Enjoy the predictability of holiday movies today [column]

Why do we love predictable romantic stories?

For me, it gives me something to excel at and appreciate for what it is: predictable. My life is unexpected enough, and while I enjoy a good murder mystery, sometimes the suspense is just too much. It’s nice to settle down on my couch with my cats and a fuzzy blanket and watch two people meet, get to know each other, share a kiss, make out, realize they’re in love, and meet again on top of the Empire State Building. (Yes, I watched “An Affair to Remember” at a very young age, and immediately watched “Sleepless in Seattle” right after it, so sue me.)

For centuries, women have been mocked for loving romance novels or movies. I’ve heard rhetoric asserting that women should stick to real stories because “fantasy” romance novels raise our expectations of men too high.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the standard of relationship expectations is so low that it’s completely missing from a lot of millennial dating experiences. So maybe just let’s enjoy the bad movies that give us a shred of hope that we might be able to find someone more than we can handle. And is there too much asking for kisses under some mistletoe?

I’ve been immersed in a few films this year and wanted to provide my professional analysis of each of them. I’ve also included a romantic retelling of Hanukkah. Grab your hot cocoa, slippers, and charcuterie board, and settle for something very different from what you usually read in this Perspective section: Starleisha’s Holiday Romance Entertainment Guide.

It’s the holiday season and we all need a break from the world.

“Mistletoe in Montana” (for life)

Ah, yes, Paradise Ranch, which is owned by Merry (Melissa Joan Hart) and visited by Mark (Duane Henry). It took me a few minutes to realize that this film offers the exact opposite of the small-town girl-turn-becoming-big-city CEO-and-go-home image used in many contemporary holiday films.

In this chaotic universe, an elegant city gentleman meets a rancher. Mark is a single father who brings his two children for a vacation getaway at a ranch in Montana. We learn that when Mark was a child, his mother took him to visit the same farm, where he met Merry. He has been thinking about her ever since and wanted his children to have the same kind of memorable experiences he had.

Suddenly, there’s a secondary and tertiary storyline: Sparks instantly spread like wildfire between Jasper, the farm hand (or the manager? carrying a clipboard), and the family’s lovable nanny, Debbie.

There’s a heartwarming, heartwarming moment between Pops, Merry’s father, and Becca, Mark’s daughter, in which Becca’s phone dies and she forgets to pack her charger (this was the moment I was convinced the writers of this movie are in an alternate reality about the one more Vacation movies are in). Pops shows her a film camera — mine is about two decades older — and teaches her the importance of living in the moment.

I counted one kiss attempt (intermittent kisses are the norm in these holiday movies), one terribly edited shooting star, and one French toast, and that was only in the first 51 minutes of the movie. The long-awaited drama of the third act was the cattle escaping in a blizzard and Merry going to collect them herself. Of course, being the romance expert that I am, I expected her four-wheeler to get stuck in a snow bank and Mark would have to try and rescue her. Unfortunately, she escaped unscathed and all the cows are doing well. But I’m not okay with it, because there were no kisses, no big drama, and nothing that convinced me of this story other than seeing how much worse it could get.

Eventually, Pops encourages Merry to follow Hart to her (see what I did there?) and Melissa Joan Hart produces some convincingly tearful eyes. The kids and nanny Debbie give Mark a power-talk and convince him that they all want to stay in Montana, and he agrees because he works for himself and “can do it remotely.” (I thought he was a senior CEO at a tech company but it was all blurry and confusing.) There are 2 minutes and 10 seconds left in this movie and I finally get a good kiss. on the slope of the hill. with some horses. in Montana. Because of course.

In general, this is a melted mound of a yellow cheese product. 0/10 sliced ​​cheese.

“A Christmas Castle” (Netflix)

First of all, I love that this movie stars people over 40! Like I mentioned, millennials have given up on love, so let our teachers get some glory. This movie isn’t great, but I want to give stars Cary Elwes and Brooke Shields their flowers just for having fun together. They make this dull scenario come to life.

Elwes plays Miles, the grumpy Duke of Dunbar — “dun” means “fort” in Scottish Gaelic, so, funnily enough, his castle is named “Fort Fort-bar.”

Shields plays Sophie, a frustrated best-selling author. The story line from enemies to lovers with mysterious stories associated with the movie is cute. The music isn’t great, but I love the local knitting group that quickly welcomes Sophie as a friend. I wish we knew more about knitting stories, but what we learned was enough to keep my interest.

I like that the heroine of this movie isn’t just a whole idea – Miles even reads Sophie’s books to learn more about her and her career! It’s predictable and silly, but I’m here with Cary Elwes arguing his gorgeous Scottish accent in Chapter Three Conflict, and I’m a big fan of his kilt in Chapter Three Resolution. I found myself smiling at the finale as they all danced to a Scottish reel at the Christmas Eve party – in the castle, of course.

Overall, I give this movie a 10/10 Cheese Slices.

“A Hollywood Christmas” (HBO Max)

“Birthday in Hollywood” was brought up by a friend who told me it was “not good,” but two minutes later, I was hooked. I love a movie within a movie, and I love it when everything is painfully self-aware.

