It's probably no secret that I'm a huge Lisa Kleypas fan, so when Lisa Kleypas announced that Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor was to be adapted for television by Hallmark Hall of Fame as Christmas with Holly, I was filled with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Who doesn't want to see a favorite novel on the screen? How many of us have done fantasy casting of J.D. Robb's In Death books and how many of us think that Colin Firth was exactly the right man to play Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride & Prejudice? Then again, how many of us cringed watching Gary Oldman and Demi Moore take on The Scarlet Letter (how many of us even got to the travesty of an ending)? You get my point.
When I first saw pictures of the cast, I was a little taken aback. Yes, I'm one of those people who visualizes heroines and heroes (and heartbreakers) in my mind. And, being a woman of a certain age, I frequently visualize them as older than they probably should be. So Mark and Maggie in Christmas with Holly initially looked like babies to me. I mostly got over this, because they really did look like the right type and, when I finally saw the movie, had the necessary chemistry in spades. One obstacle disposed of.
Now on to the setting. I'm a romantic (so sue me) and I pictured Friday Harbor as looking a little more like Cabot Cove and less like the working town in which the movie was set. But I got over this as well. One does, on occasion, have to bow to reality. And it looked like a very nice working harbor town. Okay, I'll accept Friday Harbor.
Fortunately, I recognize that what works in a novel does not necessarily work in a two-hour made-for-TV movie. It took a lot less film time to explain Maggie's status as a jilted bride rather than a grieving widow. I understand why Sam's house did not include a vineyard. It really wasn't essential to the story and would have been unnecessarily expensive to include. And I also get why Alex wasn't a divorcing, depressive, alcoholic. Really, who needs that in a two-hour Christmas story?
These all worked for me, along with a lot of the character interactions. I liked Shelby (Mark's soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend). That is, I liked the portrayal. Her lack of understanding of Mark's sudden fatherhood seemed exactly right. I liked the interaction among the brothers. Although there was no vineyard and no alcoholic, the tentative relationships reflected the book as Mark moved into Sam's home to give Holly a (more or less) stable place to live. The movie ably depicted Sam's initial ambivalence and the progress of his falling in love with his orphaned niece.
Maggie's grief at her aborted marriage mirrored the book's story line of Maggie as a young widow without the need for extra back story. Her reluctance to begin a relationship with Mark when she thinks he already has a girlfriend (she had met Shelby earlier) was spot on and her unwilling attraction was also well-portrayed.
I can even accept turning a Bulldog named Renfield into a Basset Hound named Olive. Bulldogs and Basset Hounds do tend to share a certain melancholy lassitude, and I get not wanting short-haired dogs flaunting their more personal doggy-bits before the camera. I also understand why Renfield might be too obscure a name in certain quarters.
Was the movie perfect? I'm afraid not. I have a few quibbles. First of all, what was the purpose of changing the name of the brothers from Nolan to Nagle? I'm sure there must have been a reason, but it seemed pretty arbitrary. And, if there was a reason for that, what, pray tell, was the reason change Sam's name to Scott? And why was Mark demoted to youngest brother? If Alex wasn't going to bring the alcoholic drama, why was he there at all? Why did Maggie fire her store manager when she first arrived in Friday Harbor? Why did she have a store manager?
I realize that this last paragraph is true nit-picking. In general, Christmas with Holly was a thoughtful adaptation of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. If it lacked the depth of Lisa Kleypas's character development, that is only to be expected from a two-hour television screenplay. If the plot was abridged, you can't fit story arc of a novel in a single television broadcast. If it didn't quite meet my expectations of character and setting, that is also a limitation of the medium. In general, Lisa Kleypas's wonderful book was pretty well served by Hallmark Hall of Fame. I did not remove it from my DVR once I had seen it. In all likelihood, I'll watch it again.
Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, www.myrettarobens.com and on Twitter @Myretta.