So I may as well begin this post with a confession: I have a small addiction to decadently cheery holiday movies. Yep, even the made-for-TV, Lifetime and Hallmark variety. For eleven months of the year, I’m discerning about what I read or watch. I’m a Masterpiece Theatre junkie, I read reviews before ponying up for a movie ticket, and I value word-of-mouth book referrals. So why, come December, do I couch both my standards and my butt? I think the question has merit for a storyteller. I therefore attempt an explanation of their appeal:
GLEE IN A CAN. It is no coincidence that the wintertide observances (Christmas, Hannukah, and their pagan predecessors) are celebrated at the onset of winter. Bracing for isolation and scarcity, we stockpile hope and joy as well as canned peaches and tinned meat. Holiday movies swell with the promise of redemption and renewal. When the hotshot attorney sent with eviction papers to the struggling ranch ends up saving the cash-strapped business—and marrying the farmer’s daughter—we all feel buoyed with the promise of better days ahead.
COMFORT FOOD FOR THE SOUL. It’s human nature; predictability and familiarity are soothing. Save your WTF endings for the Oscar wannabes and thrill-a-minute plot twists for the summer blockbusters. In December, we want a log on the fire, pot roast in the oven, and a plotline that’s as worn as your grandma’s welcome mat.
YES, VIRGINIA. Come on, it’s plain ol’ fun to suspend belief, if for only the span of a cheesy movie. Santa is alive and well and—judging by his numerous offspring—as frisky as he is jolly. The lost or misguided get their do-over chance or their Wonderful Life-ish, you-don’t-know-what-you-got-til-it’s-gone moment. And who wouldn’t cheer for Mrs. Claus magicking her way to a cookie empire complete with hunky assistant?
TICK TOCK. Holiday movies also provide a nice, tight deadline. We are, after all, busy people and have come to appreciate timely solutions. It is satisfying to know that by December twenty-fifth all visiting ghosts, angels, and denizens of the North Pole will have concluded their business; that shallow, cold-fish fiancés will be spurned; that lonely, career-driven Type As will find their poor-but-happy soulmate; and that goodwill to all will roll with the credits.
So what’s my all-time favorite holiday film? It is Love Actually. I’m the child of British ex-pats so I love its quirky English humor. I think its hodge-podge of interwoven stories—featuring everything from a washed up singer to the porn industry to a frustrated mystery author to a Clintonesque spoof—is bloody brilliant. And I’m pleased as plum pudding that its title boldly uses “actually” the number one word that we writers are told to liposuck from our manuscripts. Oh, and it has Colin Firth—my Mr. Darcy—but that’s a topic meriting its own post.
So what’s your favorite holiday movie? Does anyone else want to admit their own addiction to the sappy and sentimental? And any other Colin fans out there?
Cheers, happy viewing, and season's greetings to you and yours!