One of my favorite books growing up was The Coat Hanger Christmas Tree by Eleanor Estes. It’s about a girl who wants to have a “normal” Christmas like everyone else but never gets the chance thanks to her bohemian mom. The latter flaunts convention and opts for a tree made out of coat hangers instead of say, actual branches and pine needles. It made my fifth grade mind consider how holiday traditions dictate who does and doesn’t belong. I did the calculus, hoping my immigrant family made the cut. We did, because while we didn’t have a real tree, we at least had a big fake one from K-Mart that we loaded with lights and baubles.
Well, Christmas Getaway has me thinking about the idea of tradition again, and yes, I’m way overanalyzing a Hallmark movie. But since this movie is all about the trappings of “an old fashioned Christmas,” I have to at least ask, WTF is an old fashioned Christmas? According to this movie, it’s all about chopping one’s own tree, retreating to a snowy cabin in the mountains, building snowmen, baking cookies, and making gingerbread houses, which only half describes the Christmases my friends and family had. But Hallmark, guardian of Christmas mythology and faux Americana, is here to remind you that you may be doing Christmas, real Christmas, all wrong.
Travel writer Emory’s (Bridget Regan) latest assignment for Journeying magazine is to catalog and reflect on this old fashioned experience. She’s given the job because while she may look like Hallmark’s all-American girl (i.e. pretty and white), she’s never really spent the holidays in the States owing to her father’s business travel. With her family away in Hong Kong (and two minutes away from me), her boss takes advantage of Emory’s alone time and puts her up in the rustic Pine Grove resort town.
She’s all set for old fashioned Christmas when someone else pops into her cabin, beardy hipster lawyer dad, Scott (Travis Van Winkle), and his daughter, Katy (Raven Stewart), and mother (Teryl Rothery). They are here because Katy’s classmate kept going on about awesome Pine Grove Christmas, which made her think that maybe her family tradition of hotel brunch buffet wasn’t all that. Add some memories of dead mom, and here we are. Also add a double room booking and a nasty snow storm, and these four are stuck with one another and all the old fashioned Christmas they can handle.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with the way you spend Christmas, if you celebrate it at all. You can have a satisfying Christmas whether or not you chop down your own damn tree or make smores around a bonfire or ice skate with the guy you’re crushing on. Emory, Scott, and Katy get to tick things off their list and remind us about Tradition. Fine, I’ll buy the romance. I like that Van Winkle is not your typical lead (it’s the beard), and the third wheel school mom adds some tension, but I’m not buying this other stuff.
I’m also not here for Emory’s humble brags. Give the writers a raise already. Clearly someone wanted to show off their research skills because Emory will not shut up about where in the world she’s been. She is that person, that upper middle class white American who lived a year here and spent a summer there and suddenly is the expert on every other country’s culture. Lord, have mercy. If she’s not talking about Sweden’s almond in porridge tradition, she’s talking about the German Christmas pickle. She casually mentions holidays in Italy, Brazil, and Tibet and then claims ignorance when it comes to snowmen and Santa. Woman, someone is impressed that you motorcycled through the Andes. Someone cares that you slept on a catamaran and saw Orion coming over the horizon. That someone is not me.
And while I’m on a roll here, I’m calling out Hallmark for pretending to diversify with important but secondary black characters. You don’t keep getting points for the black bosses and managers and best friends. Give me a black or Latina or Asian or anything else lead, and then we’ll talk. But, hey, watch the movie!
Dir: Mel Damski
Writer: Tracy Andreen, Marlene McPherson, Elizabeth Synder
Cast: Bridget Regan, Travis Van Winkle, Raven Stewart, Teryl Rothery, Sarah Smyth, Alvin Sanders, Krystle Dos Santos
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel