Well, well, well, look who it is. It’s me. And Vanessa Hudgens. Playing 3 different versions of Vanessa Hudgens. Yes, people, that’s right. I am back with the recap nobody (except literally my one friend) asked for. At this point, I consider my annual (or however often these movies come out) Princess Switch recap a rite of passage. I will warn you in advance, buckle up for this one. This movie was an aggressive hour and 45 minutes. And also, it’s been so long since Princess Switch 2 that I *may* have forgotten some of the details. We don’t know what we’re in for with this one, but it will be over-the-top and Vanessa’s accents will be bad. I will say, if they add a fourth Vanessa Hudgens to this movie, I swear. I can only suspend my disbelief so much, ya know?
We open with a quick recap (thank god) and a note that Fiona, after impersonating the Duchess and trying to throw the whole country of Montenaro into disarray, only got sentenced to community service, not prison. I’m sure that’s something that won’t come back to haunt the country, right? (Things we say about January 6th.)
This year, Stacey is co-chairing an International Christmas Festival with Margaret. I gotta say, there’s no way that would fly in 2021. A holiday festival, at least?? In any case, the Vatican has loaned them the “Star of Peace”, “a priceless relic that once belonged to St. Nicholas himself,” which is going on top of the big Christmas tree. Surely, there’s no way this star is valuable, and also no way Fiona would find herself at this festival and try to steal the star, right? RIGHT??
Kevin and Margaret are a happy couple once again, although noticeably absent? Kevin’s daughter. They FaceTime her, and is it just me or did this girl age 10 years between movies? I could have sworn she was like, in middle school.
What’s funny to me is that while Stacey and Margaret are planning the acts for the International Christmas Festival (we have to have a yodeler because they “don’t want to offend the Swiss ambassador”), Margaret remarks, “we don’t want to offend anyone.” Oh, is that why you’re having an INTERNATIONAL CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL in the year 2021? Good luck with that!
But the planning is interrupted when we learn there’s “a bit of a situation” involving the police.
That “situation”? You guessed it. The Star of Peace is gone — the guards were drugged and the Star stolen.
Margaret: Just please promise us you’ll get it back in time for the ceremony.
Chief of Police: I’m afraid that would be a pie crust promise — easily made, easily broken.
Oh, god. So this is the type of dialogue we’re working with. Who on EARTH has ever called something a “pie crust promise”? Also aren’t pie crusts kind of hard to make by hand? All I know is you have to smash a lot of graham crackers and mix it with a looot of butter, or literally make a dough from scratch. This isn’t Great British Bake-Off. Easily made for whomst??
Stacey’s boyf (I am really sorry, I forgot his name. Prince Phillip? That feels right) is like, “no pressure, but when the crown jewels of Belgravia were stolen, my father was nearly deposed. Don’t stress Margaret out! She’s already dealing with enough, thinking police are effective, even when they have clues or leads (of which they currently have none). The thieves apparently managed to smash a whole glass case and not leave ANY forensics, which seems…. literally impossible.
Stacey is like, “you know what this means, right? If the police have no leads, that means it’s up to us to come up with some.”
Stacey: What we need is someone with information the police don’t have
…Right. You should go right to Quantico with those amazing detective skills of yours.
So they’re going to enlist Fiona’s help them solve this crime. They’re going to bust her out of the convent at which she’s currently serving community service. Man, the Montenaro justice department is weird.
Lol this bitch is working in a convent with a full sequined hat on, red lipstick, and sky-high heels. Why would you want to mop floors in that? Just who, exactly, is she trying to impress??? Gotta stunt on those nuns, I guess.
Fiona arrives to the palace with her squad in what I can only describe as one of those headbands with antennae attached to it that you’d use for your 2nd grade Bug’s Life costume. What was the style direction on this girl? All sequined everything, and the more deranged the headpiece, the better.
I have to believe that Vanessa’s stylist is still trolling her for those early comments she made about covid. Ugh, Fiona’s still calling her cousins “cuzzy”. Here’s how this should be handled:
The next morning as Fiona updates the Good Guys on her progress, she’s in this like, brocade minidress. She’s really busting out the Fashion Pass first thing in the a.m. Honestly, respect. There’s a brief, bad joke where Prince Philip misunderstands what “the GOAT” means (he thinks they’re talking about a literal animal), that could have really been left behind in 2019. I’m starting to see why this movie is just shy of two hours. We’re 12 minutes in, and I’m on my second page of notes.
So Princess Fiona gets driven to this castle, where she meets some guy who’s like a cross between a mad scientist and Troy Bolton (because he has a basketball court inside his castle, obviously). His name, which I will forget imminently, is Peter Maxwell. He’s managed to dig up the Interpol case file and finds that the drug used to knock out the guards was purchased at some crack pharmacist’s in Geneva. Our wannabe Penelope Garcia over here manages to track down the pharmacy’s CCTV footage to locate an image of our suspect, who just so happens to work for a billionaire hotel tycoon. Why did a billionaire steal the Star of Christmas? Because he likes collecting shit.
I’m just spitballing here, but wouldn’t it not be in your best interest as a hotel tycoon to steal shit for a hobby? Cause, ya know, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the perks of being a hotel tycoon from behind bars?
They can’t go to the police because “Hunter has friends everywhere”. The only thing they can do? You guessed it, obviously: steal it back by infiltrating his big party. What kind of Ocean’s Eleven knock-off is this? Everyone notices the chemistry between Peter and Fiona, because they are about as subtle as a whack on the head.
Stacey: That bad boy had a thing for you, huh?
Fiona: We had a bit of a steamy. But he’s not my type.
A. Bit. Of. A. Steamy???? Please somebody find me the screenwriter for this movie. I just want to talk.
Anyway, some important context about Peter: he was accused of diamond theft when working at Interpol, but those charges were dismissed. He’s doing this consulting work for free.
Peter: Let’s just say, I have my reasons
*30 second back-and-forth of Peter and Fiona looking at each other*
Good god, could these filmmakers be any LESS subtle?? Me and my intelligence are insulted.
Anyway, Fiona’s trying to set a honeytrap by running into Hunter while he’s walking his dog, dressed up like a bootleg Cruella DeVille. Unfortunately, the dog chases after a squirrel, pulling Fiona into a bush. Well, that didn’t work. Time for Plan B, which I guess is just showing up at some party he’s at.
I will say, this party looks lit. I will also say, the cronies sitting on couches reading newspapers and wearing Bluetooth earpieces DURING A PARTY is not at all subtle. I mean. THAT’s your cover? Being the guy reading at a party?
Hunter spots Fiona and she’s like, “what are you doing here?” Uh, aren’t you at his house? Hunter is smarter than he looks, because he’s like “ok, what’s the real reason you’re here?” Fiona makes up some lie—is it a lie?—about having spent almost all of her inheritance and wanting to turn the Pembroke estate into a hotel. She secures an invite for the party.
I also have to say that I have like an hour left of this movie and I’m already sick of Vanessa Hudgens’ approximation of a classy British accent. It sounds like how the Watch What Crappens guys do impressions of Karen Huger. Real ones know. I actually might put a candy cane through my eyeballs before this is over. It’s only funny when Ronnie and Ben do it.
Oh so now we’re flashing back to Fiona’s childhood, where her mom can’t be bothered to spend the holidays with her? I’m sorry, is this a villain origin story movie or the fucking Princess Switch?? I don’t want my impeccably dressed yet supremely annoying villain to have any depth, what do you think this is??
Also, idk, “I tried to take over a country because Mummy didn’t pay me enough attention as a kid” is not really the justification Fiona thinks it is.
So back to Baby Fiona, who is like, moping to Baby Peter about how her mom doesn’t love her because she didn’t want to spend Christmas together. Peter is like, “look outside, that’s the North Star. No matter what happens just look up there and I’ll be looking there too.” Does my memory deceive me or did they just rip this out of Love Actually or something? I also definitely got the will-they-won’t-they-they-definitely-will plotline without this extended walk down memory lane. See: the 30-second back-and-forth of them staring into each other’s eyes.
And now we have a scene where these idiots are practicing for their Ocean’s Eleven heist with some fake lasers that they have to limbo through. Fiona is like “watch and learn” and then just proceeds to do a sexy yoga flow through the lasers? Lmao, going to try that at my next heist. Who knew the secret was Downward Dog into Pigeon pose?
Peter is fully turned on, though. This man would not be able to handle a Y7 class.
That night, Peter and Fiona set off into a helicopter while Margaret watches from a window like, “Wow they really are just adorable, aren’t they” Margaret, need I remind you that this girl tried to kidnap you and STEAL your COUNTRY??? And you’re just happy for her that she’s finding love??
