Family For Christmas

25 Days of Christmas Movies: #14 — Family for Christmas – The Main Damie

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.

Pride, Prejudice, And Mistletoe

Pride, Prejudice and Mistletoe: Charming and Full of Heart! | The Silver Petticoat Review

One thing my wife and I do every year at Christmas, is watch Lacey Chabert Christmas movies. I was a big Party Of Five fan growing up, and she was too, so we share a kind of Lacey appreciation which comes in handy at this time of the year. See, while I want to watch Die Hard or Rare Exports, she wants to watch some romantic muck I can’t abide. With me being a huge movie nerd and her…. not… we just fell into this tradition as something we can both agree upon to watch. We both know the movies are never going to be good but we can at least hope they are festive and happy and snowy and get us into the Christmas spirit. In 2020, we watched a few of these which we hadn’t seen before, starting with Pride, Prejudice, And Mistletoe.

The thing to be aware of with these movies – they’re all TV movies and are more often than not Hallmark productions. You know exactly what you’re going to get – rich white Americans with great careers, families, and friends suffer some sort of minor mishap at the end of the year, which ends up with them finding romance and living happily ever after. They’re not Cinema, so be prepared for simple plot, simple characters, not the greatest performances, and little interest given to music, direction, cinematography etc. I think Lacey is a fantastic actress who should be appearing in more mainstream and more significant works, but I completely respect the groove she is in – she’s found what she loves doing. That said, I wouldn’t be watching any of these movies if she wasn’t in them.

Lacey stars as Darcy (get it) Fitzwilliam, a rich white American with a great job, who has so far been unlucky in love. She has recently ended a relationship with a seemingly ideal man who works for her father’s Company – even though they fit from the outside, there’s that spark missing for Darcy. She heads home for Christmas to help her family who are running some sort of fundraiser for a local charity by selling fashionable Christmas trees (?), and they’re running the event out of their house (?). The only event I run from my house at Christmas is putting boards over the doors and windows so that no-one wants to visit.

Turns out the bloke who is catering the event is an old school rival of Darcy’s – a man called Luke Bennett (get it). They aren’t happy about having to work together at first, but it turns out they have more in common than they thought, and before long we’re treated to a steamy 14 minute nude scene which heavily features tinsel wrapping around things they weren’t supposed to. Possibly that last piece was in my imagination, but I’m almost positive it happens soon after the credits roll. In any case, you know they’re going to fall in love despite the measly obstacles in their way.

It’s not particularly festive even though it’s set at Christmas, but seeing the big houses and trees and scarves and snow and decorations and lights still puts a morsel of cheer in my heart. It’s not any better or worse than any of these types of movies and you probably won’t remember if you’ve seen it or not by the time Christmas rolls around again. There’s little or nothing to do with Jane Austin, most of the performances you won’t care about, but at least there is time spent on Luke as an individual with aspirations and a history when in most cases the love interest doesn’t get much consideration beyond looking pretty.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen this one!

P2

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In the grand tradition of unusual Christmas movies (Die Hard, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon), P2 uses the festive season as a loose background setting, but isn’t particularly important to the plot. Once again bringing together the writing, directing, producing trio of Franck Khalfoun, Alexandre Aja, and Gregory Lavasseur, P2 is a sleeper thriller – one which I went in to with low expectations, but came out pleased. It’s a fairly typical cat and mouse thriller, but one with good performances, layered characters, and an interesting setting which enhances the feeling of claustrophobia.

It’s A Wonderful Knife

The film centres on New York businesswoman Angela who is working late on Christmas Eve and gets trapped in the parking garage after everyone else has gone home. Initially she gets help from the security guard Thomas, but when she readies herself to leave, she is drugged, tied away, and it looks like we’re in for another 90 minutes of torture porn. What we get instead is a tale of obsession and survival which, although we have seen plenty of similar tales in the past, succeeds mainly due to the strong performances and strict direction. The film never goes too overboard with deus ex machina stuff, nor is anything too unrealistic – we have a lonely psychopath taking advantage of a woman he underestimates, and a struggle to get out alive. We don’t get an awful lot of background into the characters, but anything more than what we do get may be unnecessary. We have base motives, and the fact that we don’t learn much more doesn’t make matters less tense – the last thing you think about when someone is trying to kill you is ‘why are they trying to kill me’. The setting is interesting as it appears that there must surely be a number of places to hide, or a number of ways to escape, but each of these exit routes is somehow blocked, hidden, or too dangerous to contemplate.

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The two leads (Rachel Nichols and Wes Bentley) carry the film well, with only a small number of side-characters popping in for minor scenes. Both run through a range of emotions, and both go through a series of grueling scenes – they are each convincing in their roles and although we can reasonably expect a traditional happy ending in these types of films, it’s never clear who is going to come out on top. There is some violence in the movie, but nowhere near the trio’s other films such as High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes, and everything seems far from far-fetched. It isn’t going to change anyone’s life or appear on many fan favourite lists, but it’s a good film to catch for some late night chills.

Have you seen this little known slasher? Let us know in the comments what you think of this one, and in what sort of unique scenario or place would you like to see a horror movie set?

Home Alone

Home Alone

Easily the best Christmas movie for kids growing up in the eighties and nineties, and deserves to be mentioned along side the classics from previous decades. It is no small feat that this has already become for many, traditional Christmas viewing, given that it is still a fairly recent film, at least in comparison to The Snowman, It’s A Wonderful Life, Santa Claus The Movie etc. For kids, the movie has everything- action, excitement, humour, and for everyone else the story and acting are engaging.

The idea of being left Home Alone for a while, especially after your relatives have been so annoying, will appeal to kids as they will have peace to do anything they want and let their imaginations fly. Cue lots of ice cream and sled rides down stairs. The film shows depth by letting us see the initial down side to being alone- the house can be scary even for the most resourcful and confident child when it gets dark, and you know your parents are not there to help. The plot sees the massive Mcallister family planning to go on holiday for Christmas. After an unfortunate pizza incident at the dinner table, young Kevin is sent to bed and locked in. The next morning there is a rush, and the family leave for the airport without Kevin, only realising what has happened when they are on the plane. They try to find a way home, but this is not easy as it’s Chritmas, meeting snotty clerks and unhelpful fools before John Candy steps in. Meanwhile, two crooks plan to rob the Mcallister house, knowing it’s empty, but soon realise that Kevin is inside. Kevin sees that it is up to him to protect his house, and begins setting up traps for the intruders. What follows is great entertainment.

Yes it may at times be soppy, but it is a family Christmas film and much of the scmaltz is covered by some great invention and quite painful slapstick. It is much smarter than you may think, probably accounting for much of its great success, and the acting, particularly from Culkin and Pesci is impressive. O’Hara is also good while the rest of the cast, in small roles do well. The set pieces are ingenious, ensuring that every 10 year old boy will come up with their own ways to stop bad guys.

The special features are non-existent, which is poor for such a successful film. A commentary would have been good, and a making of or documentary showing where some of the ideas came from could have been interesting and full of nostalgic goodness. It may be better to buy a set with the sequel for better value.

Feel free to leave your comments on the movie-where should this appear on the list of best Christmas movies?