Another day, another Lacey Christmas movie. Family For Christmas surprised me. It takes a turn I wasn’t expecting, and it is directed by Samantha Carter herself (Amanda Tapping). It’s still very much in that Hallmark space, but there’s a little touch of extra quality, and enough silly humour I hadn’t planned for that I found myself laughing along.
As is par for the course, Lacey Chabert stars as a successful career woman who faces a challenge at Christmas. When the film opens, she is a young woman just setting off to the big city and leaving her boyfriend behind, promising she’ll think of him every day and that their relationship is built to last. Flashforward ten years and all thoughts of her boyfriend and suburban upbringing are gone. She is now a hard-hitting, award winning reporter, entirely career driven and not particularly keen on Christmas, kids, romance, or family. She’s not a Scrooge or a Grinch – she simply has her own goals and priorities. At her office Christmas party, she is briefly reminded of her old boyfriend and wonders what he’s up to. Enter a strange and mystic-speak Santa who offers some cryptic pleasantries for her to ponder on. The next morning, she wakes up only to find herself in a new bed, in a new house, with a ring on her finger, a husband, two kids, and a list of soccer mom tasks to complete. WTF?
There is an odd tradition of Christmas movies and stories flipping into other dimensions and possible timelines from A Christmas Carol to It’s A Wonderful Life to Groundhog Day. We follow in this vein, as Lacey finds herself trying to figure out why she is now married to her old flame, why her old job has been taken by one of her subordinates, why none of her colleagues recognize her, and how to figure out a housewife’s schedule. There’s a lot of gentle, mocking humour as Lacey struggles to get her bearings, make small talk with neighbours she is supposed to be besties with, and love children she didn’t know existed the day before. This being Hallmark, it’s not done in a cynical matter (you can choose to read between the lines about what the story may or may not be saying about a woman’s place in the world) and you know it’s all going to work out in the end. For Lacey’s character though, just as she is getting comfortable with her new life and understanding what love and family can be like, she is switched back to her original life with her husband and kids and sweet picket fence life potentially wiped from existence. She has a choice to make.
If I have any real issue with the film it’s that it doesn’t really give valid reasons along the way for the choices Lacey’s character makes. There’s no valid reason given for Hannah suddenly forgetting this person she supposedly loves, though I concede this was on purpose. There’s no valid reason given for why she would, after ten years of working, realize after a couple of days that she wants a family – beyond the simple interactions with a loving husband and cute kids. I got the impression that, if something else came along she might just as easily abandon her family and hop on the new bandwagon. That’s nowhere near the intent of the film, but I found some of the inspiration and thought behind character choices unconvincing. These aren’t films to usually discuss script or directing, but it’s easily a step above the normal Hallmark fare in terms of story, and Amanda Tapping does a confident, non-flashy job.
It’s another sweet Hallmark movie, with the caveat being that you may actually remember this one. I expect plenty of people will be put off by the apparent message that a woman’s place is at home – not that I fully buy that this is what the film is saying – but for a simple family oriented Christmas movie you could do much much worse.