Fiona and Peter go to some Christmas market, where Fiona has this zinger that she definitely didn’t plan for hours: “Looks like Santa’s elves smoked a little too much mistletoe.” If someone said that to me IRL I would immediately cut them out of my life. Peter asks Fiona for a dance and her response is, “You’re just determined to smother us in holiday cheese, aren’t you?” Ma’am, the only abundance of cheese is spewing straight out of YOUR mouth. Good god, who wrote this dialogue?
In another montage that could have been left on the cutting room floor because I don’t have all day, Fiona and Peter dance in the middle of this Christmas market’s ice skating rink to a country song. And they’re about to kiss when she wipes out out of nowhere, and instead of being like, “ouch!” they both laugh hysterically, splayed out on the ice. Sure.
Meanwhile, I don’t like this foreshadowing I feel is happening with Kevin, where he kisses Margaret goodbye before he drives off, promising he’ll be back soon. He will be back soon, though? Right?? Nothing bad is going to happen to Zaddy Kevin, on Christmas no less, RIGHT???
Okay, now HERE is how the switch will happen: Reggie was supposed to be in Ocean’s Eleven but got hurt while trying to repel down a building. Classic Reggie. The only person skilled enough to replace him is (remember the yoga moves)? Fiona. Only problem? She’s supposed to be distracting Hunter at his party. So Margaret will pretend to be Fiona and take the role of distracting Hunter at the party.
Prince Philip (I still haven’t learned his name and at this point, I don’t think I will) is vehemently against the plan and Stacy and Margaret are for it. What ensues next is a bootleg Princess Diaries montage where Fiona tries to teach Margaret how to walk and act like her.
Fiona and Margaret practice tango-ing and Peter walks in and is like, “hold on, the frame is all wrong,” so he cuts in and starts dancing with Fiona. My dude, she is not the one who needs the frame reference. Margaret does. Stop seducing and start helping!
Well, Fiona and Peter get into a fight because, as Peter puts it: “Whenever you start to feel something for someone, you pull away.” Oh blah blah, poor little evil rich girl is too scared to form genuine connections because her mom bailed on Christmas. Play me a sad song on the world’s smallest violin. I’m sorry, if Fiona is the future of this Princess Switch franchise, I will simply not abide! Absent parents or not, are we supposed to care about someone who just so thoroughly sucks? I’m really not even talking about the greed and identity theft, it’s literally everything else about her (except her fashion sense, which is pretty dope).
Andddd we have a problem: Princess Fiona’s disciplinary review at the monastery (things that totally happen) is randomly pushed up to tonight. Fiona HAS to be there. But she also has to be with Hunter. And navigating the laser field. Good thing we have another spare Fiona!
Okay so looks like I was wrong and his name is Edward. Whoops! No, I will not be using find + replace to fix any of this.
In any case, our shitty Charlie’s Angels over here have managed to break into the control room and have located the Star of Peace. (I do realize I called it the Star of Christmas elsewhere… again, go with it.) I wonder why they don’t just turn off the lasers if they’re already in this room that has all these servers? Too much logic for this movie, I guess.
Once inside the library, we run into a snafu: the keypad that was supposed to be there isn’t there, and Hunter is about to come into the library! But he’s too busy berating some champagne girl dressed as a slutty Marie Antoinette to notice. What is the theme of this party?
They find the keypad, because otherwise the movie would end right here. Which it honestly could, this thing is an hour and 45 minutes. But anyway, over in the monastery, Stacy is not killing it as Fiona. Her accent is just… not good. Prince Edward decides to act as her character witness.
He’s like, “she did kidnap my wife but she has a really good heart” — spoken like every defense for a rich white defendant.
Back at the heist, what do you know, the code to the keypad is Fiona’s birthday.
Time for the laser minefield! The moment we’ve been training for, and the Christmas Star or whatever tf we’re calling it is smack dab in the middle of all the lasers.
Back at the party, Margaret is trying to hide her revulsion for Hunter with a duck face (it’s not not working) and as a diversion from having to go upstairs with him, she suggests they tango. While this happens, our two criminal lovebirds are doing a tango of their own between the lasers. And Fiona’s sentence in the monastery gets commuted. Mother Superior cannot hide her excitement. Tbh, I don’t blame her.
Real Fiona and Peter turn off the lasers and Fiona picks up the star. Just then, the alarm starts blaring. It’s all very:
After like five minutes of fucking around and eating, the security guys finally do their jobs and decide to address whatever is setting off the alarm. Hunter realizes something is amiss, and Margaret tries to distract him — with a kiss! Ooooh, you’d better hope Kev isn’t the jealous type.
In the mad dash to get out, the thieves go all “every Fiona for herself” and leave Margaret behind. No honor among thieves, amiright?
Oh, and Peter LITERALLY left his calling card at the scene of the crime. Which I guess he stayed to create a diversion? But if you’re physically there, why leave your business card? Was he using the heist as a branding opp?
They all make it back to the palace, but Fiona doesn’t have the star! Peter switched it out with a basketball at some point. Ok but how did you not notice him carrying a basketball through a heist? Was he just walking around with it under his shirt and you were like, “well, the guy does love Christmas cookies…”
Well it looks like Peter has something up his sleeve that Fiona refuses to tell the others about? She goes to meet him at her old school the next morning before fleeing to Capri with her cronies. She meets him upstairs, and how is the school chill with letting this grown-ass man just hang out there and set up a meeting? Peter’s like, “I just wanted to get your attention. I’ll give you the star, I just need you to pop over to the dining hall.”
He says, “she wants to talk to you,” so I’m guessing her mother is waiting there. And again, I wonder how the school is like, sure, go ahead use our boarding school for this forced family reunion. I guess they are rich, so that pretty much explains it.
Damn, Peter tells Fiona that this is the end of the line for them. Nah, this has to be the part in the rom-com where a simple misunderstanding almost causes the two main characters to break up forever.
Haha, I was right! It is her mom! Am I smart or is this movie extremely predictable? Don’t answer that.
Ok I am Team Fiona on this because the mom is like, “I’ve spent the last decade traveling the world but it wasn’t until I was on a retreat in an Ashram that I realized my life was empty.” This just might be the most realistic rich-people depiction we’ve gotten in this movie so far.
Oh and it’s all supposed to be ok that this lady abandoned her daughter because Fiona’s father was cruel to her? And because she kept a Christmas card Fiona drew for her as a kid, we’re supposed to forget all this abandonment? Okay, maybe that backstory did work on me, because now I’m soft. Or perhaps these filmmakers do know what they are doing? Much to think about.
Honestly, respect to Fiona for not letting her mom pull this “Oh it’s Christmas, I was a terrible mom but can’t you forgive me after I put in no work to show I’ve changed and just apologized one time?” The Ramona Singer of it all…
Oh what the hell?? Fiona walks outside but then immediately turns around and sobs into her mom’s arms. BOOOOO.
So Fiona and her mom are staying at the palace for Christmas. Fiona’s like, “is that all right?” And Margaret’s like, “All right? You’re family.” And again I say, are you part where she kidnapped you and tried to steal your royal title??? Over on r/AmITheAsshole people cut off family members for way less. I am just saying.
The Christmas Festival looks great. Hunter is arrested. Everybody’s happy, blah blah blah. And who should show up, but Peter? Of course. He and Fiona both apologize to each other. IDK why this has to take such a morbid turn: “we don’t know how much time we have left with the people we care about” seems to be the throughline. Like, is somebody gonna die?
Lol for the third time they get cock-blocked on the kiss, because as they start leaning in, the trumpets start sounding for an announcement from Margaret. I never get why people in movies can’t just kiss anyway. Like, people in New York City streets will kiss despite people screaming about the apocalypse, an ambulance driving through them, you name it.
The lights on the tree turn on, the star is a hit. Hooray! We did it!
Ok finally Fiona and Peter get to kiss. Good for them. And that’s the end. Overall, turning a Christmas movie into a bit of a heist movie was an interesting choice. Did I hate it? Jury’s still out. Will I watch another one of these? Only if Fiona isn’t set up to be the protagonist. See you next year, cuzzies!
Mark Mainz/NETFLIX © 2021 (4); Netflix; Giphy (4)
I wanted to like Happiest Season. I really did. Even after it came out and I saw all the memes that were being posted, like these:
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I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt that it wasn’t as bad as everyone was saying. And it wasn’t. It was worse.
Ok, that’s dramatic. All in all, it was actually a good movie. The characters were entertaining and the jokes were actually funny. Dan Levy, Kristen Stewart, and Aubrey Plaza all played themselves, which was fine with me. Did you see Aubrey Plaza in those power suits? Drool. I tried to overlook the vaguely tone-deaf response from the family after Harper (Mackenzie Davis) came out, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. The most infuriating part of the whole movie is how terrible Harper is to Abby (K. Stew) and they STAY TOGETHER. I was fired up about it. I still am. So much so that I will now list out chronologically all of the times that Abby should have broken up with Harper.
