'Round and Round' Is Hallmark's Best Hanukkah Movie Yet – Kveller
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‘Round and Round’ Is Hallmark’s Best Hanukkah Movie Yet

The channel's new Hanukkah time loop movie, which stars Vic Michaelis, Bryan Greenberg and "Suits'" Rick Hoffman, is utterly delightful.


“Round and Round” is the perfect dreidel-themed title of Hallmark’s Hanukkah romance movie offering this year. And I’m happy to report that the time loop movie runs circles around the competition (that includes some actually excellent contenders, like “Hanukkah On Rye”) for best Hanukkah Hallmark movie.

The film stars Vic Michaelis as Rachel Landau, an associate editor at a book publishing company who gets caught in a time loop, reliving the seventh night of Hanukkah (or more precisely, the sixth day and seventh night of Hanukkah) over and over again. At first glance, Rachel’s life seems perfect. She has a dream job, a Brooklyn apartment, a successful academic boyfriend, Adam, and the most cozy looking pair of button-up Hanukkah flannel pajamas (is there a bigger marker of success than that?).

But the day she relives is decidedly crummy. It starts at Goldberg’s, the Jewish deli in the city where her parents had their first date 36 years earlier, and where the family gets sufganiyot for their annual Hanukkah party. In line, she gets a call from Adam, who tells her he can’t come to the party since he’s developed an “airport cold.” Then on the way to the train to Montclair to see her family, she bumps into a man rushing by who causes the appetizing jelly-filled donuts to go flying everywhere.

She later meets the sufganiyot-crushing nemesis at her family’s holiday party — and yes, it’s Zach Rubin, her grandmother Rosie’s art teacher, played by Jewish dreamboat, “How To Make It In America” and “The Mindy Project” actor (and Jewish dad) Bryan Greenberg. Zach even drove her grandmother to the party, what a mensch. Her dad, played by wonderful Rick Hoffman of “Suits,” keeps hounding her to take boxes back to the apartment. She gets mocked for her flakey boyfriend, is made to feel inadequate by Cynthia, her more successful publishing exec cousin with a fancy British accent and discovers her parents are about to sell off her childhood home, to her great disappointment. And of course there’s a Hanukkah house fire.

All in all, not a pleasant day to have repeat over and over. But Rachel knows that when you’re stuck in a sci-fi conundrum, you have to recruit a nerdy assistant to help you, so she asks Zach for help. He believes her (this is a man who, we early on find out, carried DnD dice given to him by his zayde at all times, after all) and does his best to help her. He even recruits some friends who work at the local comic book store.

Lots of funny, romantic banter ensues. Zach rightfully asserts that all time loop movies are about people who need to make big changes in their lives, about people who are already essentially living in a sort of time loop of daily dissatisfactions. And while Rachel at first asserts that everything is fine with her life, she realizes that her relationship with Adam is doomed as the day repeats, and perhaps more importantly, that she still has a childhood dream she needs to make come true, instead of making other’s dreams come true in her thankless editor job.

While I won’t spoil how we get to the ending of the movie, I think we all know what happens: Rachel and Zach fall for each other, and Rachel gets to make the career change she’s always secretly wanted. It’s not the ending we all get in real life, but it is reliably the ending of a Hallmark movie — that is why we watch them, after all. And every step of the way to get to that ending is utter delight.

While there are some minor critiques one could make, over all, the Jewish elements in this movie are lovely. There are no overbearing Jewish moms — in fact, Rachel’s mother is a cool Jewish DJ who met her father while working a Hanukkah party. Yes, Grandma Rosie tries to play the matchmaker, but she’s pretty laissez-faire about it, and her character, played by the amazing Paula Shaw, is one of the most charming of the whole movie. There is one middle-aged Jewish lady with cat-eyed glasses who keeps comparing herself to Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand, that feels a tiny bit like a Jewish caricature, but even she is lots of glamorous fun. Hoffman as Stan, Rachel’s father, does keep workshopping dad puns and jokes (he wears an “I love you a latke” apron, and Rachel mocks him for the less-than-satisfactory pun), but he’s also incredibly present and loving, and talks to Rachel candidly about her love life woes. Zach is genuinely a nice Jewish boy: selfless, kind, generous, self-effacing, interesting and interested. And Rachel herself is such a relatable Jewish heroine, an independent and opinionated Jewish woman who is also working on those gendered tendencies to people-please and not ask for too much that I’m sure many viewers will relate to.

The bits of Hanukkah blessings that appear in the movie are beautifully pronounced, the Jewish food looks incredibly appetizing, there’s an ancient heirloom dreidel that plays a big part in the plot, there’s a reference to Jewish couples therapist Esther Perel, there’s a busker who sings a (very annoying) original Hanukkah tune. And yet at no point do we get the annoying cursory Hanukkah 101 explainer that’s very obviously intended for non-Jewish viewers only that’s been part of every Hanukkah movie of the past.

Instead of a refrain of klezmery music, we get delightful 80s classics,  particularly the wonderful “I Melt With You” by Modern English, whose lyrics, “I’ll stop the world and melt with you,” are featured in the Hanukkah party DJ-ed by Rachel’s mom, but are also perfect for the experience of reliving the day of you falling in love over and over again.

Sure, the sets don’t actually feel like New York City, but the references to the 92nd St Y and to quinoa milk lattes and late nights at Jewish diners feel very rooted in the experience of the city. And then there’s the self-aware humor of the movie — that also has plenty of Yiddishkeit. Michaelis has a background in comedy and it just makes their character even more loveable. Greenberg has also starred in his fair share of comedic shows and he’s delightful. The chemistry and the quippy chit-chat between these two just makes them a Jewish couple that you want to root for.

And while Hallmark movies shy away from politics, there is even one line from Grandma Rosie that feels incredibly pertinent right now. She tells Rachel that when she was a little girl and her family had just immigrated to America, “we couldn’t take the risk of letting our true self shine, but that doesn’t have to be your story.”

She then raises a glass to her: “Here’s to the chutzpah of showing the world what you’ve got.”

There’s more than just Jewish pride in the movie; there’s also wonderful queer rep and a lot of positive representation for nerdy, comics-loving people like me. Even the bitter rivalry between Rachel and her cousin turns into something beautiful. Pitting women against each other? Not in this Hallmark movie, we don’t.

I grew up watching the Hallmark channel in Israel (yes, of course they have it there), and because my TV was full of Jewish representation on every other channel, I never realized that the channel was direly lacking the kind of romance stories that made Jews in America feel seen, without feeling like an oddity you also need to explain to non-Jewish viewers.

“Round and Round” gives us what we’ve been missing: a Jewish love story to fall in love with. What makes it so great is that it finally feels like just a really great cheesy romcom that happens to be Jewish. Hanukkah is just another character, among many incredibly charming ones. And it still has all the winning elements of a good Hallmark movie — and a lot of self-awareness — too.

There are definitely more avenues that Hallmark could explore — an actual queer Hanukkah romance, and generally more diverse and less Ashkenazi-centric avenues of Jewish representation come to mind. Yet in “Round and Round,” Hallmark has found a winning recipe that makes me feel excited about what they’ll cook up next.

“Round and Round” is airing Wednesday December 13 on the Hallmark channel at 10/9c and is currently available to stream on Peacock

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