I normally write about things pertaining to piano lessons and music education, but today I am branching out and sharing my thoughts about some holiday movies I have recently watched. If you are celebrating the 12 days of Christmas, there is still time to watch one (or two) of these before January 6!
Top pick: Christmas Angel (2011), available on Amazon Prime
Honestly, I was not expecting to enjoy this movie as much as I did. The blue collar storyline focuses on a young lady who has been out of work for a while, and she accepts a job working as her neighbor’s personal assistant. The neighbor is not who he appears to be, and a handsome reporter starts asking questions. It is a low budget, slow paced film with relatable characters and a moral that could’ve been written by Dickens himself. The dialogue is awkward and realistic, and the fact that the movie lacks the flawless decorations, designer clothing, and obligatory cookie decorating scene that fills most holiday movies was refreshing. If you are looking for a heartwarming story that is free from the classic holiday movie tropes, you will enjoy this one!
Runner up: A California Christmas (2020), available on Netflix.
I liked this movie in part because it actually portrays a somewhat realistic view of a life on a farm. The movie is about a spoiled young man who is sent to purchase a struggling ranch in CA, but is mistaken for the ranch hand and ends up working on the ranch and falling for the young rancher and her family. I grew up on a farm in East TN, and I spent much of my childhood collecting firewood, chasing chickens, and milking goats. (Unlike the characters in the movie, we did not have a vineyard, but we did have a wild blackberry patch that we picked from every summer). The movie, created by and starring a real life married couple, has many funny and tender moments and although there are some baking scenes, it once again manages to tell an interesting story without throwing in too many holiday tropes.
Runner up: Midnight at the Magnolia (2020), available on Netflix.
This is a sweet and funny story about two radio hosts who have been friends since childhood who pretend to be engaged for a publicity stunt and (surprise!) actually end of falling in love. The movie has more holiday tropes than the ones mentioned above, but the writers used these tropes to build the characters and move the story along in a natural way. And it was refreshing to see the beauty of healthy family and friend relationships, in a world where so many relationships are unhealthy or fractured.
Skip this one: Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (2020), available on Netflix.
I love musicals, and I normally enjoy cheesy, quirky movies. But this movie is terrible. Let me preface this review by saying I grew up in East TN and spent many, many days at Dollywood. Like many of us, I consider Dolly an honorary grandmother. I have listened to the podcast Dolly Parton’s America, and I genuinely enjoyed the movies about her life and her previous Netflix film, Dumplin’ (2018). So I write this statement with love: Dolly, you can do better.
The characters are incredibly one dimensional, the music ranges from terrible to mediocre, and the set is obviously fake. The narrative is all over the place, jumping from character to character with dizzying speed.
The story is about a small town that is owned by one woman, and in the opening scene she announces she is selling the entire town to a developer who plans to build a shopping mall. The townspeople are understandably upset, and while they hold hands and sing inspirational songs in church, Dolly visits the town owner and tries to convince her to change her mind by singing songs with lyrics like “light your lamp.”
I am not sure why the writers, producer and director who worked with Dolly gave this film a green light. It would have been better for everyone if they had said “This is not the same level of quality we have produced before.” Hopefully before Dolly’s next project starts production, someone has the guts to look her in the eye and say, “We can do better.”
That’s a wrap for the 2020 holiday movie reviews. Now you can skip the deliberation about what to watch and use that time to bake some sugar cookies. Save me one with icing, please!
I am a piano teacher who loves teaching music and discussing personality styles. I also enjoy playing music with others, whether that is chamber music, piano duets, or singing in a choir. My favorite composers are Bach and Haydn.