1. When Harper Told Abby On The Way To Her Parents’ House That She Lied About Being Out
They are mere minutes away from the front door before Harper says, “Remember how I said I told them in June and they took it really well? Well, I didn’t actually tell them.” FULL stop. Not only has she been lying for six months, she has been lying about the fact that her family is loving and accepting of their relationship. Abby thinks she’s on her way to join a new family’s tradition after not having one for years, and she is jammed back in the closet. Mayyyybe if Harper said something beforehand about them having to be a secret at home it might have been better, but not much.
2. When Harper’s Ex-Boyfriend Connor Showed Up Unannounced To Dinner And She Didn’t Do Anything About It
Ok, sure, Harper’s mom was the one who invited him, but that doesn’t change much. Abby gets up from the table upset and goes to the bathroom, and Harper follows her and promises it won’t happen again and distracts her with kissing her. And then he shows up at every event following that dinner. He is EVERYWHERE. Even out with her friends. Which brings me to my next point.
3. When Harper Ditches Abby Two Times In One Night To Stay Out With Her Ex-Boyfriend Until 2am
Abby is uninvited from a dinner because she is framed by those bratty kids at the mall, which Harper BARELY defends her for. Abby then goes for a solo walk around a town she doesn’t know and runs into Riley (Aubrey Plaza). They go to a gay bar, and Abby smiles for the first and last time in the whole movie. Then, when Abby meets Harper at a different bar, she is with her friends and Connor. Abby wants to leave, but Harper stays. So Abby goes home alone and doesn’t get a text back from Harper for hours. Cut to Harper sitting at the bar laughing and sharing a basket of fries with only Connor and no sign of her friends. It’s just so mean.
4. When Riley Tells Abby What Harper Did To Her
At the gay bar, Riley, Harper’s first girlfriend, tells Abby about why they broke up. Riley says they used to leave love notes in each other’s lockers, and one day Harper’s friend found one. Instead of fessing up or covering it up, Harper tells everyone that Riley is gay and is obsessed with her and won’t leave her alone. I know this happened in high school, but clearly Harper has a past of hiding her girlfriends and doing anything possible to maintain her image.
5. When Harper Is A Total C*nt To Abby The Morning After The Bar
Harper has the unmitigated gall to tell Abby that she is being “suffocating” after Harper spent 24 hours actively ditching her. Later, Harper questions Abby about hanging out with Riley. I had horrible flashbacks to being gaslit that I am suffocating when I was just trying to get a goddamn text back and the other person was the one who was out doing f*ck sh*t. That might just be a me thing, but I don’t think it is.
6. When Harper Is Only Hanging Out With Connor At The Family Christmas Party
At Harper’s family Christmas party, Abby is left alone YET AGAIN while Harper talks with Connor. Technically, Abby says “I’m done” and packs her bags, but Harper just cries and makes her feel bad and Abby stays. That’s when I really started to feel my blood heat up.
7. When Harper’s Sister Outs Her And Abby To The Whole Party And Harper Denies It
COME ON!!!! Abby *just* un-broke up with Harper, and then she goes and proves herself unworthy once again!! This was Harper’s chance to show Abby how serious she is about making it up to her, and she does the same shit that she has always done. Absolutely infuriating.
8. When Harper Chases After Abby And Cries To Her At The Gas Station
John (Dan Levy) gives Abby an inspiring speech about how coming out is different for everyone (didn’t love the ending when he insinuated Abby should wait around indefinitely for Harper to be ready to come out, but whatever), and ironically, Harper decides to tell her family the truth when Abby returns from her walk with John to get her things. Abby tells Harper it’s too late, and for a moment, I rejoiced. Then, Abby and John make a pit stop at a gas station where Harper finds them and begs for Abby’s forgiveness. Abby gives it, say, three seconds of thought and takes her back. Credits roll and you see they are engaged a year later. It is ABHORRENT.
I’m not saying Abby shouldn’t have dated her because she was in the closet; coming out to your family is serious and scary no matter how loving your parents are. It’s the fact that Harper dragged Abby through the mud and blamed it on “being scared of coming out.” Her actions are perpetually hurtful to Abby, and when Abby tries to stand up for herself, Harper cries her way out of it.
Anyway, that’s my beef. K. Stew, just know I would never hurt you like that.
Images: Jojo Whilden/Hulu; godimsuchadyke, xenaworrierprincess / Instagram
With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching (seriously, where did this year go), we can now finally say that holiday season is here. Some of you may have been blasting Mariah Carey for a few weeks now, but for those of you who abide by some made-up guidelines about when you’re allowed to watch Christmas movies, I hereby give you permission to begin. Every year, there are dozens of new Lifetime, Hallmark, and Netflix holiday movies, so if that’s your thing, go off—but I understand that mindless Christmas cheer isn’t for everyone. So I decided to go through all the major streaming services and choose the best holiday movies that are available this year, whether you’re trying to find something for family movie night or just getting drunk in bed by yourself.
Now, before you yell at me in the comments, let me clarify that “best” is relative, and I don’t mean these are all the highest-quality movies available. They’re all great options in different ways, just like we all have our favorite side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re about to DM me about how The Princess Switch is an objectively bad movie, I suggest you take an edible and let the spirit of Christmas take hold.
‘Knives Out’ – Prime Video
Many of the films on this list are Christmas-centric, but Knives Out feels more like a Thanksgiving movie. Okay, it’s not technically a holiday movie, but with wintry vibes and a large family all together for the first time in a while, it feels appropriate. Set at a New England mansion that will make you wish your fireplace worked, Knives Out is a thrilling murder mystery, with enough twists and turns that even your most annoying cousin at Thanksgiving won’t be able to complain that he’s bored.
‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ – Prime Video
You probably haven’t seen It’s A Wonderful Life unless your dad made you watch it every year growing up, but it’s actually pretty good. Thankfully, it’s streaming on Prime, so you won’t have to dig out the VHS tape this year—a Christmas miracle! In the movie, a guy who’s about to commit suicide on Christmas Eve is rescued by an angel who shows him how much of a difference he’s made in the world. Sounds bleak, but there’s a reason it’s been a Christmas classic for over 70 years.
‘Carol’ – Netflix
Does Carol meet the traditional definition of a holiday movie? Perhaps not, but it’s an excellent movie, and there are more than enough holiday moments for me to include it here. Cate Blanchett stars in this 1960s-set drama as a depressed housewife who has an affair with a younger woman who works at a department store, played by Rooney Mara. If you want to drink a whole bottle of wine and watch something holiday-adjacent but not like, jolly, this is a perfect choice.
‘Klaus’ – Netflix
A lot of Netflix’s holiday offerings are kind of cringe, but this animated Christmas movie from last year is adorable, creative, and was nominated for an Oscar. The voice cast includes favorites like Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones, and the main character is a postal worker, so we obviously stan. This is an ideal choice if you have younger kids around during the holidays, but also, you’re never too old for a good animated movie.
‘The Princess Switch’ – Netflix
Obviously, I didn’t want this list to be full of sh*tty direct-to-Netflix holiday movies, but I had to make one exception, and it’s The Princess Switch. This delightfully bad piece of cinema stars Vanessa Hudgens and Vanessa Hudgens as a regular woman and a princess who happen to look exactly alike. It’s ridiculous, and it’s perfect. And this week, Netflix is giving us a sequel! The Princess Switch: Switched Again stars Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Hudgens, AND Vanessa Hudgens, and as you can imagine, it looks absolutely bonkers. Sign me the f*ck up!!!
‘The Family Stone’ – HBO Max
There’s nothing like a holiday movie about a dysfunctional family to take your mind off your own dysfunctional family for a couple hours. Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton lead an all-star cast in this dramedy about spending Christmas with the in-laws. If your top holiday concern is making sure you don’t run out of alcohol at your parents’ house, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.
‘Home Alone’ – Disney+
I don’t think I need to explain what Home Alone is about, but I wanted to make everyone aware that all three movies in the series are available to stream on Disney+. Considering Macaulay Culkin turned 40 this year (still not over it), this is the perfect holiday season to revisit this classic and think about how f*cking old you are. Too real? Sorry. If you’re going to watch all three movies, just make sure to fast-forward through Donald Trump’s cameo in the second one; no one needs to see that.
‘The Santa Clause’ – Disney+
The Santa Clause happens to be my family’s yearly Christmas movie rewatch of choice, so I have seen this more times than I can count. Tim Allen stars in this family comedy about a not-very-jolly guy who, through some wild circumstances, inherits the position of Santa Claus. If you haven’t seen it, I totally recommend—it’s one of those family movies that actually has a lot of adult humor, so you won’t feel like you’re watching something for people half your age. Also, the kid is super cute.