Some of my favorite moments from this movie are the fake ice bucket rocking on the protagonists; a dog trainer who keeps losing the dog in the back; the back lot itself (“Gilmore Girls” fans will recognize the gazebo, but no one does Christmas decor quite like Stars Hollow); And, of course, the moment the casting director realizes she’s in love with the company’s CEO who seems to cut her loose every step of the way. Special shout out to the “quirky” assistant who goes on to list all the major Christmas Romance plot points that happen to the director.

Overall, I give the cheese slices a 10/10 which you add to a Queso bowl for good measure.

“A New Orleans Noel” (for life)

I would like to thank the props of this movie for not having empty coffee cups in the actor’s first shots. And yes, Keshia Knight Pulliam is back!

Oh, Patti Labelle is great as a New Orleans praline queen named Loretta, and her story line with Tim Reed, who plays an old friend named Marcel, is exceptional and totally excusable to get these two on screen together. I’m here for it!

This story is as sweet as one of Loretta’s pralines (pronounced prah-leen, not pray-leen). Pulliam plays Grace, an architect hired to renovate Miss Loretta’s old home in New Orleans. Miss Loretta’s grandson Anthony, played by the very handsome Brad James, is an old rival of Grace. They work together at home with the encouragement of all their friends and family, including Grace’s exotic Jewish companion, Alexis. (Quirky friends who are Jewish, Black, Latino, Asian, or LGBTQ are as common in contemporary Christmas movies as sledding and snowballing.)

The spark runs between Grace and Anthony, and there’s very little third-act conflict — just plenty of grace avoiding the warm feeling of “family.” In the end, she accepts the love of Anthony and that of Miss Loretta, and the entire Brown family, who are waiting for her outside her house on a streetcar.

This was a fast paced, fun movie and I give it a 10/10 Praline Pie Slices.

“The Happiest Season” (Hulu)

Who doesn’t love a layered holiday story?

When in 2020 Hulu released “Happiest Season” starring Kristen Stewart (as Abby) and Mackenzie Davis (as Harper), many of us cheered for a holiday story that finally focused on an LGBT couple.

On closer examination, a friend watched it, and while she was glad that there was gay representation, she found the complicated story of a girl in the closet because her traditional family was not giving her warmth. , a mysterious holiday we hope most of us seek. As someone who grew up in a conservative Pennsylvania town similar to the one in which this story takes place, the story line hits a little too close to home (insert melted-face emoji here).

This movie is broken up by a few funny moments featuring Mary Holland, Lauren Lapkus, and Timothy Simmons, some of my favorite comedians. There is a fun scene between Harper and her sister, but it ends abruptly with the sister walking out on Harper at the family’s Christmas Eve party, and Harper denying the truth and driving Abby away. When Abby returns, Harper finally works up the courage to stand up to her father and tell him the truth: that she is a lesbian and that Abby is more than just her roommate. The duty to “protect” our parents and sacrifice all of ourselves is something that keeps popping up among millennials. It’s hard to talk about, and even harder to break. But that’s for another column.

The ending of this movie has Abby inexplicably taking Harper back, even though Harper has denied having an affair with her family. Somehow the “traditional family values” dissolve after other family members share their secrets. Is this the magical happy ending I expect from a holiday movie? Not right. Wanted the characters played by Aubrey Plaza (like Riley, Harper’s ex-girlfriend) and Kristen Stewart to get together for some expected cheese? Yeah. But more importantly, is unconditional acceptance and alliance the happy ending I wish for all of us who are unable to live authentically in our small towns and in our traditional families? Yes, of course.

Overall I give the movie a 4/10 Cheese Slices but also a 10/10 Someday we hope we can all accept our true points.

“Matzah Ball” by Jane Meltzer

When I was thinking about this piece, I knew I didn’t want to stick to just Christmas. So I asked for suggestions for other winter break romances and someone suggested Matsah Ball. A game of puns, romance, and a chance to learn more about Hanukkah and Jewish traditions? OK.

This book tells the story of Rachel Rubinstein-Goldblatt, a millennial Jewish girl with a dark secret that only her best friend Mickey knows: she is the best-selling author of over a dozen Christmas romance novels. She called her mother home on Saturday and told her that her old camp rival, Jacob Greenberg, would be in as well. Rachel remembers how Jacob broke her heart many years ago. Jacob, now a millionaire and an elaborate Jewish-themed party planner, remembers how Rachel broke his heart many years earlier. This book is very special, and the audiobook narration is very interesting.

This is a perfect story from enemies to lovers with a main character living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. As someone with an invisible disability, I really appreciated the realistic glimpse into life with an autoimmune disorder.

The drama of the third act of the novel is good, interesting and heartbreaking as well. This topic of millennials wanting to protect parents by hiding their full selves has come up again (seriously, we should all talk to our therapists about this, please!). But there is some self-awareness, a happy ending, and plenty of wise words. Overall, I give this book a 10/10 Matsa Balls, and I am very excited to read Meltzer’s other novel, “Mr. Perfect on Paper.”

Starlisha Michelle Gingrich is a storyteller, creator and playwright based in Lancaster. She is also the Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Fulton Playhouse and a Social Justice Educator through the YWCA Lancaster Center for Racial and Gender Equality. Founded Disrupt Theater in 2020.

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