The Christmas Contest

I Did Not See it Coming

This movie was a solid 7 until the inevitable emotional crisis of Lara (Candace) at the end which bumped in up to an almost 8, rounded up. This was shaping up as a light and fluffy typical Hallmark plot of 2 exes who begin to rekindle their relationship when they are reluctantly thrown together years after a painful breakup. They are both finalists in a contest over which one can be the most Christmassy. The winner gets $50,000 for the charity of their choice. It involves such things as trivia, baking, singing and dancing, and Christmas tree decorating all of which provide plenty of opportunity for some great physical comedy as well as some witty snarky dialogue.

Candace’s excellent comedic talents are on display throughout. John Brotherton as Ben overacts to the point of obnoxiousness, but at least we know his character is a good guy underneath the immature surface. There were some entertaining subplots involving his relationship with a lonely 12 your old boy, and his mother coming out of her shell. Lara’s mother’s barely concealed antipathy to Ben was very entertaining as well. Everything was pretty funny as Ben and Lara, along with their hand-picked teams try to outdo each other in their quest for the prize. I definitely chuckled. Things are looking up for their relationship as well until Ben breaks Lara’s heart once again. The swift and unexpected turn from comedy to drama was head swiveling. It’s not just a bump in the road as is usual in these things. Candace’s despair and anguish over her disappointment was one of the best pieces of acting in a Hallmark movie I’ve seen. She was heartbreaking. And then, just as we thought we were done with the dramatic developments, it exposes a dark side to her relationship with her mother, beautifully played by the apparently ageless Barbara Niven. Throughout the movie, Lara’s mother seemed to have an ideal relationship with her daughter: loving, supportive, and fun. Almost sisterly, but in a good way. I truly did not see the blowup coming.

Candace’s relationships with her mother and her ex are, of course, repaired by the end. They all vow to change. Even Candace, who all the while had come across as a really together person with her life on the right track. It was a thoughtful and unexpected way to get to the happy ending and with a good message to boot.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 1, 2021

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