‘Last Christmas’ – Hulu
This 2019 rom-com stars Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, so if for no other reason, you can watch it for the hotness factor. Emilia plays Kate, a 26-year-old hot mess who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop (bleak). She meets Tom (Henry Golding), who is (obviously, just look at him) a handsome charmer, and as the two fall in love, things start turning around for her. UNTIL the ~dramatic twist~ happens, which I won’t go into so I don’t spoil it. I’ll say that it’s very on-the-nose given the title, and you might hate it. That’s all I’ll say!
Images: Courtesy of Netflix; Giphy (4)
It’s after Halloween, and according to some people, it’s practically Christmas. Which is how I found myself on Friday night, pressing play on Netflix’s new holiday movie, Holidate. For those who don’t know me, sh*tting on holiday movies is kind of my thing. I’ve done it with The Princess Switch (and don’t worry, barring a civil war I’ll be back for Princess Switch 2), and The Holiday. There’s just something about the premise that one can find love over the holidays that really gets me going in a bad way. Probably because the holidays are usually the time when (for casual daters) you are actually most likely to get ghosted or dumped. It’s just unrealistic, and yes I am bitter. So I thought I would give an honest recap of Holidate. Let’s go.
We open with Emma Roberts smoking a cigarette, muttering “f*cking holidays” (relatable), and putting out said cigarette on a plastic Santa statue. She’s shown up to Christmas dinner in a red hoodie and pigtails, to which her mom remarks “can’t you put on a dress?”. My family doesn’t even change out of sweatpants for holidays hosted in our own home, so no.
We learn Emma broke up with a suitor six months ago, and her mom and aunt are already hounding her about how it’s time to “get back out there.” Yeah, my last relationship ended five years ago, so. Yeah. I would not do well with these people.
More realistically, Emma’s mom thinks her working remotely means she sits around the house all day in sweatpants. That’s also what my mom thinks I do for a living. She is not wrong.
Equally overbearing are Emma’s brother and his girlfriend: the former remarks “it’s not a holiday unless my sister shows up alone.” And I’ve got to wonder what weird pressure this family places on having significant others, and what kind of trauma led them all to derive their self-worth from their relationship status…
It’s two minutes in and I’m already wayyy overthinking this movie.
And then we see Kristin Chenoweth as the drunk aunt roll up with some random Mall Santa, and it all makes sense. She explains to Emma that she’s not really into this guy, it’s just a “holidate”: “you know, someone you bring home for the holidays.” And thus, the premise of the movie is born.
Over on the other side of Chicago, we have Jackson, some hot guy who kind of looks like a lost Hemsworth brother, getting introduced to a couple that’s basically the Flanderses in the flesh. These people live and breathe Christmas and put their decorations up before Halloween, you can just tell. Jackson is clearly just f*cking the poor girl who brought him home for Christmas to meet her parents. And they say I’m sabotaging by having guys meet my friends on the second date.
And back at Emma Roberts’ house, even her 6-year-old cousin has a boyfriend in kindergarten who brings her juice boxes. Everyone is taken but me, it seems! At least I’m in good company with Emma Roberts. This first grader asks Emma why she didn’t bring anyone, either. What is wrong with this family?? This is not the type of attachment style you should be modeling to your children!
And it appears Jackson has fallen into the classic male trap of believing a girl when she says we’re not doing presents that year. This girl is basically just Isla Fisher’s character in the Wedding Crashers because she says, in front of her parents, “oh, so you know me well enough to come in my mouth but not get me a Christmas present?” I cringed into myself.
And back at Emma’s, the brother proposes to his girlfriend of three months. (Honestly, I’ve seen crazier sh*t in quarantine.) Instead of saying “congratulations!” this family’s first response is “two down, one to go!”
So that’s the universe we’re working with: two cynics who are equal yet opposite products of their insane environments.
Emma and our bootleg Hemsworth meet at a store, where Jackson is returning a pair of pants, taking forever, and Emma is returning plaid pajamas—both Christmas presents gone wrong. The store is only offering store credit, so the two of them end up bargaining with the girl in line behind them, who pays in cash for a bunch of off-season items with no retail value. I have never once spoken to a person in line in front of or behind me, let alone played “let’s make a deal”.
This is all happening at the mall (tbt to malls), and who do we see at the mall? The Santa holidate. A lightbulb goes off in Jackson’s head: he needs a holidate for New Year’s Eve because he’s “sick of casually dating” because he’s “always the asshole.” Meanwhile, Emma needs one because her family is really f*cking annoying.
Okay, as a single woman living in NYC, only one of these problems is actually real, and it’s obviously not “woe is me, I don’t want to casually date, not because I want a relationship, but because I’m sick of dumping women left and right when they get too attached!” F*ck all the way off with your Gretchen Weiners bullsh*t.
So they make a pact to be each other’s Holidate for New Year’s Eve. Already this movie has lost me, because NYE is not a family-oriented affair. In fact, it’s kind of a single’s holiday. I feel like most of the NYE marketing is geared towards people cramming in an overpriced club with the hopes of drunkenly making out with a stranger on midnight. This movie should have started at Thanksgiving, then it would kind of make sense.
It’s at this point, 13 minutes in, that we learn Emma Roberts’ character’s name is Sloane. Eh, I’m gonna call her Emma.
The NYE party actually looks fun. Hemsworth makes a point to tell Emma that her tits look phenomenal in her dress, and she loves the way the dress hugs her ass. He’s like, “this is perfect because I can be a total chauvinistic douchebag without worrying you’ll get mad” and Emma is like “and I can wear this dress without worrying I’m gonna get slut-shamed.” Again, only one of these problems is real. Instead of being worried that women won’t respond well to you being a sexist asshole, you could try just… not being a sexist asshole.
Oh, and now we’ve made it to the “let’s sh*t talk rom-coms as we star in a rom-com, how edgy and meta are we” portion of the movie. They bond over how hot Ryan Gosling is and how no woman would ever pass up the chance to be with him—which they think makes them contrarian and cool but I’m pretty sure is the entire plot of The Notebook?
In the bathroom, Emma runs into a group of crying girls (also relatable). The one in white is sobbing because something (red wine?) got spilled on her white dress and it looks like a full-on crime scene. This woman is sobbing because she knows her fiancé is about to propose, but he won’t do that now that her dress is ruined (what?) and “my dream was to be proposed to on New Year’s Eve.” Like, why? You have to share your anniversary date with the Earth? Get a better dream.
After Emma switches dresses with Carrie over there, she goes on the dance floor with Jackson, where “I Had The Time Of My Life” suddenly plays. Miraculously, this packed dance floor parts like the red sea so they can do the Dirty Dancing lift. Like, ok. Club crowds don’t even move out of the way for medics, but sure, they’ll make way for two random people to do a choreographed dance.
We end the night with Jackson giving Emma a chaste kiss on the cheek, and she could not look more repulsed. Ugh, hot people problems. The whole premise thus far is that these two are not attracted to each other—and in fact, that they are sort of disgusted by each other—which is patently ridiculous. They are two objectively attractive people. Like, even if Ryan Gosling isn’t your cup of tea, you can’t call the man ugly.
I refuse to believe that the guy in the Holidate is not attracted to Emma Roberts sorry can’t fool me
— sami fishbein sage (@samifish1) October 30, 2020
Cut to: Valentine’s Day, where Emma doesn’t have a date and everyone else in her family is in disbelief. Again.
At the mall (why does this whole movie take place at the mall), Emma runs into her ex, who is obnoxiously hipster and also French. Ew. He’s basically dating a slightly different-looking variation of Emma Roberts, who they try to pass off as a much younger version but you can tell is basically the same age.
Jackson (who also happens to be at the mall, because nobody else has anywhere better to be in all of Chicago) spots this scene and comes to the rescue, and pretends to be Emma’s bf.
As a thank you for this heroic feat, she gives him a hand job in the mall parking lot. So, that’s Valentine’s Day. Actually looked a lot like mine, minus the mall.
So the next holidate is St. Patrick’s Day—ah, yes, the extremely couples-focused holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, I know firsthand how difficult it is to be single on this day, whose main focus (in the U.S., don’t come for me) is to get wasted off beer. Yes, this of all days is the one I feel most alone.
Emma’s whole family shows up to the bar to once again berate her for being single in between chugs of beer. Reason #24235 this family is f*cked up. We learn that Emma’s brother knows Jackson because he’s been taking golf lessons from him for a year (Jackson is allegedly a “golf pro” for a living, whatever that means, though we never see him golf).
