Movie Review: Christmas by Design (2023)

Synopsis: Despite spending the past four Christmases away from her family following her father's death to focus on her career as a New York fashion designer, Charlotte is barely making ends meet. Things go from bad to worse when a water pipe burst shuts down her boutique and destroys most of her hand-sewn inventory. Charlotte catches a break when she is offered a chance to enter a contest and design matching male/female Christmas outfits and needing a place to work with her apartment (located above her business) without running water, reluctantly returns home. There, she meets Spencer, a widowed mechanic who serves as her muse but as she falls in love with him, also complicates her life.

Who's in it? The movie stars Rebecca Dalton, Jonathan KeltzJoanna DouglasSusan HamannDebra Hale.


Review: My wife and I had some extra time yesterday evening and, since we are between television shows to binge watch, I looked for another Christmas movie. This one sounded interesting, so I picked it out. Overall, I thought it was a good choice.

I'm not going to say the movie isn't predictable because it most definitely is. It wasn't overly hard to guess at the ending within the first few minutes, but since that is pretty much the case with the majority of Hallmark movies, I am reasonably OK with that. 

At minimum, I thought the film was entertaining. Charlotte (Dalton) and Spencer (Keltz) have some decent on-screen chemistry and their eventual romantic relationship while, again, predictable, did seem a bit more organic than others in this genre. I liked how they started out as strangers, became friends and then the friendship blossomed naturally into something else.

I also liked how the movie gives Spencer some depth. He's not just a pretty face as is the case with way too many films in this genre. He also has a great personality that makes it easy to believe someone would like him even if there wasn't a physical attraction. In fact, the writers could almost have made him the main character, focusing on his attempts to maintain the Christmas spirit despite losing his wife to cancer.

Charlotte's attempt to enter a contest and save her design career was also an interesting part of the plot, especially since she was a late entry and only had a week to design and sew her outfits. It was one of those things that had potential to create some real conflict with her family, who wanted her to spend time with them, and also set up a decision about what path she was going to take in regard to her career (not that it was overly difficult to figure that out).

I also liked how the movie put a lot of emphasis on Charlotte's relationship with her family, including the grief she was still feeling and healing from after her father's death and her mother's decision to remarry. The film has some genuinely emotional scenes in it as a result of that, something you don't always see in movies like this, especially when the love interest is the main plot point.

I did have some complaints about the film. The overheard phone conversation that leads to a short-term rift between Charlotte and Spencer has been overdone to the point it is just ridiculous. Plus, for a movie with a relatively simple plot, there sure are a lot of loose ends left unaddressed.

For example, the film makes a big deal about the "Elfcapades," a holiday event Charlotte's dad started and was now being closed down due to budget cuts. Yet, despite Charlotte declaring she wanted to save it, we are left wondering if and how she managed to. I was also left wondering what would happen to Charlotte's seamstress/friend, Margo (Adriana Vasquez), since it seemed like Charlotte's big decision at the end affected her as much as it did Charlotte and she wasn't even consulted.

Final Opinion: There are some questions left at the end, as though the writers forgot about part of the plot when writing the happy ending. That said, I thought it was a fun holiday movie and I did enjoy watching it.

My Grade: A

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