Hallmark: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Hallmark: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Hallmark’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was an enjoyable movie and a great example of how Hallmark has been taking chances and getting outside of its standard plot constructs…until the end of the movie.

Since I can hardly resist Hallmark/Lifetime movies starring One Tree Hill alums, I had ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on my list as soon as I saw that Torrey DeVitto was involved. I’ve been a fan of hers since her ABC Family days on Beautiful People (also with future OTH cast member Daphne Zuniga) and was delighted to see her on OTH as Nanny Carrie… until Nanny Carrie went psychotic, of course.

The premise of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a former young actress is ready to take herself (and be taken seriously) as a director, by directing a one-night-only play that is a mock trial to find the true author of the classic Christmas poem Twas the Night Before Christmas. The two lead actors play lawyers presenting evidence on behalf of the two contested authors, Clement Clark Moore or Major Henry Livingston Jr. A jury made of audience members must decide who they believe to be the true author of the poem, leaving the play with a “choose your own adventure” vibe every night.

It’s a brilliant idea for a movie, especially since this authorship controversy is real.

So, anyway, here’s how it went down.

The Plot

Madison is an actress who had a pretty major TV show career that everyone recognizes her from, but now she wants to pivot into directing and get back to her early love of theater, something that connects her to her departed father. She and a close friend have put together this ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas play, which is being performed in Troy, New York, the same town where the poem was originally published (anonymously) in 1823. And this town apparently does Old Time Christmas to the nines. People take over the streets in period clothing and props for a holiday market/renaissance fair mash-up.

The leads of the play are cast as a hunky out-of-town actor named Connor who it seems used to co-star with Madison in her acting days and a complete newb who only got cast because the producer funding the project is her boyfriend. Oh, and her acting skills are terrible.

We learn through non-stop flirting attempts that Connor (who is a recently divorced single dad) has been pining for Madison. He clearly took this role to rekindle a flame. Madison continuously tries to hide from his obvious emotions by changing the subject.

Meanwhile, there are these two old-timey guys who catch the attention of both Connor and Madison, separately, while they are in town. These two men have immense insider information on Moore and Livingston and are mistaken for cosplay actors joining in the spectacle that is Troy at Christmastime.

The producer’s girlfriend is terrible and drags on the whole play, and her boyfriend keeps challenging Madison’s decisions about the play’s plot, forcing her to re-write scenes even though the play is in a matter of days. Inspired, by meeting the “Livingston cosplayer”, Madison writes him into the play as a defendant “Livingston’s ghost” to speak on his behalf. He starts showing up at rehearsal, reading lines, and then completely “ad-libbing” lines that sound from the heart. The cast loves it… well, except for the producer’s girlfriend who has no acting skills and can’t stand that this guy is going off-script.

Madison teaches terrible producer actress girlfriend a line-learning technique based on related to the truth of her character using a gingerbread house. It seems to work and later when producer gets back to the hotel it’s filled with gingerbread houses as his girlfriend spreads icing all over them. He asks what she’s doing and she’s like, “learning my lines”. Umm…

ANYWAY. Let’s cut to the chase:

The play rehearsals are going well but the Livingston’s ghost guy keeps going MIA and then showing up at the last minute with a puff of smoke everyone writes off as dramatic stage effects. Then ANOTHER ghost starts showing up who is Moore’s ghost and they are both working hard to defend their claims and bring the other down. The crew is loving it, and producer even brings in a ringer, a hot-shot industry person who could fund the project to broadway. She also loves it.

As the show gets closer, Madison and Connor get closer but she continues brushing him off. Then right before the big show, terrible actress producer girlfriend announces that her boyfriend took a video of her excellent rehearsal and she got a 2nd leading part in some big movie filming in New Zealand and so she has to leave the play right before opening night. {I hope the New Zealand director stocks a bunch of gingerbread house kits and icing.}

Madison plays her role instead and is of course EXCELLENT. Her best friend tells her she can have the best of both worlds and doesn’t have to choose between acting and directing. Livingston’s ghost doesn’t show up, but Moore’s does and steals the show with a very surprising reaction from the crowd that you have to see yourself. Madison and Connor eventually kiss. The end.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this movie. The plot felt fresh with a lot of mystery woven in. I kept wanting to know what was going to happen next. I do feel like this didn’t need to have a love story scrambled in. I know that is Hallmark’s bread and butter, but this movie stood on its own with enough to keep us interested. The love story felt too obvious, unnecessary, and frankly unearned. The two leads could have just been reconnected friends who supported each other. It’s not that there was no chemistry, but Connor was working way too hard while Madison was really trying to focus on her career and her confidence.

I loved the surprise ending of the play and was actually surprised myself. It lends itself to the potential future of the play with both ghosts leading the audience on a journey before a decision is made.

I’m also a little confused about why this one didn’t go to the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel for the “Miracles of Christmas” list. Would have been the top movie in their short list of offerings this year.

Overall, I’d watch this one again for sure. I give it 4.5 Stars.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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