We opened our presents, went ham on our ham, and settled in for … EVEN MORE CHRISTMAS MOVIES!
When my family asks me what I want for Christmas, I'm always stumped. I don't need clothes--why would I, when I can just keep wearing this same 10-year old sweatshirt that is stretched out just the way I like it? I don't need toys or collectibles--frankly, it would be a gift to me if someone could get my husband to stop buying them. I don't need books or CDs--my phone holds more entertainment than I could consume in ten lifetimes. I guess you could, like, pay for six months of Spotify for me?
On my side of the family, we've basically phased out presents except for white elephants, and the obligatory pile of gifts for my nephew. However, my husband's family does a big gift exchange. When they asked him what I wanted, he cast about for a moment and then said, "well, she likes tea." How do I know?
BEHOLD MY CHRISTMAS TEA HAUL!
Yes, indeed, that is nine boxes of tea. Something like 200 servings of tea. Enough tea to last me until mid-July if I had one cup every day, and didn't touch the *ahem* 15 boxes of tea that are already crowding my cabinet. And you know what? I'm In To It. So much tea! So many cozy evenings! I decided to brew up a different cup for each of this week's Christmas movies.
Love Hard (2021): Natalie Bauer (Nina Dobrev) lives in LA, and her dating life is so bad she makes her living writing columns about it. Her friend/assistant (always a warning sign when you can't tell) convinces her to widen her search area, and Natalie ends up matching with a hottie from New York named Josh. They click, start texting, then eventually start having long phone conversations where they fall in love. When Josh says "I wish you were here for Christmas," Natalie decides to take him up on the offer and flies to New York to surprise him. But the surprise is on her: Instead of the hottie in the pictures, Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) is a nerd who lives in his parents' basement and will never live up to his super-successful older brother. Josh begs her to pretend to be his girlfriend through the holiday, and she agrees ... as long as Josh will hook her up with the hottie she thought she was visiting.
Set aside, for the moment, that this is a movie about two narcissistic liars who are willing to misrepresent themselves completely in order to get a hot partner. Also, set aside the absurd professions that the main characters have (okay, fine, I'll buy that Natalie's dating exploits are so hilarious that she has a weekly column about it, but Josh's big dream is to make candles that smell like his grandpa and, bro, I think you should watch a couple of episodes of The Profit before you quit your day job). And I guess also set aside the whole thing where he lives in New York and she lives in LA and neither one of them has any job prospects in the opposite place. Setting aside those THREE GLARING ISSUES, my big issue with this movie was that it was written to be super culturally relevant, but that culture is 2018. Remember when there was an internet bruhaha about "Baby It's Cold Outside?" This movie has a performance sequence with new lyrics, and the whole thing is treated like no one has ever considered how rapey the old lyrics were. Natalie has the "controversial" opinion that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and that is apparently so relevant to her personality that they tweaked it for the name of the movie. Like, okay? I thought we all agreed that Die Hard was a Christmas movie and Iron Man 3 is a Christmas movie and The Extended Editions of Lord of the Rings are the best Christmas movie ever made. These days Film Twitter is trying to convince everyone that Eyes Wide Shut is a Christmas movie, and I'm fine with that if we can all agree that it's a terrible film any time of year.
Love Hard is written like a bot scraped Reddit three years ago and decided to write a movie featuring a shallow woman and the incel who loves her. I did like the first act, where the two characters were falling for each other's personalities over the phone. But when the ruse is revealed and Natalie decides that the right thing to do is keep the lie going, I started hating both of the main characters and they never did anything to make me like them again. Even my cup of Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride couldn't wash the sour taste out of my mouth.
Holiday in the Wild (2019): Kristin Davis is the wealthy wife of an important man in New York City whose only child is going off to college. She's already unsure of what comes next for her, and even more so when her husband tells her that he wants a divorce as soon as their son is out the door. She'd planned an African safari as their second honeymoon; now, she finds herself taking the trip alone. Rob Lowe is the sexy-but-annoying bush pilot who takes her up for a private flight. They are enjoying the scenery and some antagonistic banter when Rob spots an Elephant Emergency. Thus begins this movie's secret agenda: it's a nature film disguised as a Christmas rom-com.
They discover a baby elephant whose mother has been killed by poachers, and they take it back to an elephant orphanage, which is apparently a real organization that Kristin Davis has been working with for many years. I know that because I had LOTS of time to read the IMDB page, as the plot basically stops at this point and the elephants take center stage. We get baby elephants, we get big elephants, we get serious doctors treating elephant illnesses. Kristin Davis was apparently a veterinarian before she quit to raise her son, and she quickly cancels the rest of her trip so she can spend more time with the elephants. She bonds with the animals, the other workers, and occasionally Rob Lowe. Unfortunately, he's cursed with an Evil Rich Blonde (TM) who appears like a genie to threaten the elephant rescue every time Rob and Kristin get too close. I guess they had to come up with a reason why these two hot people who love elephants wouldn't get together sooner. Later, when Kristin has to say goodbye to one of the elephants, it's played as a parallel to sending her kid off to college and goddamnit, this silly movie made me cry with the power of a mother's love. Everything that happens is predictable, but it went down just as smooth as the Moroccan Mint I was drinking.
The Holidate (2020): You know how everyone in your family is always talking shit about being single and totally obsessed with whether or not you are in a relationship? Yeah, me neither. But Sloane (Emma Roberts) is plagued with relatives who don't understand why she isn't trying harder to fall in love after a break-up. Jackson (Luke Bracey) has the opposite problem--every time he spends a holiday with a woman, she thinks it means he's ready to commit. (Honestly, I can't blame those girls for trying--look at how hot he is, and he's AUSTRALIAN.) When they meet at a mall returning their unwanted Christmas gifts, they decide to do New Year's together ... then Valentine's Day ... then St. Patty's, and Cinco De Mayo, and so on. They have drinks, they have fun, they have fights, they have growing feelings for each other.
Will there be a Thanksgiving break-up and a Christmas get-together? You bet there will. But this movie has a snappy script and two charismatic leads who ably pull off too-snarky-for-their-own-good. They have genuine sexy chemistry, and I'm not just saying that because this movie has the only on-screen sex scene of the NINE Christmas romances I've watched this year. There's more partying and swearing than you'll find in the average holiday movie, but for me that's a feature, not a bug. It also features one of my favorite movie tropes: the overly-sexual aunt, who is played here by the masterful Kristin Chenoweth. She gets an HEA all her own, and it's so good that it eclipses the main couple's. How is she so expressive when her eyebrows are literally drawn on? God, she's so good. Almost as good as the chamomile-vanilla-honey tea I was drinking. I spiked it with a little whiskey, and I feel like all the characters in this movie would be proud of me. In retrospect, I should have followed the rules in this Holidate Drinking Game, but I’m not sure I would have survived it.
I was planning on dialing back my Christmas movie binging, but y’all have suggested so many good ones I might keep going! Let me know if there’s something I have to watch at email@example.com.