They say the sense of smell is the most closely tied to memory, and candles are festive, so it should come as no surprise that Lifetime’s It’s a Wonderful Lifetime made a movie about both with Scentsational Christmas. Also, with something like twenty films on the holiday movie slate, pretty much anything even tangentially related to Christmas has to be fair game.
Whether by choice or because they were running out of ideas, Scentsational Christmas starts out as pretty much exactly what one would expect it to be, given the title. It’s about a perfumer, Ellie Reddy (Nanzeen Contractor), who returns home for Christmas while at something of a career crossroads. She has to create the next big scent that will impress her boss enough to land her a VP job overseas. Back at the family homestead, she meets writer Logan Osborne (Mykee Selkin) and discovers her late mother’s candle business is in trouble. Ellie and Logan team up to recreate her family’s secret Christmas candle mystery, which leads them to the heart of a romantic holiday legend.
The movie is as much about the holiday legend, which ostensibly involved some of Ellie’s ancestors, as it is about candle making (or perfume scent creating). Essentially, many years before, Ellie’s great-great-something-grandparents were supposed to marry on Christmas, when the groom got lost in a snowstorm. The bride filled a grove with candles to help bring him home safely. Their legacy remains in not only the candles Ellie’s family makes, but in a set of candlesticks and locket that he had once made and engraved with his maker’s mark.
As one might imagine from the three different plots described above, there’s a lot going on in this film. It feels like it kind of wants to be about the family candle business and reconnecting with her mother by recreating her family’s famous Christmas candles. It kind of wants to be about getting to the truth behind the legend of her ancestors. It has almost no interest in being about her job as a perfumier.
Which is probably for the best, as it happens, since it abandons the third plot entirely, by the end. I have to admit, I’ve been quite happy to leave behind the “woman gives up high-powered job to move back to her small town to be with the man she met fifteen minutes ago” trope. And, sure, modern Christmas movies aren’t always perfect at moving away from this trope, as much as they try to show that she can have it all – the love she’s just found and the high-powered job.
I suppose Scentsational Christmas does try to show Ellie “getting it all.” She’s offered the promotion, which is then put at risk when Logan writes an article about her family’s Christmas candles. It’s pretty ham-fisted drama for the sake of drama. Yes, these movies typically do have that one giant misunderstanding that causes tension between the couple before the end. But this one feels more shoe-horned into the plot than most, with Ellie getting offended and betrayed by the article when absolutely nobody could have predicted her boss would react it to it the way she did.
Logan writes the article, Ellie feels betrayed because it puts her big promotion into question. And it’s something she really, really wants. Until about thirty seconds later when, inexplicably, it isn’t. It turns out she doesn’t want to go to Paris after all! She really wants to stay in her hometown (with Logan, naturally). She doesn’t even want to make perfume! She really wants to make her mother’s candles! Which is great, as it happens, because that’s exactly what her boss wants her to do from now on. Whew! Day saved! See? She can have it all!
Ellie’s switch from wanting the high-powered job in Paris to wanting to make candles on her family homestead is so fast, it’ll give you whiplash. It’s so jarring, it makes you almost forget the utter absurdity of her lighting candles to “guide Logan back to her” in an era in which cell phones exist. I know, I know. They were trying to evoke the old family legend. Parallels, and all that. All I’m saying is, if a big misunderstanding with your One True Love has led to a fight, and you’re afraid they don’t know what they truly mean to you, giving a quick call or even a text is going to be a more effective way to contact them than light a few candles and channeling a legend from the 1800s. Just give him a call, Ellie.
Of course, it’s a Christmas movie. So he does indeed make his way back to her. She announces she’s not interested in Paris, after all. To his credit, he greets this pronouncement with every ounce of astonishment I felt hearing it. But love is love, and Christmas is Christmas. So all’s well that ends well, I guess. Or something.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Scentsational Christmas? Share with us in the comments below!
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