There’s a very clever scene at the beginning of The Christmas Contract.
Jack Friedman (Robert Buckley) is a writer who can’t get any of the big publishing houses to even take a look at his new book. However, Jack’s agent informs him that they might change his mind if he does some ghostwriting. One can see from Jack’s reaction that this is not the first time that he’s been asked to be a ghostwriter and it’s not something that he particularly enjoys. Still, because one does have to eat, Jack agrees.
His agent tells him that he’ll be ghostwriting the latest installment in a very popular but critically dismissed series of romance novels. He’s told to go read the previous book in the series and then to basically rewrite it, just changing a few details so that it can be advertised as a totally new book. He’s given a list of plot points that the publishers want to be included in the book. Again, it’s not particularly important how the plot points are integrated into the story. Instead, they just have to be there.
Moonlight dance? Yep.
Kisses under the stars? Yep.
Oh, and the book needs to take place in Louisiana.
Now, you don’t have to be a part of the industry to realize that, in this scene, Jack is serving as a stand-in for every writer who has ever been assigned to write a Hallmark (or, let’s just be honest here, Lifetime) Christmas movie. Don’t try to reinvent the season, just make sure that the basics are there. Pick a new location and you’re ready to go!
With that scene, the makers of The Christmas Contract are acknowledging that, “yes, this is another Lifetime holiday movie.” And yes, it’s going to remind you of a lot of other Lifetime holiday movies. But, that still doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it. After all, the appeal of a movie like this is to be found in its familiarity. In an often chaotic world, there’s something to be said for the comfort of a good, if predictable, romance novel. The same can be said of a Lifetime Christmas movie.
Anyway, it’s a good thing that the publishers want the book to be set in Louisiana because that’s where Jack spends his holiday. He’s actually accompanying a recently single woman named Jodie (Hilarie Burton) back to her home for Christmas. Because Jodie’s ex-boyfriend is going to be visiting with his new girlfriend, Jodie doesn’t want her family to know that she’s single. So, Jack pretends to be her boyfriend. They even sign a contract ahead of time. And, yes, you can guess exactly what ends up happening but, again, that’s kind of the point with a movie like this.
The cast, which includes several veterans of One Tree Hill, does a good job with the material but the true star of this film is the state of Louisiana. This film makes full use of the beautiful Louisiana landscape and the celebratory nature of the state’s culture. It may have been predictable but it was still enjoyable. Spending the holidays with Jodie, Jack, and the family looked like a lot of fun.