Cut to: Easter, which Emma’s mom has used as another occasion to try to set her daughter up. This time, with their new neighbor (who is also a doctor). But mom, I already told you I’m here with my platonic hot fake date!!! Eh, I’ve had my mom try to set me up with worse people. Kristin Chenoweth shows up dressed like a playboy bunny. And suddenly, I have an answer to the question “where do you see yourself in 10 years?”
So now we get to the trauma portion: apparently Jackson got his heart broken once and that’s why he is the way he is (eye roll). He dated a girl who pretended to like a lot of his hobbies and then one day she completely ghosted and moved out. I honestly don’t feel like we’re getting the whole story here. Like sure, he thinks she up and left out of the blue one day, but if you asked her I bet she’d be like “yeah he was more into his reflection than me and never hung out with me on the weekends because he was always playing golf and every time I brought it up he shrugged it off and my name wasn’t on the lease of the apartment so I just bounced.”
The next holidate is Cinco de Mayo. Again, you don’t have dates for this holiday. You have drinking buddies.
After many tequila shots, Emma wakes up on Jackson’s floor in just her bra and underwear. Finally, realistic representation in Hollywood. She’s wearing his underwear, which in no way makes sense because she’s two pounds and he’s a whole man with hips. In any case, neither of them can remember if they hooked up.
Next up is Mother’s Day, and this family has a whole f*cking Parisian inspired brunch like we’re in that one scene from Bridesmaids. This family does way too much. What do these people do for a living?
Fourth of July time! I understand that if these holidates only happened on the actual holidays that required dates, then Emma and Jackson would be fake-dating for like, six years, but come on. Also, why don’t these people have any actual friends? Jackson has literally one friend, and Emma has zero, evidenced by the fact that she spends all drinking-focused holidays with her family.
Meanwhile, Kristin Chenoweth’s dates keep getting more and more gross because she has some insane rule about only using her holidates one time. At that rate, pyramid schemes have taken a longer time to collapse.
Jackson blows his finger off while setting off fireworks, and everyone else is too wasted to drive to the hospital, so Emma is charged with driving him. I’ve seen characters in Simpsons Road Rage drive better than this bitch, who treats other cars, trees, etc. as if they are parts in a pinball machine. When they somehow make it to the hospital room in one piece, she smokes a joint in the hospital room and they miraculously doesn’t get kicked out.
And guess who’s the doctor charged with reattaching the finger? The neighbor, who is a doctor! Sloane is high so Hot Doctor thinks she’s hitting on him. Guess he has no sense of smell. He also looks like he’s 18. No way this guy went through med school.
Back at home with his finger intact again, Jackson’s like “thanks for taking care of me” and Emma is like “holidate rule #3: leave no date behind.” As far as we know there has been no rule 1 or 2.
I guess it was something about the thrill of almost losing a digit and getting really high and making finger puns that made these two realize they love each other.
Jackson is going to be a Holidate for the brother’s wedding, which conveniently falls on Labor Day. So apparently Jackson scored his own independent invite, and this big idiot is like, “so we’ll both bring our own dates, right?”
Cut to the wedding, where the groom is giving a speech? Don’t feel like that’s a thing. Emma brought Hot Doctor and Jackson brought Kristin Chenoweth, and I’m not sure why she wasn’t already invited given she’s like, their aunt, right? Even weirder, Sloane appears to be jealous of her cracked-out aunt, because when she looks over mid-reception, Kristin is fellating Jackson’s finger (yea that finger). In any normal universe, that scene would provoke revulsion and not jealousy. But ok.
At the bar, they get into a fight because Sloane brought a date and Jackson might f*ck Sloane’s crazy aunt. One of these things is not like the other. In a huff, they call off the holidate arrangement. Then, the bride dances with her dad to “I’ll Make Love To You.” Yikes. I thought this was set in Chicago, not Alabama.
Cut to, crazy aunt grinding on the Hot Doctor. In a spinning accident gone wrong (yea I know), Kristen falls and sprains her ankle, so Hot Doctor rushes to her rescue and whisks her away. Meaning the Holidate arrangement is back on! And this time, it’s Halloween. This is a stretch but given that couples costumes are very much a thing, it’s a lot more believable than shoehorning in St. Patrick’s Day.
Turns out Sloane’s ex is invited to this party with his girlfriend in tow, and she’s 9 months pregnant. She’s at a party because she’s like, “I told you, this baby isn’t going to change our lives!” This is honestly just one of many plot points that did not need to make it into the final cut.
This realization for some reason has broken Emma, who realizes that her ex and his gf conceived on Valentine’s Day but she herself didn’t even have sex on Valentine’s Day. Very weird comparison, considering two of these people are in a relationship, where sex is mostly guaranteed, and one is single. She’s beside herself crying over how embarrassing it is for her—but like, I fail to see how this reflects poorly on her. If anything she dodged a bullet by not getting knocked up by this French douchebag? Feels like we’re at a point in the script writing process where the writers just got drunk and thought all their ideas were genius.
Also somehow somebody spiked Emma’s drinks with laxatives, which causes her to race to the bathroom. Again, I do feel like this is another plotline that could have been removed in editing because it makes no f*cking sense, but at least we get a sweet moment where, after Emma has shat her brains out, Jackson helps her shower. Right, because if a guy didn’t think you were hot on NYE when you were in your best “f*ck me” dress, he’s really going to think you’re hot after he’s washed your own sh*t off you. Now I know what I’ve been doing wrong! From now on, all my dates are going to take place at Taco Bell.
DOUBLY SO because the next morning is when Emma and Jackson finally bang. Cool, the Chipotle workers are going to LOVE me.
These psychopaths wake up the next morning feet to head, not sleeping side-by-side. Anyone else notice that??
The next morning, Sloane’s sister is knocking furiously because she kissed Jackson’s friend (who I have failed to really mention until this point because he honestly served no purpose other than the occasional sassy one-liner). Anyway, the sister is distraught because she is married with kids.
So then it becomes this weird scene where the sister and Jackson are both like, “I should go… no I should go…”
And it ends with Emma being like “no Jackson, you should go.” Now, this has Jackson f*cked up because he has never in his life not been pressured by a girl to have brunch the morning after they have sex. Omg your life must be sooooo hard with women getting attached to you left and right!
Just as out of his f*cking mind is the friend, who’s insisting he and the sister (whose name I am just now learning is Abby) “had a connection”. All this movie is teaching me is that the secret to getting hot guys to like me is to openly reject them a few times and make them question their self-worth.
We’re back to Thanksgiving, and Kristin Chenoweth did not bring Hot Doctor because she’s a “one and done” type bitch. Honestly, I respect it.
Emma has to run out to get some sh*t because her mom burned Thanksgiving dinner. She and Jackson are in the grocery store (why do these two do everything in a f*cking store) when Jackson full-on confesses his love for Emma. And she DGAF! What the actual f*ck is this movie.
Jackson: You’re trying so hard not to feel anything that you’re an asshole.
And now we’ve come obnoxiously full-circle, with Jackson doing a full recall about their whole little quip about Ryan Gosling that they had on New Year’s Eve that isn’t even that good of a metaphor to begin with.
Back at the house, the table is suddenly split in two? I feel like Tim Gunn because I’m yelling at my TV for these people to EDIT.
Well, this is a sh*t show. Emma’s sister sh*ts on her for her personal life always being a mess (wouldn’t be a mess if y’all weren’t so weirdly up in her business about it, but ok). Emma blurts out that at least she didn’t kiss the Black Panther (Jackson’s friend). The husband overhears because he’s walked in right at that moment, and Kristin Chenoweth’s holidate has a heart attack.
And GUESS WHO is the attending physician for this heart attack? That’s right, hot doctor! Apparently, there is only one doctor in all of Chicago!
In any case, Kristin Chenoweth apologizes to Hot Doctor and says she just got scared, and confesses her love for him. He says I love you back, and they make out in the waiting room. Of the ER. Excuse me, this man is the only ER physician in all of Chicago, his time is precious! This is not the time for this!
Christmas time again, and we’re—you guessed it—back at the mall! Where all the girls of the family are shopping, and who’s there? Obviously, Jackson! Because there are no other stores in the entire city. Yeah. They should have set this movie in like, Milwaukee. Then it would have been understandable.
Anyway, Emma’s family turns to her and is basically like, “go get him” so she chases him through the crowded mall. She ends up on stage with a gospel choir (can’t even get into that), and after the choir sings JACKSONNNN to get his attention, the whole mall falls silent. Sure, just like the whole dance floor would part on NYE for two randos to have a dance routine. I’ll take “things that would never happen” for $1,000, Alex.
Emma grabs the mic and confesses her feelings and says she—say it with me now—messed it up because she was scared.
