Christmas on the Farm
Poppy Montgomery stars and co-creates a Christmas movie in which she has to convince NYC publishers she is really a true-blue Aussie farmer.
The words ‘Christmas’ and ‘Movie’ generally don’t lead to stuff of critical acclaim, but if they hit a feelgood note they an be played over and over again.
It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Home Alone, Love Actually -I’ll even take Die Hard on a lazy Christmas night. Yippy-ki-yay….
In Australia, where the snow is substituted for a heatwave or the beach, less springs to mind…. Bush Christmas and Babe towards the top of a short list.
The latest is Christmas on the Farm, a Stan telemovie created by star Poppy Montgomery with US writers Ruthanne Secunda and Jennifer Notas Shapiro. Produced by Brisbane’s Hoodlum Entertainment with Montgomery’s Wild Poppy outfit, it’s a Romance / Mistaken Identity malarky set mostly on a Queensland farm.
Montgomery plays US ghost writer Clementine ‘Emmy’ Jones who, pressured by her literary agent to come up with a new work, submits a manuscript by her late mother on rustic farm life, recipes, wellness and more.
The book is highly-sought after by publishers London & London, with playboy executive Jack (Darren McMullen) pressured by his mother Ellison and CEO (Jeanette Cronin) to secure the work. Little does he realise he had a one-night stand with its very author which is just as well because his mother wants them both to visit the Aussie farm as part of the deal.
“I don’t do farm. I can’t cook. I can’t even boil an egg,” insists Emmy.
Now she has to pretend being her own mother, including with ocker accent and dying her hair from blonde to red.
The farm is run by her cousin David (Hugh Sheridan) who lives with his partner Miles (Nicholas Brown), with the latter volunteering to pose as Emmy’s fake husband, complete with Crocodile Dundee akubra.
When Jack and his mother arrive down under Emmy tries desperately to maintain her charade, aided by David & Miles, cows, horses, a rooster, cockatoo, huntsman spider and a lot of reinforced stereotypes to impress the visiting Americans. But will true love get in the way?
The tale directed by Aussie Christopher Weekes (Bitter and Twisted, Maya the Bee: The Honey Games) is a vehicle for star, with hijinks and opportunities for her to draw upon her comedic side, if trying too hard, too often.
Darren McMullen again looks the dashing part in a role that doesn’t ask much other shifting from annoying to more sympathetic and suspending disbelief for the kooky plot -hey it’s the silly season after all.
It’s nice to see Hugh Sheridan finally taking an LGBTQI role and his Rafters years has groomed him well for the light work here, aided by Nicholas Brown. Ever-reliable Jeanette Cronin is pitch perfect in a supporting role as company CEO, joined by Asmara Feik and Demi Harmon in minor roles.
But one of the problems is the overall premise. I just didn’t buy that a powerhouse book publisher from New York would insist on visiting an Australian farm in order to secure a book deal. The whole charade hinges on this set-up. It’s an excuse for its leading star to turn on the hokey Dundee caper, when she isn’t falling about in the mud with McMullen. It grates even more when Hugh Sheridan and Nicholas Brown are pushed to unfunny campy schtick.
It leads me to ponder who is this really made for? Yes Stan has commissioned the work, Hoodlum has co-produced it. But it aims no higher than a broadly-appealing Hallmark / Lifetime entertainment (you know the kind) so its success is probably dependant on its international future.
I know it’s ‘only’ a Christmas movie, but can we get something a bit more authentic next time, please?
Christmas on the Farm screens today on Stan.