A few years ago, my wife and I decided to watch a bunch of the Hallmark Christmas movies released that year. We printed out the schedule and hung it on our fridge and made it a once-or-twice per week date night. For each movie we planned some winter-themed drink: cranberry juice and gin, stout beer, mulled wine, etc. As expected, the movies were all pretty much the same, but we came to appreciate the subtleties of each movie, like variations on a theme. Maybe the lead actress said a specific word a weird way, or maybe the rules of the town pie-baking festival made no sense, or the lead actor’s supposed profession (e.g. “town ice carver”) was especially outlandish.
I guess what I’m saying is that I have a soft spot for the Christmas rom-com industrial complex even if I’m not exactly their target audience. Every genre has its schlock that gets peddled out, but Hallmark, Lifetime, and the various streamers have a LOT of schlock to peddle out in a short window, making it all look even worse.
Thus I approached Falling for Christmas with an open mind, especially since Lindsay Lohan, whose earlier work I am fond of, is in the lead. She joins Lacey Chabert as a Mean Girls alum who has starred in a Christmas romcom. (Chabert is widely acknowledged, at least by my sister, mom, and mother-in-law, as the best of the Hallmark leading ladies.) Incidentally, one of the opening scenes of Falling for Christmas is a callback on the iconic “Jingle Bell Rock” scene from Mean Girls.
Alas, Falling for Christmas really does not do much for me. It is a blend of the blandest of the Christmas romcom tropes with just enough spice sneaked in to suggest the potential of something edgier and more fun.
The movie takes a long time to get all of its plot in motion, but the premise is this: Sierra Belmont (Lohan), a hotel heiress, falls while skiing and suffers a movie concussion. That is, she has to wear a bandage on her head for one scene, and she forgets her name and all the details of her life. She does not remember, for example, that she is engaged to Instagram influencer Tad Fairchild (George Young), or that she eats caviar every morning.
Inevitably, she gets taken in by a hunky single dad with a career that exists on magazine covers and in romance novels: Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet) runs a quaint skiing lodge. His business is being eaten into by — you guessed it — Sierra’s father, Beauregard (Jack Wagner), resort magnate. You can probably fill in the blanks for the rest of the plot.
I have neglected the most insane of the plot details, which is that the reason Sierra falls off a mountain and suffers brain damage is because Jake’s daughter wishes he will “fall” for someone. Her wish to Santa causes a near death. It’s almost Faustian.
Had Falling for Christmas had more of that batshittery I would have had a lot more fun. Instead, such quirkiness is shoved to the edges. Another example is the subplot of the rescue of Tad, who gets stranded following the accident. Tad finds himself roughing it with the help of a mountain man, brainstorming how he might start a survival blog. It’s cartoony, something that would be in a 2022 George of the Jungle movie. I would have rather watched a movie centered around Tad’s misadventures than this, I think.
The majority of the movie is stock Christmas romcom (heavy on the “rom”, light on the “com”). Jake is an awfully generic protagonist, and the styling team can’t decide whether he’s boyishly or ruggedly handsome. Lohan’s casting and prominent marketing mimic the Vanessa Hudgens renaissance that Netflix led with The Princess Switch: They are taking a teen sensation from the mid 2000’s to cashing in on nostalgia now that us ‘00s-teens have use our streaming subscriptions after doing the dishes at night.
I must admit that Lohan doesn’t quite carry the movie the way I hoped. She’s so low-energy most of the film, but every now and then she turns on the charisma, it knocked me out of my chair. “Holy shit, Lindsay Lohan is great,” I’d remember. Then she’d check out again for another few scenes. I just wish it was a little more consistent.
The movie looks pretty cheap: it’s more cinematic than most Hallmark movies, but then again so is the turkey drawing my 3-year-old brought home from preschool today. Mostly it’s interiors and a few studio sets — the skiing in particular is underwhelming, which is a bummer given how central it is as an inciting incident. Randomly, there are about six establishing shots that are breathtaking panoramas of misty mountains. I don’t know if this is stock footage or if someone on staff has dreams of being a nature documentarian someday, but I was surprised.
Falling for Christmas sits right on the edge of “boring” and “watchable” — not so dreary that it gets “lemon law-ed” after ten minutes, but not so interesting that I think I’ll remember anything about it — except perhaps that there is an actor named “Chord Overstreet.” I wish I was more excited about a potential Lohannaissance, but I’m not.
- Review Project: 2022: Year in Film