This speech feels less of a love confession and more of a custody agreement: I want you on all holidays, and weekends! And weekdays too! And nights!
After a fake-out (you slick bastard), Jackson obviously rushes to her and they make out in the mall. And all is well! And everything is great! The end.
So what I’ve learned from this movie is:
-I am truly blessed that my dad only asks why I’m single every few months
-Men will fall in love with you if you ignore them (tbh this tracks with what I’ve experienced so far)
-The best way to get a date is to lose your sh*t (literally)
-It’s a good idea to get marry someone you’ve only known for three months (seriously, I couldn’t believe that this subplot with the brother didn’t end in divorce considering the writers spent half the movie underscoring how little these two knew each other… but again, ok)
Overall, I actually didn’t hate this movie. It was stupid, but it was obviously supposed to be stupid. Could it have been about a half hour shorter? Yes. Did any of it make sense? Like, some of it, but not all. But it was entertaining and didn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s all I can really ask for in a rom-com anyway. I’m not here to learn groundbreaking truths about the power of love—I’d much prefer a hand job in a mall parking lot. With that said, I am now accepting applications for my 2020 holiday date. Happy holidays!
Images: Steve Dietl/NETFLIX; Giphy (2); samifish1 / Twitter
We are three days away from Halloween which means, by my book, we are four days away from the pre-Christmas season. I am that person, and I welcome your ire. I can’t hear your vitriol over my highly contested “All I Want for Christmas is This Playlist” playlist, which has been queued up since the leaves began to change in September. For those who are curious, it is a 14-track playlist, consisting of 11 covers and/or remixes of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, and three repeats of the original song.
Yes, I understand that November is technically still fall and thus belongs to Thanksgiving. But that does not mean that you can’t begin to prime yourself for November 27th, when the gourds are dumped into the garbage and the pumpkin spice is shoved to the back of the cabinet to make room for all things garland, pine, and peppermint. It is also the earliest possible date that it becomes acceptable to break out everyone’s favorite Christmas movie to hate: Love Actually.
Much like your highly entertaining but socially unacceptable drunk aunt, Love Actually has many… shall we say… “quirks” sprinkled throughout its two-hour-and-twenty-five-minute runtime that don’t necessarily hold up as well in today’s world as they did back in 2003. The horribly inappropriate relationships, the general fat-shaming, the rampant wish-fulfillment of middle-aged men ending up with young, hot women, just to name a few.
But guess what? We love it anyway. We take all that criticism, examine it, and then still manage to relish in this chaotic and well-meaning holiday classic. Why? Because It’s 2020, baby. Entertainment requires analysis, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Recognize that a necessary step in consuming media is to critique it, and move on.
After you’ve taken the time to examine Love Actually for what it is, flaws and all, you’ll come to find that the characters range from those with questionable judgement to objectively immoral. That is not to say that there are not great people in the movie, because there are. May I present to you, a short list of the best characters in Love Actually:
Billy Mack, who leans so far into entirely crude and crass conduct that he manages to circumvent dislike altogether and emerge relatively wholesome and entirely likable.
Liam Neeson, a stepfather who set an unreasonable and unattainable bar for stepfathers for the rest of time.
Bean, who clearly knew what was up and tried to expose a cheater when he had the chance. A true ally.
The Octopus Kid in the car during Hugh Grant’s admission of love, whose contribution is obvious enough to not require further discussion.
Aurelia’s Sister, the wise and wary sibling we may all be so lucky to have in our lives.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who is entirely pure of heart and either 4 or 14 years old, but we will never be sure either way.
Everyone else lands in a moral grey area that I will spend every Christmas for the rest of my life exploring, the worst of which I’ve attempted to rank below. Here are the worst characters in Love Actually ranked by terribleness.
8. Jamie (Colin Firth)
You may think it’s callous of me to put Jamie on this list considering the movie kicks off with him catching his wife sleeping with his brother, but that’s exactly the trap that Love Actually wants you to fall into. Jamie is not a bad guy. He is, however, a super cringey guy who projects his misguided emotions onto a younger woman in his employ, and that’s enough of a reason for me to dislike him. This is especially difficult to reconcile with my long-held, deep devotion to Colin Firth, but humans are multifaceted creatures.
Not only does Jamie show up in Portugal on Christmas Eve with his haphazard declaration of love for Aurelia, but he does it at her place of work in front of basically everyone she’s ever known. Public proposals are inherently unacceptable. But public proposals to someone whom you’ve never actually had a conversation, professing affection that could be, to your knowledge, entirely one-sided? Unforgivable.
7. Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant)
Much like Jamie, David is not a bad person. His is, in fact, one of my favorite storylines in this movie. But that doesn’t change the fact that he incited a low-key international incident because he had a raging crush on his employee (a theme, perhaps??) and didn’t know how to handle it. That’s just not acceptable any way you slice it.
I am definitely not siding with Billy Bob Thornton here, but I just feel like there were a number of productive ways to address his inappropriate behavior toward Natalie, and a live international press conference was not of them. Sure, it seems like a pretty insignificant event compared to the unrelenting political circus we all live through today, but that shouldn’t be a litmus test for acceptable behavior in any regard, fictional or otherwise.
6. Aurelia’s Dad
This man was ready to straight-up sell either of his daughters to the first English guy to come knocking, no questions asked. Historically, when a white man shows up unexpectedly in your country to lay claim to something that does not belong to him, bad things tend to follow. But Aurelia’s dad was too busy calling his other daughter Miss Dunkin Donut 2003 while leading a parade towards Jamie’s potential hostage situation of a proposal to think about that, I guess.
5. Literally Everyone Who Called Natalie Fat
This list is inclusive of but not limited to: Natalie’s recent ex-boyfriend, the President of the United States, Annie (Daniel’s chief of staff), and Natalie’s father (yes, we’re counting “plumpy”). You are all invited to physically fight me.
This isn’t a groundbreaking insight, but Mia just sucks. Totally and completely sucks. The onus to not cheat on his wife was 100% on Harry, and I’m not making any excuses there. But repeatedly, brazenly, and frankly uncomfortably pursuing your boss who you KNOW is married with children is just textbook sh*tty behavior. This is not slut shaming, but just decent f*cking person shaming.
3. Billy Bob Thornton as the President of the United States of America
Remember a time when the president of the United States being a giant creep and open sleazebag was an outlandish plot in an ensemble rom-com and not just like… a slightly more generous take on reality? Remember that? Ha. Ah ha. Ha. Ha.
A younger, more idealistic version of myself may have put President Billy Bob Thornton close to number one on this list. But the current state of U.S. politics has ground me into a hollow, broken shell of my former self, and to be quite honest, I’d be pretty psyched if the Love Actually caricature of a U.S. politician was President. I would also accept the Hugh Grant version of a Prime Minister, Hugh Grant as any role he played throughout his nineties heyday, or even actual Hugh Grant. His not being a U.S. citizen poses a bit of an issue here, but may I remind you that nothing matters anymore anyway?
Mark has come under real fire in recent years, as it would appear we all collectively woke up and realized his sham of a romantic gesture and general lurk-y antics were actually restraining order-caliber behavior.
Let’s start out with the wedding, where his first unforgivable act was to wear an eggplant satin shirt with an identical shade of eggplant satin tie. Clearly sabotage from the start.
Then we learn that, against Chiwetel Ejiofor’s wishes, he arranged for Brazilian sex workers at the bachelor party, likely in an attempt to entrap his best friend into cheating on his fiancée so that Mark could swoop in with another ill-advised stunt.
After that, as we all know, Mark goes on to record some truly unhinged wedding footage of his best friend’s wife, played by Kiera Knightley. And while he had the foresight to plan for a surprise full choir and big band performance, Mark did not stop to think that perhaps anyone at the wedding, love interest included, would ever ask him for any of the footage that he was very openly and obviously recording. Like, this is an era before functioning phone cameras, buddy. Your home video will be in high demand.
I get it. Unrequited love is rough. But there are many avenues to take with it, and none of them should involve creating your own personal spank bank of your best friend’s wife on their wedding day.
After being caught with the incriminating footage, Mark has two options: apologize profusely and then avoid this couple for the foreseeable future, or lie and act like he had no idea the shot was excruciatingly zoomed in all day. Our man boldly pursues a third, highly inadvisable option, by doubling down on his stalker vibes and showing up at Peter and Juliet’s home with a truly ill-conceived performance, with which we are all intimately familiar. But just in case you need a refresher, see below.
There are many, many flaws here (absolutely including Kiera Knightley rewarding this act of desperation with a kiss), but the one I’ve decided to take the biggest issue with is Mark validating his behavior with the sentiment “at Christmas you tell the truth.” Christmas is a time for many things, but truth telling is not one of them. I would actually say that it’s a time for shutting the f*ck up and not trying to blow up the lives of the people you love, a sentiment I gleaned from watching every single bad Christmas movie Netflix has to offer.
