Christmas and romance. Pretty lights and mistletoe are the perfect recipe for romantic comedy or dramedy! If you don’t believe go to your local bargain bin between Thanksgiving and Christmas and you’ll find it rife with wishful made-for-TV Christmas romances.
However I’m here to talk about the ones that probably still have a fairly respectable spot on a shelf at Walmart, HMV and anywhere else that hasn’t quite given up on DVDs yet – like myself.
Who’s laughing now?
Incidentally, four out of the five movies I’m about to talk about are probably among my top 10 favourite Christmas movies. Remember I said probably if anyone ever forces me to create that list. These made it onto their respectable shelves with recognizable actors and directors, at least attempted nuanced plots, but mostly by bringing the fantasy of not only a happy Christmas, but the beginning of something new for the whole year.
Just Friends is one of the weakest links on this chain as its romantic comedy vibe is a lot stronger than its Christmas vibe. It rides the line between Christmas movie and incidental Christmas movie, which we already talked about earlier here. However given that the majority takes place when the now hunky protagonist in the form of Ryan Reynolds goes home for Christmas, we’ll give this one the status.
In the same vein, we find The Perfect Holiday starring Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut. This feel good, one noted romantic comedy is also pretty much incidentally set at Christmas. However, this one has the making of a Christmas album, Morris Chestnut as a part-time mall Santa, and doesn’t use Christmas as a simple catalyst to get to people in the same city. My next article will detail this movie further, but this is one of my favourite guilty pleasure Christmas movies.
Doesn’t that sallow mustard yellow scream ‘instant classic!’?
These movies, like most rom-coms fulfill a fantasy. What do the hopeless romantics do at Christmas-time? Watch When Harry Met Sally again? Heck no. If you’re feeling a little lovelorn and lonely this Christmas, pop in The Holiday and be whisked off into a super risky decision that works out like gangbusters!
In The Holiday, Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and Iris (Kate Winslet) both decide at the very last minute to trade houses over Christmas, Iris living in a modest but lovely cottage in Surrey, England and Amanda living in a not so modest, modern home in Los Angeles, California. Having never met, no idea the financial or criminal history of the other, both decide because they’re love-lives have gotten so desperate they want to flee their countries that they actually will – at least for Christmas.
I guess when you feel this bad you don’t care if you get
to California and find yourself brutally murdered…
The Holiday is brought to you by writer/director Nancy Meyers, famous for her beautiful, romantic, yuppy rom-coms about women finding themselves and love all that the same time (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give, etc.). This is no different. Both women go to each other’s homes and towns for two weeks where they find the perfect men for themselves as well as personal breakthroughs neither were ever able to achieve before. No wonder we don’t see what happens after New Year’s when the holiday is officially over…but I digress.
Though this may be formulaic and the most fantastical of all on this list, Meyers does have a drive to write strong, working women who have more than one dimension. This is why they find themselves simultaneously, and usually when the man is not with them. Meyers has been battling sexism in the movie industry since she began. In a recent article in The Guardian it is revealed that when working as a producer on Private Benjamin, her first ever film, they convinced her to sign a contract that stated she would never be on set alone without her male producers. She was also the screenwriter by the way, but had to answer to her male co-workers to the point of determining her set visits.
In The Holiday Amanda owns her own company making movie trailers and Iris works as a staff writer for a newspaper.
Self-assurance never looked so good.
The Family Stone is definitely less a traditional rom-com and more of a traditional family disaster Christmas, but with two inappropriate budding relationships and another that you just don’t really care about, it makes the list.
The film centers around Everett (Dermot Mulroney) bringing his uptight New York girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to his academic, liberal, upper class family in New England for Christmas. Thus unleash family fights, deceit, raucous mishaps and the fight for an heirloom ring. It is the family stone after all.
The fantasy fulfillment in this gem (see what I did there?) is not only the satisfaction of budding romances, but the idea that you can find what’s perfect for you anywhere, when you least expect it. I don’t want to spoil it too much for you but people leave the movie in different relationships than they started it…and yeah it’s pretty inappropriate. It also fulfills the fantasy that it is actually possible to win over your in-laws even if they hated you before they met you. Good luck with that one in the real world folks!
Regina George is that you?!
Fun Reel Film Fact: the film features one of the children as deaf, therefore having the whole family know sign language. In one of the film’s commentaries, director Thomas Bezucha says that Diane Keaton has a beautiful ASL ‘accent’. If that doesn’t make sense to you, check out the movie and it just might.
Finally let’s talk about the holiday rom-com whale that is Love Actually. Being in High School when this came out in 2003, I may have a skewed sample but this movie was everywhere. It also has an Internet Movie Database (IMDB) rating of 7.7, higher than any other movie mentioned here, and that includes my throw-away remark about When Harry Met Sally.
What is it about this movie that draws so many people? Similar styled movies like New Year’s Eve, He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day did not do as well. So that throws away my multiple fantasy theory. Could it be Christmas? Likely not because it’s not like everyone loves or even celebrates Christmas.
In my opinion it’s just the best written. While all serve to fulfill fantasy, this one does and doesn’t all at the same time, but often in a way that is more real than the others. Not everyone has a happy ending which many of us can relate to but this movie then offers to check in to the next story! Even a story where the porn stand ins reveal they’re staying celibate until marriage! I don’t mean to get too off track but there are scenes where private things had to have touched other…private things. Just go for it would ya?
Before Martin Freeman landed the roles of John Watson and Bilbo Baggins
and inexplicably turned into a hedgehog. Don’t believe me? Google it.
Now it’s been awhile since I’ve seen Valentine’s Day and I never actually saw New Year’s Eve, but I would say this movie has more charm and depth than it’s later released ‘copy-cats’ (according to some). The setting of Christmas in England gives a charm and whimsy not to be found everywhere but the wonderfully acted more complicated plots starring Liam Neeson and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, and Bill Nighy and Gregor Fisher I think really make the movie what it is. My hat’s off to Richard Curtis, the writer/director of the film who manages to pull off 10 separate stories, most with some kind of depth, in a 129 min run time.
If you haven’t seen the deleted scenes, here is a link to an 11th deleted story line that while initiates in a strange place ends up in a beautiful bittersweet one.
Any Christmas romances not listed here? Which is your favourite to curl up with for a little flight of fantasy? Let us know in the comments!