As a liberal elitist, I’m very invested in the War on Christmas. For years now I’ve argued that Christmas should be renamed Non Faith Specific Winter Fun Time and I vigorously campaigned to ban the live crib at the Mansion House, because live animals make me hungry. That Grinch-like plan was foiled by the pesky kids at Fine Gael who showed an atypical interest in the lodgings of a homeless family (Jesus’s) and, apparently had nothing better to do.
Generally, my schemes to ruin God’s birthday have not been going well. This is partly because each year the Christians at Netflix (the X stands for Xmas) hit us with films in which photogenic Americans have yuletide-themed romances. In previous years, this has manifested in the Christmas Prince and Princess Switch films, yuletide fantasias set in a tightly knit network of English-accented, Mittel European Christmas monarchies of Penglia and Aldovia. These are countries with which Britain has probably built post-Brexit trade deals based around the Christmas industries: candy-cane production, sleigh rides, the needy orphan present supply chain, festive tree murder, etc. These high-cheer, low-peril offerings feature absolute monarchs and, also, loads of Vanessa Hudgenses (she plays three characters in the last Princess Switch film) engaging in whimsical cases of mistaken identity that lead to love.
In this year’s offering, Falling for Christmas, there are no royals but there is Lindsay Lohan, whom Netflix accurately deem to be worth three Hudgenses. She plays Sierra Belmont, a wealthy ski-lodge heiress who lives a shallow life of indolence and plenty until she “falls”, first from a mountain side while being proposed to by her rich boyfriend and, ultimately, “for Christmas” in the shape of Jake (the excessively monikered Chord Overstreet), a single parent and widower who owns a failing ski lodge business.
You’re probably weak at the knees from just hearing this description of Jake. If I’ve learned anything from Netflix’s Christmas films, it’s that people can’t get enough of bereaved single parents with adorable children and badly run businesses. In the Princess Switch films, one of the many Hudgenses’ love interests was a widowed baker and his delightful sprog. Over on A Christmas Wish for Daisy, another film debuting this year on Netflix, the protagonist has a romance with another bereaved lug with a wide-eyed tyke in tow.
‘Hubba hubba! Awooga, indeed!’ agree the viewers at home, also fired up by the delicious bang of bereavement and parental responsibility off Jake
What do straight women and gay and bisexual men want? Widowers with failing businesses and upbeat tots. That’s it. When Jake discovers Sierra lying unconscious at the bottom of a snowy mountain you can almost smell the grief and child benefit off him. “Phoar!” Sierra’s unconscious face seems to say. “Hubba Hubba! Awooga!”
“Hubba hubba! Awooga, indeed!” agree the viewers at home, also fired up by the delicious bang of bereavement and parental responsibility off Jake.
In the hospital it is soon established that Sierra has lost all memory of who she is. The local police chief considers her brain injury with the seriousness it deserves and releases her into the custody of Jake and his daughter, who soon set her to work at their struggling ski lodge. As she toils in their decoration-festooned folly, Jake frets about the past (his sexy bereavement) and the future (his chuckling child) and the present (his bumbling business).
“What we need is a miracle,” he says sadly.
“Haven’t you heard, dad?” says his constantly beaming daughter. “Christmas is a time for miracles!”
Some people will find this advice unhelpfully vague and question the child’s utility in Jake’s collapsing business empire. Others will find her, and all the other happy townsfolk, joyfully perky. My wife, for the record, does not. She says: “This whole town is on E.”
Sierra, Jake and his gleeful urchin bond. They visit the nearby Christmas market because like other Netflix films of this ilk, all industries in this town are troublingly Christmas themed. There they meet a white-bearded man in red who traffics in gewgaws and gnomic wisdom. Some of you won’t have spotted this (don’t feel bad, I’m a trained newspaper critic) but this is clearly famed Yuletide busybody Santa Claus, except with a set of massive American chompers gleaming out from under his whiskers like headlights. What’s this toothy St Nick up to? He’s probably just eager to get in on some of Lindsay Lohan’s hot widower action. Time will tell.
She attends a press conference about her upcoming nuptials to her flaky fiancé. It’s unclear why this makes the news on Christmas Day
Despite her great wealth, nobody is looking for Sierra. This is because her feckless fiancé is lost in the wilderness and has been staying with a hobo in a hut. Meanwhile her various attendants and retainers don’t know she’s missing. They have failed to check her room for several days out of pure fear. This also happened to Stalin.
Because nobody has missed her, Sierra has time to organise a fundraising event for Jake’s ski lodge to which all the townsfolk turn up. In classic It’s a Wonderful Life-style, they speak passionately about the times Jake has helped them and asked for nothing in return. I am, of course, appalled. A picture is now developing of Jake as a feckless businessman running up huge electricity bills by having Christmas lights on all day and night, while simultaneously giving away goods and services to his leeching neighbours for nothing. I’m beginning to think that the failure of Jake’s ski lodge might just be the market working as it should. If I was a business consultant, I would have a few sharp things to say to Jake, but not before I’d got a free week in his hotel and plenty of gingerbread and eggnog.
At this point Sierra’s father and fiance turn up. I’m not a doctor so can’t speak to the science, but this instantly causes Sierra’s memory to return and she’s whisked back to her life of decadent luxury. She attends a press conference about her upcoming nuptials to her flaky fiancé. It’s unclear why this makes the news on Christmas Day, but seeing it on TV makes Jake sad. Luckily, his meddling daughter has made a Christmas wish that he will “find someone to love” and this leads to market stall Santa and his glimmering gnashers depositing a horse-drawn sleigh outside their door. They dash off through the snow with a literal one-horse open sleigh.
Jake’s daughter thinks: “La la, la la la! Christmas!”
Jake thinks: “What my semi-orphaned, Christmas-befuddled daughter needs is for me to hitch my wagon to an amnesiac heiress I’ve known for a week.”
Sierra thinks: “I’m going to ditch my long-time boyfriend for this man I worked for while suffering from a head injury that really warrants further medical investigation.”
Santa thinks: “Oh yes, more hot widower action. Ha ha! Yes!”
And it looks like everyone’s going to have another happy Non Faith Specific Winter Fun Time.