I had just finished watching another Hallmark movie, Crown for Christmas, about a New York maid who gets swept off her feet by a European king, when I started to wonder why there weren’t more movies about penniless blokes who moved up the social ladder after a proverbial rescue from a princess. Once Upon a Holiday seemed ready to even the score, except it doesn’t.
The movie is about a princess (Briana Evigan) who slips away and befriends a nice, single white guy. Jack (Paul Campbell) isn’t exactly a Wall Street financier and has few lofty ambitions; he owns a restoration business and spends most of his time doing his blue collar thing – rewiring a friend’s store, remodeling a house, cutting wood for the hell of it. He could take a step up in life but is largely happy and secure where he is.
Rather, it’s Princess Catherine who needs saving, in a figurative and literal sense. Corseted by her duties, she wants nothing more than an hour at the art museum and a few moments to experience Christmas as she once had with her mother. Though she manages to escape during her goodwill tour in New York City, she soon finds herself lost and broke, wandering the city like the naïve and clueless royal she is. And while she’s learned to toughen up emotionally, homegirl does not know how to survive on her own.
So here we are, back at square one. Jack runs into her, twice, and it’s through his chivalry that Katie does not starve or freeze. The film’s not structured to be the most feminist-friendly, but the characters and actors try to work within given boundaries. Despite Katie’s obvious helplessness on the streets, Jack refrains from patronizing her – “She’s a grown woman,” he maintains, but he also isn’t heartless. Also, Katie’s lack of street smarts is balanced by her understanding of her position. She grasps the irony of being well educated but without agency to make even basic decisions about her life.
The leads complement each other, and both play their parts with an appealing coyness that keeps the movie from becoming weighed down in holiday syrup. Ross (Casey Manderson), Jack’s sister’s career-climbing boyfriend, adds to the levity as a reporter desperate for a story that will launch him into a national network. It should be noted that his camerawoman (Sunita Prasad) adds diversity; I am keeping count. Once Upon a Holiday ultimately doesn’t make a great splash, but it’s a nice addition to your Christmas TV queue.
Prod: Greg Malcolm
Dir: James Head
Cast: Briana Evigan, Paul Campbell, Jay Brazeau, Tara Wilson Jacqueline Samuda, Greg Evigan, Casey Manderson, Sunita Prasad
Time: 83 min
Country: United States