Tuesday, December 10, 2019

MotM: The Spirit of Christmas

Oh hai there. I know it’s been a while, but I’m going to make up for it right now with an early Christmas gift.

I may not be devoting all of my time and effort to covering movies – bad, good or otherwise – these days, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving them. So every so often, I’ll spread a little bit of that love…

There’s an aspect to the holiday season I’ve come to appreciate over the last few years: Christmas TV movies. “Hallmark Christmas movies” is the high watermark for these, but I don’t want to ignore the “efforts” of Lifetime, ABC Family/Freeform or Netflix. Christmas TV movies a whole avenue of bad movies we never dug into on The Lair of the Unwanted – it’s tempting to propose a reunion season to Jason Soto so we could dig into these movies, but I’m sure he’d drive the +10 hours over just to beat me with a tire iron.

My Future Wife introduced me to these films, and she loves them for exactly the same reasons everyone throws shade on them: they’re predictable and goofy and disposable and comforting in that they don’t challenge the audience or require little thought, kinda like the cinematic equivalent of heating up a can of Chef Boyardee and calling it dinner. And really, is that so different than any other low-to-mid tier genre film?

So we watch them together. My Future Wife gets all invested in the very PG love brewing between the Very Busy businesswoman played by That Actress from the ‘90s and the rustic Childhood Crush she left behind in her quaint little hometown, and I get invested in poking fun of the film until she starts to get aggravated. We have a special kind of love.

We watched this film the other day, and I feel compelled to tell you about it.

The Spirit of Christmas is a 2015 Lifetime film starring Jen Lilley, who you might know as Theresa Donovan on Days of Our Lives (what? you might!). Lilley stars as Kate, a hard-chargin’ Boston lawyer who Doesn’t Have Time for Love and is up for a Big Promotion, provided that she can have a picturesque B&B upstate appraised and sold by the end of the year. She only has a couple weeks – and the house is haunted! By a ghost! A sexy ghost!

For me, that hair flap is the biggest mystery.
Somehow the sight of a handsome guy with a floppy flap of side hair and vaguely period attire is enough to scare the bejesus out of every house appraiser in the county, but our girl Kate is a hard-chargin’ lawyer, so she ain’t afraid of no ghosts. Realizing they’re stuck with each other, all-business Kate and courtly ghost Daniel begin to strike up a friendship as they get into the Christmas spirit (not a euphemism) and she uses her super-lawyer powers to investigate why he’s cursed to materialize for the 12 Days of Christmas every year. 

So it’s a Christmas movie that also dabbles in gothic horror (though you’ll find scarier episodes of Goosebumps) and murder mystery (though, much to my Future Wife’s annoyance, I figured it out 40 minutes in). Along the way, there’s all the longing looks, ham-fisted dialogue and manufactured drama that one would expect from a movie like this. No pottery scene though, sorry.

Still, there’s enough here to make this something of a funhouse version of a Christmas TV movie. Take our introduction to Kate: she’s out to dinner at a “fancy” Boston restaurant with her boyfriend, where they each have no less than three different wine glasses in front of them. He starts to break up with Kate (per the laws of Christmas TV movies, the All Business businesswoman must have her love life in ruins at the start of the story), but she cuts him off.
Kate: Are you breaking up with me?
Laird: Yes.
Kate: Oh, thank God.
Laird: What?
Kate: I thought you were proposing. 

Kate then proceeds to matter-of-factly finish the guy’s speech for him – about how she’s emotionally withholding, not “present,” blah blah blah, all while helping herself to what’s on his plate. She’s heard is all before, and she does not care. This might be one of the most delightful breakup scenes ever put to film.

So yeah, all credit to screenwriter Tracy Andreen (who has made a steady career out of these kind of movies) for punching up a ridiculous premise with some quality quips. Take this exchange between Kate and the property manager, who has reluctantly given Kate the skivvy on Daniel’s particular curse:
Kate: I'm no expert on curses, but this one seems weird. He's a ghost except for two weeks? Why? Did he insult a witch?
Rafferty: There are no witches.
Kate: Oh, right, 'cause THAT would be crazy.

While The Spirit of Christmas is very much a Christmas TV movie, I have to say that I legitimately enjoyed it – including the nonsensical ending that left me with lots and lots of questions. So if you’re at all interested in seeing this film (currently available for streaming on Hulu), I suggest you stop reading here and hope you have a happy holiday.

But if you don’t mind the spoilers, scroll right on by the Spoiler Scrooge for more.

Neither Ebenezer Scrooge nor George C. Scott -- the one true Ebenezer Scrooge -- approve of spoiling movies.  

Okay, so you know this has to wrap up with a Happy Ending, right? So it won’t come to any surprise that Kate and Daniel figure out who killed him and how to break the curse, and Daniel is now free to “move on” to the afterlife with the wife he’s pined for over the last 95 years (by necessity, the film need to keep any theological aspects pretty vague – it’s not that kind of Christmas movie). But no, Daniel chooses to remain on earth to be with Kate, which was an option? Apparently so. They run a half mile through knee-deep snow towards each other and kiss, roll credits. 

I have so many questions.

  • If a ghost has the option to not “move on” in this universe, am I wrong in thinking we’d have a whole segment of the world population who were murder victims that chose to stick around? What would that do to world religions and people’s understanding of life and death?
  • Are we going to have a Benjamin Buttons situation, where Daniel is now corporeal and back among the living but then begins aging rapidly because he’s like 130 years old?
  • Speaking of, Daniel was born 130 years ago and is legally dead. Good luck getting a job, a line of credit, etc.
  • When Kate takes Daniel to modern-day Boston, does his brain melt? Hell, I can’t even bother with Instagram or SnapChat let alone the latest app trends – how is Daniel going to work he head around things like automobiles and television?
  • What happens to their relationship when Daniel starts casually rolling out some 1890s-era racism and sexism? Don’t think he’ll be so charming then.

Congratulations, The Spirit of Christmas: You are the Movie of the Month.

1 comment:

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