Grounded for Christmas finally acknowledges the storm that’s been ravaging the 2019 Lifetime Christmas universe and gives Winter Storm Meghan its due. The monster snowmaggedon event that has caused accidents and delays throughout the country for weeks takes center stage when it forces the closure of Cleveland’s airport and grounds Jet Jet pilots Nina (Julianna Guill) and Brady (Corey Sevier). With hotels packed and highways closed, the two have no choice but to crash at her parents’ place for the night, a stay that’s extended for several days when Meghan just won’t quit them.
If anyone should be grateful for this storm though, it’s these two, who find love because that’s what you do when you’re snowed in with a stranger. Nina persuades Brady to pretend to be her boyfriend after she realizes her parents are hosting their annual Christmas party. She hasn’t spent the holidays with them in three years, not since breaking up with ex Ivan (Troy Blundell), and since he’s still friends with the family, she can’t avoid him or questions about her current relationship status.
The arrangement works out for everyone. For the first time in a long while, Nina feels like she can fit in and enjoy the holidays. She doesn’t have to pretend to be working when she really plans on heading to the Turks and Caicos instead. Brady, who’s new at Jet Jet, also gets a chance to prove he’s not the rumored playboy pilot everyone thinks he is. Even her parents are happy because they now have a morning meditation partner.
So what could go wrong? The ruse is bound to unravel, but until it does, actually not much. Despite some frayed threads, the story on the whole is one sweet surprise. Guill and Sevier are a natural fit, an unexpected but delightful pair. They take firm control of their characters and keep the narrative going, whether Nina and Brady are at a dancing Santa contest or just chatting about where they want to travel. They’re neither the snarky, bickering couple nor the dully agreeable pair. Instead, they have a relationship that grows stronger through their misunderstandings as well as their generosity. While the ending goes heavy on the dramatics, the best and most romantic moments are played down, like when Brady rescues her during a white elephant party and when he describes the first time he saw her.
A few areas could use some work, however, and though the gaps in storytelling are easy to overlook, the film deserves that extra bit of polish. Can we agree, for example, that adult prom should not be used as a plot device? No woman in her thirties dreams of wearing the Snow Ball crown. Let’s also stop with the white folks meditating to East Asian music because I know someone at Lifetime has a nature sounds CD. Kudos for casting Tara Joshi and Aldrin Bundoc as Nina’s colleagues and BFFs though; everyone deserves friends like them. The movie teases Brady’s complicated backstory as well but then fails to follow through on his family situation. It’s disappointing because I kind of like pitiable Corey Sevier. And as someone who can relate to Nina’s single status, I don’t think she should wait until the end of the movie to sum up the isolation she feels during holiday gatherings. She could share this sentiment while surrounded by loved-up couples and having fun with her sham boyfriend for the first time.
Dir: Amyn Kaderali
Cast: Julianna Guill, Corey Sevier, Cheryl Ladd, Ted Atherton, Paul Brancati, Jacob Blair, Tara Joshi, Aldrin Bundoc, Troy Blundell
Time: 86 min
Country: United States