”.
Overall score: 7.7 out of 10
What are your thoughts on Holly and Ivy? Which Hallmark movies do you wish had become Hallmark Hall of Fame titles? Tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at Drew’s Christmas party!