This hyped, star-powered, movie centers around Tom (Dermot Mulroney) as he prepares to strike inspiration for a book while taking a cross-country train from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles directly before Christmas. Fun Fact: Amtrak does actually offer this trip and you can purchase a bed cabin for $1,000. Tom lives a life without strings. His most commitment is to his house plant, which takes residence with his neighbors frequently as he travels, snooping out the next story. He is a journalist whose career recently has wreaked of “sell-out,” but has aspirations to write a novel to revitalize his writing mojo. When he arrives at the train station, his view scans the people sitting, waiting for the Christmas train to arrive. The scene gives a chance for viewers to eye up possible characters of this play. You spot a young, in-love couple, a fortune teller, an old man grasping hold of his cherished “A Christmas Carol,” and you see Eleanor and Max. Max (Danny Glover) is a big-shot movie director and Eleanor (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), his favorite writer who spends her time rewriting and editing other people’s stories. Max has invited Eleanor on this train journey to encourage her to write her own story for the first time for his upcoming film that takes place on a train. Guys–do you get the double meaning? It’s subtle, so I want to be sure you don’t miss that (wink, wink).
When everyone climbs aboard this train, it miraculously begins to take a small-town shape, starting with the overachieving Train Attendant, Roxanne, who seems to know everyone boarding this train. We also meet Agnes (Joan Cusack), who quickly sets the pace of a know-it-all meddler. I was worried I wouldn’t recognize a HCM that doesn’t take place in a quaint small-town, but have no fear, the feeling is alive and well in this one. Everyone settles into their festive cabins and mingle in the dining car, all of which develops in front of your eyes just as a glamorized train ride from your imagination. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure to take a train understands the reality is something different from this HCM depiction. Max and Tom meet at the bar with the most chipper bartender around, who passes out candy canes like they are a cure for a disease. Max appreciates Tom’s writing chops and invites him to join him and Eleanor for dinner that evening to discuss possible writing opportunities. When Tom and Eleanor lay eyes on each other in the dining car later that day, we discover that they once were partners in writing as well as in love, but have not seen each other since. Thus the beginning of the entire train’s efforts to get Tom and Eleanor back together.
As a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, you would expect a higher level of quality in writing and acting. I would say the acting was fine, but the story was sort of boring and full of eye-roll worthy acts. It was an okay movie. I almost turned it off in the beginning, but once I pushed past the first commercials, it leveled off to a place where I was able to hold on until the end. There is something slightly off about most characters and I was sort of waiting for a murder to unfold, turning this into Murder on the Christmas Train. I was most interested in Tom and Eleanor’s previous stint gallivanting all over the world together finding the next great story. Their history was sort of making me think of the Tina Fey movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Dermot Mulroney was endearing, Kimberly Williams-Paisley was lovely, and Danny Glover has still got it (how handsome does he look in a bow tie?).
Don’t let the Hallmark Hall of Fame seal of quality and the train setting make you think that there were not HCM standards; there were still plenty to enjoy:
- Romantic leads physically bump into each other – ✔
- Interrupted kiss – ✔
- Getting snowed in (sort of) – ✔
- Long lost loves reconnecting – ✔
- Sleigh ride – ✔
- Reference to and execution of a Christmas Miracle – ✔
The Christmas Train, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, debuted on November 25th starring Dermot Mulroney, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Danny Glover, and Joan Cusack. It is based off of a novel of the same name written by David Baldacci.
Have you seen it? If not and you would like to, you can check out the schedule here.