After all that, I wish I could say that he got it out of his system, but the flash forward at the end of the movie begs to differ, with Mark unnecessarily third-wheeling Peter and Juliet to the airport to pick up Jamie and Aurelia. “I just decided to tag along.” We see you Mark!! This will not stand!
1. Harry (Alan Rickman)
The number one spot on this list is only surprising in the sense that Alan Rickman has managed to play not one, but two characters I actively despise while being one of the most likable men of all time. It’s called talent, sweeties. Look it up.
(Author’s tangent: Yeah that’s right, Snape sucks. No redemption arc makes up for the fact that he spent his adult life psychologically torturing children because his childhood crush didn’t like him back. We’ve all suffered heartbreak without going on to become Ms. Trunchbull. But I digress.)
You might think we’re going to just touch on the blatantly obvious reason that Harry managed to secure the coveted title of Worst Character in Love Actually, a feat that’s all the more impressive when you consider there are two actual world leaders amongst his contenders, but no, we will be going one step further.
I went back and re-watched Love Actually in October (which is strictly against my own protocol) for the sole purpose of pulling together an itemized list of every awful thing Harry does throughout the movie. To even my own surprise, it is extensive.
– A now verified theme—let’s start with workplace behavior. Harry summons Laura Linney to his office just to confront her about her obvious crush on Karl, which kickstarts the saddest plot point in a movie that also features an orphan and widow at Christmas time. I get that 2003 was a pre-Me Too era, but this isn’t Mad Men! I don’t care how close Harry and Sarah may be, by Laura Linney’s own admission she had only been working at the company for two years, seven months, three days, and two hours. No man who has known you for that insignificant of an amount of time is allowed to talk about the unrequited feelings you may or may not have for your coworker who is also an Armani underwear model. Those are the rules!!
– He openly hates the office Christmas party. I know this isn’t an uncommon opinion to have but as someone who loves the office Christmas party, I am going to count it against his character anyways
– He knows someone named Kevin in the office has a penchant for fondling the breasts of his coworkers at said Christmas party, but has apparently done nothing about it other than recommend people steer clear. A cheater and an enabler, to boot.
– Goes on to dance with Mia in front of his wife multiple times at the Christmas party that he supposedly despises.
– Did not object when Emma Thompson said she was the size of Pavarotti. Even if she was actually the size of Pavarotti, it is his job to tell her that she is not.
– Not a personality flaw per se but just worth pointing out that Harry has atrocious taste in jewelry.
– Effectively ruined Joni Mitchell for his wife, because now it will only remind her of her philandering, worthless husband.
– If I confronted my husband about cheating on me with his clichéd sexy secretary and he had the audacity to respond with “I am so in the wrong, a classic fool”? Murder. The only reasonable reaction. Entirely justified. No one could convict me.
To round it all out, let’s just be abundantly clear that this absolute buffoon pursued a short-lived, and entirely sex-motivated affair with an employee at CHRISTMAS. I rest my case.
Honorable Mention: Whoever Decided That Laura Linney Doesn’t Get A Happy Ending
Karl was so clearly into her! Did you see that chemistry? That was not “drunk sex with your co-worker after the Christmas party” passion. That was “I have also been pining after you for two years, seven months, three days, and two hours” passion. Give me post-credits closure or give me death!!
And no, I am not accepting the 2017 Red Nose Day Actually short as recompense. Patrick Dempsey is Rodrigo Santoro.
Images: Giphy (7), YouTube
As much as people love the holidays, the actual week of Christmas is kind of a weird time. Whether you celebrate it or not, everyone is in this limbo where they don’t really have anything to do. Therefore, it makes sense that it’s one of the biggest moviegoing times of the year. Whether your Jewish fam always sees a movie and gets Chinese food, or you desperately need a reason to leave the house after your family Christmas celebration, movies are the way to go.
But what to see? There are lots of choices right now, so I took it upon myself to break them down for you. Not everyone wants to see the same movies, so I organized this year’s movies based on who you’re actually going with. You might not make everyone happy, but at least you can make an informed decision.
If Your Little Sister Is Obsessed With Musicals: ‘Cats’
From the first moment I saw a trailer for Cats, I knew it was going to be a hot-ass mess. And I was right! The reviews for this have been high-key terrible, and the tweets describing the viewing experience were the only thing that got me through my holiday-party hangover last week. But if you have a younger sister whose top genre on Spotify this year was “showtunes,” you should probably suck it up and take her to see Cats. If anything, you can take an edible before and just zone out for a couple hours. Merry f*cking Catsmas!!
If Your Mom Loves Oscar Bait: ‘Little Women’
Meryl Streep. Laura Dern. Saoirse Ronan. Timothée Chalamet. The cast for this movie is a who’s who of awards season favorites, and Greta Gerwig’s new adaptation of the classic novel has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Go off, sis. Really, anyone will probably enjoy this one, but it should be at the top of your list if your mom loves going to the fancy movie theatre where they serve like, charcuterie or whatever. Personally, I love Timothée an embarrassing amount, so this is definitely what I’ll be voting for as the family movie on Christmas. It’s called taste, look it up.
If You Want To Make Your Dad Happy: ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’
Honestly, this is the easiest choice on the list. If your dad/grandpa/nerdy cousin is a major factor in your movie decision, you’re probably going to end up at the new Star Wars movie. This will be the last new Star Wars movie for the foreseeable future, so just let them have it. If you didn’t see the last one (or any of the ones before), don’t be too worried. All of these movies have pretty standard good vs. evil plot lines, so you should be able to figure out the basics. If you get confused, just remember that Adam Driver is the bad guy.
If Your Dad Isn’t Into ‘Star Wars’, But You Still Want To Make Him Happy: ‘1917’
Strangely enough, not all dads are the exact same? Weird, I know. If your dad is more into war movies that take place on our planet and not a galaxy far, far away, 1917 is what you should see. It’s a World War I drama from the director of Skyfall (say this to your dad, he’ll like it), and it’s gotten rave reviews for it’s one-shot filming style. It’s not like a regular war movie, it’s a cool war movie.
If Your Family Is All Women: ‘Bombshell’
If the theme of your family gatherings is basically “destroy the patriarchy,” load up in mom’s minivan and go see Bombshell, which tells the true story of how Fox News’ Roger Ailes was taken down. Charlize Theron is terrifyingly realistic as Megyn Kelly, and Margot Robbie is like, shockingly good as an up-and-coming reporter. Nicole Kidman is also great as Gretchen Carlson, and there are approximately 100 other people in the cast that you’ll recognize from random shows and movies. It’s a crazy story, and the way this movie tells it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
If You Have Little Siblings: ‘Spies In Disguise’
Of course, there always has to be a family-friendly option on Christmas, and if your little sister has already seen Frozen 2 several times, this year it’s Spies In Disguise. I won’t pretend I’m going to see this movie, but it’s actually gotten great reviews, so it shouldn’t be too much of a slog. Will Smith and Tom Holland star as, uh, the spies in disguise, and the rest of the voice cast has fun personalities like Reba McEntire, Rashida Jones, and DJ Khaled (yeah, idk either), so you might actually have fun.
If You’re With Your Grandparents: ‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’
I mean, who doesn’t love Mister Rogers? Tom Hanks is just as lovable as you’d expect here, but the main storyline of the movie is actually really interesting and unexpected. This movie is total awards season bait, but it’s actually done really well, so I’m not mad about it. I haven’t watched Mister Rogers in at least a decade, but I still obviously cried multiple times during this, because that’s just who I am as a person. Cheers!
If No One Can Agree On A Movie: ‘Knives Out’
No matter what kind of movies you usually go for, Knives Out is just fun. It’s a classic murder mystery, with a talented ensemble cast and lots of twists and turns that you actually won’t see coming. Daniel Craig is perfect as the detective who comes to investigate the death of the patriarch of a wealthy family, and once he gets there, basically nothing goes according to plan. Knives Out is nominated in multiple categories at the Golden Globes, is both funny and emotional, and stars Chris Evans. It’s a win-win-win, and everyone should be happy.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy (8)
Seasons greetings! It is I, Betches’ resident holiday romance movie enthusiast, back to regale you with the films that you should absolutely be wasting your time with during this hallowed time of year. Hint: it’s all of them. Even the bad ones. In fact, especially the bad ones.
As previously established, I am a slut for Christmas and all that comes with it—including, but not limited to, those absolutely cringeworthy movies that Hallmark, and now Netflix, peddle like it’s the end of the month and rent is due tomorrow. Painstakingly reviewing each one is a tough job, and if we’re being honest, no one really had to do it, but I decided to anyway because this is my passion. Follow me on this evergreen scented journey or perish, (Christmas) sweater monkeys.
