Dec 13 2012 6:00pm

From Page to Screen with Lisa Kleypas: Thoughts on Christmas with Holly

Christmas with Holly poster

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.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

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, and on Twitter @Myretta.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Great, balanced look at the movie vs. book.

I was disappointed in most of the changes made to the story for the movie, I must confess, but my frustration with it just made my roommate want to pick up the LK novel--so there's that!

And hey, a Lisa Kleypas movie is a Lisa Kleypas movie. I'll probably watch it again too.
Myretta Robens
2. Myretta
I know what you mean about being disappointed, @redline_ When you love a book, you want to see the entire story on the screen in minute and faithful detail (and preferably with Colin Firth as the hero). But failing that, sometimes you have to settle for "not a travesty" and Christmas with Holly was far superior to that.
3. pamelia
Disclaimer: I've read loads of Kleypas, but never this book.
I found the movie WAY too saccharine and cloying. I think they must have managed to remove all the pathos of the characters (except for those issues centering around Holly) so I found it had a weird sit-com meets after-school special tone.
I thought the actor playing Mark was a dead ringer for a young Tom Cruise (and with the long hair I kept picturing Cruise in "Legend") and was just too grinny and callow. I thought the lead actress was pretty good with what she had to work with.
Did the book short-shift the romance that much? I really didn't see much in the way of romantic build-up and certainly not much romantic payoff. I can't imagine a LK book without sexy-times, but I guess a Hallmark movie has to settle for a kiss.
Overall I was disappointed and promptly grabbed my copy of "Smooth Talking Stranger" for a re-alignment of my Kleypas-o-meter back from "ew, that was kinda stupid" to "AHHH--- this is a romance!"
Myretta Robens
4. Myretta
@pamelia. Read the book. There's a lot going on in Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor that you just can't squeeze into a two-hour screenplay. There is much about the brothers, their background, and their interactions that enriches the book but is left out of the screenplay in favor of the Holly-Mark-Maggie story. The romance is the center of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, but the growth of Mark and Maggie's relationship includes Holly and is affected by the Nolan's back story. And, yes. Christmas with Holly is a bit saccharine, but -- you know -- Hallmark. It really shouldn't surprise us.

If you're a Kleypas fan (which I see you are), I highly recommend all three of the published Friday Harbor books. They're really quite wonderful and contain an emotional depth that is rare even in romance.
Jena Briars
5. CutMyTeethOnKleypas
I LOVED both the movie and the book for all their differences!

After reading the Sookie Stackhouse books AND watching/enjoying TrueBlood, I mentally prepared myself for Xmas Eve at Friday Harbor - reminding myself that it would be different from the book - and that I could still enjoy BOTH.
6. J-me
I liked the movie but like you mentioned there was wasted film time on things that I felt were unnecessary to the story or characters. Like the Store Manager firing, and the Irish Dancing, I didn't quite get that, it just seemed really silly.
I was disappointed that they didn't have Maggie over when Holly got sick - that was when Mark and Maggie first get quite close and the relationship with Holly and Maggie starts to blossom. And then Thanks Giving.

There seemed an hour and 45 mins about everyone else in the story and then maybe 15 mins of just the romantic couple - uninterrupted.

Still really enjoyed it and am thrilled with anything to do with Lisa Kleypas!
7. dgrace
Truthfully, I was ready to dislike this movie. I adore Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor and was already put off by the change of title (Christmas with Holly sounds much less magical, in my opinion). Once I started watching the adaptation, I found it really wasn't that bad. Is it as good as the book? A resounding no. Is it a good little Hallmark movie? Heck yes. It's probably my favorite Hallmark movie. I would also like to know about the Nagle/Nolan-Sam/Scott changes. What was the purpose? And Mark looks decidedly less...I don't want to say rugged, but I can't think of another word, than I pictured him. But none of this would bother someone who watched Christmas with Holly but hasn't read Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. Ah, the curse of being a reader.
8. Galyn
While I pretty much enjoyed the Tv movie,as it was.....I was disappointed in some of the same aspects that you mentioned, about the change of their last name, Sam turning into Scott (which mind you,I like the name Scott a bit better,but still...being that's not his name in the book, reason to change it to Scott.) was eh ok. While I realize there's only so much that can be done from a book, the house wasn't quite what I had pictured in my mind from what I read in the book,plus I did kinda miss seeing the vineyard. While 'Mark' was cast pretty well, I'd imagined him being-taller,a lil hunkier,and a bit preppy mixed w/plaid lumberjack type over all. Them turning Alex into some goofy marine biologist geek, I wasn't happy about that or the guy they got to play him,he just didn't seem to -fit Alex as he is in the book. Alex's char. could've been a 'lighter' version of who his char. is in the books. I do kinda wish Mark & Maggie had had a few of their accidental meetings on the ferry,but I understand how that might be a small problem. I give it a 7 on my movie ratings scale ( 10 being great) .
Carmen Pinzon
9. bungluna
I loved this book and tried to avoid the movie. I finaly caved and watched it last nigh, (hurray for dvrs!)

As a movie it isn't half bad. The romance was overtly sweet and the casual meetings did at least keep to the spirit of the book. As usual, the needless changes in name just threw me. Why? Why must they do these things? It just didn't seem to add anything to the story.

The 'cleaning up' of the brothers I guess was necessary for the length of the movie. But for my taste they took too much out of the Mark-Maggie-Holly book interplay. At least they left the fairy house bit intact.
10. Lizzie Mays
Sorry to be late to the party on this one.....

I did not care for the movie. I love the emotional heft of Lisa Kleyas that usually smolders just under the surface of a lovely, slightly humorous story. This movie just wandered for me. Nothing particularly wrong about it, but not much that made me want to stay tuned. It was just....... well, YAWN.

Maybe my expectations were set too high.
11. martisima
I couldn't help it- bought the DVD (for $43.95 - YES!!!) Don't really know why. Just on impulse!!!
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