The Hallmark Channel is getting better as their 2022 Chanukah film, Hanukkah on Rye, is the network’s best Chanukah film yet.
Their previous films have set a low bar but then again, most of them always find a way to inject Xmas into them. Last year’s Eight Gifts of Hanukkah was an improvement. I’m happy to say that Hanukkah on Rye feels like it’s an Oscar winner compared to the previous offerings. During the film’s Chanukah Song Contest, they poke fun at the fact that nobody agrees on how one pronounces Chanukah–with a Ch OR H. The Hebrew spelling starts with a Chet so Ch it is. If we could all adopt the same universal spelling, that would be great for everyone.
It’s not a Chabad lighting but everyone gathers in the evening for a public candle lighting during Chanukah.
As Chanukah nears, both Molly (Yael Grobglas) and Jacob (Jeremy Jordan) learn that their grandmothers–Ruth (Linda Darlow) and Esther (Paula Shaw)–are going through a matchmaker. The timing could not be worse! While they get to know each other on paper, the two are already getting to know each other in real life. Molly works at her family’s traditional Lower East Side deli, Gilbert’s. She is also on the way to becoming the fourth generation to run the restaurant. Meanwhile, Jacob is visiting from California in order to look at property’s for the future New York home of the modern Zimmer’s. It just so happens that he is eying a location near Gilbert’s. What will this mean as he gets to know Molly?
The matchmaker is old school and requires them to write each other on paper and send via a messenger. As “Beth” and “David,” the two start developing feelings for each other. Molly doesn’t like “Beth” and protests because it’s the name of the girl who stole her 8th grade boyfriend. It’s funny to watch how things play out in their real life as they continue writing to each other. By the way, once the doorman and messenger learn that they are both in the same building, the messenger leaves the envelopes with him. After all, it’s easier for everyone! At what point will they realize that they are writing to each other? This is the part where I tell you to just wait and find out. As a wise Jedi once said, patience!
There’s some good ol’ Fiddler on the Roof shaming in this film. I have to laugh because Jeremy Jordan’s character is being shamed since the actor has acted in previous stints on Broadway. But still, it seems like it’s very rare to find a Jewish person who has never watched the classic. I mean, the fact that this is a film about matchmaking just ties to the Fiddler theme even more. But anyway, Jacob watches the film shortly thereafter and never misses an opportunity to quote the film. It’s a wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles!
Drama builds up when Jacob’s family comes to town–he tries to talk sense into them but learns unknown family history. A Battle of the Bubbies later ensues when it comes to each family’s latke recipe. I’m not going to spoil the particulars but networks are really missing out on an actual Battle of the Bubbies this time of year. Such a competition would help fill the Chanukah programming void and this should be something that actually airs on television. Think of the ratings!
The film does give off a bit of The Shop Around The Corner and You’ve Got Mail vibes but it’s not corporate vs. local nor is it co-workers writing to each other. Instead, these are two people who are working for their local–NYC and LA–family deli restaurants. But with all of the writing to each other, you cannot help but think about either movie. If you haven’t seen the former, I highly recommend it. What happens when Molly and Jacob learn the truth? Are they each other’s bashert despite the complications at hand? Will Jacob end up expanding his family’s restaurant in New York? Oh, you’re going to find out soon enough!
I’m not going to get into the major spoilers when it comes to what happens with the restaurants. Obviously, this is a Hallmark movie so you already know there’s going to be a happy ending. This is the Hallmark rule of law. No happy ending would mean no movie. The film plays to all of the classic romantic holiday movie tropes. The question is how will they get from point A to point B.
I spent my Saturday evening watching the locked cut of the film. However, the press screener featured temp titles, VFX, SFX, and music. I don’t know how much of the music will change between the locked cut and it’s December 18 airing. What I can say is that the music was very heavy on Chanukah tunes although “Hava Nagila” was featured very early in the film.
DIRECTOR: Peter DeLuise
SCREENWRITER: Julie Sherman Wolfe
CAST: Jeremy Jordan, Yael Grobglas, Linda Darlow, Paula Shaw, Lisa Horner, Linda E. Smith, David Eisner, Harry Nelken, Sam Rosenthal, and Lisa Loeb
Hanukkah on Rye will premiere December 18, 2022 at 8 pm ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel. Grade: 4/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.