As someone who hasn’t bothered with high school reunions or even a visit back to my hometown, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t care for a film about a festival homecoming. Christmas in Louisiana has just enough small pleasures to push it to the top half of the holiday movie pack though. The story is about three generations of Winters women, all of whom were crowned Miss Christmas back in their high school days. Now, the fiftieth anniversary of the Sugar Cane Festival is bringing the former Mr. and Miss Christmases back to New Iberia for a grand celebration.
Sarah (Jana Kramer) is the youngest Winter, and the memory of getting dumped by her boyfriend, Luke Mr. Christmas 2004 (Percy Daggs III), still stings. Nevertheless, she’s going home with the understanding that she doesn’t have to see him over the holidays. When she realizes he will in fact be there, she has no choice but to suck it up and play nice. The turn of events pleases her family, who have always liked Luke. Grandma Doris (Dee Wallace) drops not-so-subtle hints to the both of them that they are meant to be together. Charlotte (Moira Kelly) is more sensitive to her daughter’s feelings and does her best not to pry. Anyway, she has her own romance issues to deal with when Mark (Brian McNamara), a visiting journalist and photographer, takes an interest.
The whole idea of homecoming and festival kings and queens have always been a strange slice of Americana to me, which I guess is normal take for a former band geek. So the urgency of the preparations for this festival seems silly as does the pride everyone takes in their title. The real story happens outside of the Sugar Cane business, when Sarah and Luke reacquaint themselves and find that they’re still joking around and making flirty eyes with one another. Kramer and Daggs are quite good as a couple, conveying a familiarity that runs deep and is not easily shaken even by a public breakup. You root for them to reconnect as best friends almost more than just another couple.
While Sarah tries to settle on her true love, Doris is sure she’s found hers. The movie has room enough for her and Timothy’s (Barry Bostwick) decades-long romance, as it should because grandmas watch Lifetime movies too. I’m most happy to see Charlotte’s character getting some love though, and not only because I heart Moira Kelly. I wish there were more characters like her, older women who struggle with being vulnerable again, who advise their daughters on the same issues they are navigating.
Dir: Emily Ross Wilson
Writer: Alys Murray, Emily Moss Wilson
Cast: Jana Kramer, Percy Daggs III, Moira Kelly, Brian McNamara, Dee Wallace, Barry Bostwick
Time: 90 min
Country: United States