Me, the second plates are cleared at Thanksgiving:
I’ve kicked off this holiday season—and yes, I consider the 11th of November the holiday season—with as legitimate a Christmas movie as we’ll ever cover in this series, Last Christmas. Starring Emilia Clarke (Daenerys from Game of Thrones) and Henry Golding (Nick from Crazy Rich Asians), Last Christmas is the story of one wildly self-centered woman and her journey to self-actualization during the Christmas season, accompanied by a heavily George Michael-influenced soundtrack, alluded to by the title itself. I can’t think of a better time to work on myself than during the six weeks a year I’m stuffing my face with every edible peppermint or spiced item in sight, but maybe that’s why I don’t get to be the quirky lead of a holiday rom-com.
Kate (Clarke) is, for lack of a better term, a 26-year-old hot f*cking mess who works full-time in a seasonal Christmas store, dressed daily as an elf. It would appear that just about every person in her life resents her for being a selfish, careless, generally destructive human, except her Yugoslavian mother, played to near perfection by a very not-Yugoslavian Emma Thompson.
Just as she’s about to truly hit rock bottom, Kate meets Tom (Golding), who is immediately infatuated with her cracked out smokey eyes and over all chaotic lifestyle. No man has ever looked at my residual hair and makeup after a particularly violent holiday party and been like “wow, I am beguiled by this adult woman in an elf costume” but, alas, I am not the mother of dragons. The most unrealistic part in a movie that will at one point become outrageously unrealistic is that Kate pretends for even one second to not be into Henry Golding, who I could have watched prance throughout London during Christmas time for another 4-6 hours.
What follows are two reviews: one that is spoiler free for those of you that have yet to see the movie, and one that is absolutely riddled with spoilers because I have no one else to talk to about the emotional havoc that this supposedly holiday-friendly film wreaked on me at 9:30pm on a Sunday night in an empty movie theatre in a foreign country. It’s fine. I’m fine.
A Spoiler-Free Review
In terms of holiday tropes, this movie has it all: family strife, an inordinate amount of decorations, an astoundingly selfish person who—through the guidance of another—learns to care about something outside themselves, some sort of tragedy that begets new beginnings, vague political undertones, a romantic subplot that exists purely for comedic purposes, and then a main romantic plot that ultimately teaches you an important less about both yourself and the spirit of the season.
As any true rom-com fan knows, the one thing needed to land chemistry between two people is The Look, and this movie has it. Specifically, Henry Golding has it. I could watch that man Look at a piece of plywood. Cast him in more romantic leads, you cowards.
Having only ever watched Emilia Clarke play an incredibly stoic, and towards the end tyrannical and unhinged, role on Game of Thrones, it was refreshing to watch her foray into comedy. She so believably plays a narcissistic pseudo-adult that I found myself both genuinely identifying with and disliking her at different points throughout the movie. I’ll unpack that later, I guess.
Emma Thompson as the domineering, overbearing mother (but honestly never as overbearing or domineering as her entire family makes her out to be) steals the show, and manages to inject some anti-Brexit sentiment without derailing the actual plot. Her performance is just followed by Santa, Kate’s hard-ass boss with a heart of gold, delightfully played by Michelle Yeoh, also of Crazy Rich Asians.
Last Christmas manages to be both cheesy and charming, with truly enjoyable character dynamics across multiple plot points. From Kate and her boss, to Kate and her mother, and even Kate and her sister, there’s a begrudging but ultimately loving female relationship that everyone can relate to in one way or another.
Is it worth adding Last Christmas to your holiday movie rotation? Absolutely. At the very least, it gives you an excuse to listen to an abundance of George Michael, which is something we should all be doing more often.
Thus ends the spoiler-free portion of this review. Please leave if you don’t want to be upset from here on out.
A Review Absolutely Riddled With Spoilers
We learn throughout the course of the movie that the reason Kate is failing at every aspect of adult life is because just a year ago, she nearly died, only to be saved by a Hail Mary heart transplant. Now that Kate is well again, her mother is floundering, her sister is drowning in resentment at having been cast aside for what appears to be her entire life, her dad is distant and detached from all family matters, and Kate herself is lost. Her prior dreams of becoming a singer are thwarted left and right by what seems like bad luck, but is actually the result of Kate being unable to commit to any one event in her life. And to be fair, I get it; a mid-twenties existential crisis is rough enough without having to come face to face with your own mortality.
In short, Kate is doing not well, bitch. But the more time she spends with Tom, the more she appears to heal. He teaches her novel things like caring about the people around you and putting a single ounce of effort into the things that you want to achieve. Groundbreaking concept. This culminates in an alcohol-fueled confession to him of all her secret fears and inadequacies, spurred by a family dinner in which she outs her sister in a fit of rage. You know, like siblings do. It’s at this point that Tom, an ardent supporter of all things Kate up until now, appears to exhibit the first seeds of doubt, all communicated in one troubled glance at the drunk, bedraggled, eyeliner-smudged, cheetah coat-cloaked mess in his arms. Forget Disney princesses, this is the most unrealistic expectation media has ever set for me women.
Tom disappears for a while, but shockingly, Kate’s personal development continues to progress. She’s begun frequenting the homeless shelter that Tom volunteers at, has re-dedicated herself to a job and relationship with her boss that she nearly lost early on in the movie, and begins to mend the damage between her mother and herself. TL;DR: Kate is growing up and the people around her are starting to take notice. This is artfully demonstrated to the audience by the gradual lessening of her black eyeshadow and increase of apparent hair brushing—subtle cues that you only pick up on when you’ve been someone who at one point in their life needed to brush their hair or reduce their eyeshadow.
And then. AND THEN. Tragedy strikes.
After an extended period of absence, Kate heads to Tom’s place where she finds a realtor who is in the process of showing his apartment. Over the course of one anxiety-filled conversation, we learn that Tom has not skipped town as one might have initially thought. Oh no, Tom can’t skip town. Why? because Tom is a ghost.
And do you want to know why Tom is a ghost? Do you? BECAUSE LAST CHRISTMAS HE GAVE HER HIS F*CKING HEART.
The moment that I, far too late, realized that the lyrics “Last Christmas I gave you my heart” were, in fact, LITERAL, was the second most traumatic event I’ve ever experienced in a movie theatre, the first being the time a man convinced me to go see Sausage Party with him. I’m still not ready to discuss the latter, but you bet your ass we’re going to dive into the former.
Me, to the perplexed Dutch man sat next to me in the movie theatre:
Should I have noticed that Henry Golding was wearing the same outfit the entire time? Maybe. Should I have picked up on the fact that literally no one else ever saw him? Sure. Should I have been prepared for a Sixth Sense style twist in what I was falsely assured was a feel good Christmas rom-com? Absolutely not.
I have no less than one hundred questions about the feasibility of this plot, which I understand is the kind of thing I should just be accepting at face value, given the genre I’ve chosen to dedicate myself to here, but I refuse.
How long was Tom haunting Kate before they met? The man died a year ago—was he just lurking in the distance until she was truly on the brink of destroying her entire life? How did she get into his apartment? Was he carrying a ghost key? Was his bike also a ghost, or was there just an empty courier bike peddling alongside this woman day after day, who was actually just speaking to thin air? On that note, considering Kate’s typical physical state and tendency to hang out outside a homeless shelter and speak to someone no one else could see, how was she not approached by the authorities or committed? Why was no one concerned when she was kissing a ghost on a bench in a garden full of regulars who definitely recognized her? Have you ever tried to mime kissing someone? It’s not something that you can do discreetly!
All that being said, I loved this movie. After I sopped up my tears with my sweater and discreetly skulked out of the movie theatre with a blotchy face, I thought about it the rest of the night. I would watch it again, tomorrow, with a cup of peppermint hot chocolate and a box of tissues. If you’re a fan of love, Christmas, and utter despair, I highly recommend you do the same.
Last Christmas manages to be both cheesy and charming, with truly enjoyable character dynamics across multiple plot points. From Kate and her boss, to Kate and her mother, and even Kate and her sister, there’s a begrudging but ultimately loving female relationship that everyone can relate to in one way or another.
You, dancing away to see this movie:
Images: Giphy (4)
December is here, which means two things: Every movie you’re watching is either Oscar bait or pure holiday trash. You have the Timothees and the Saiorses of the world dusting off their mantle for a trophy, and the Haylie Duffs of the world just dusting. Shockingly, there’s no award ceremony for being in your 25th TV movie—although I’d argue Haylie’s contributions to Hallmark movies warrant at least a Venice (Beach) Film Festival Award. Since I love to ruin things and act like I know what a movie is about before seeing it, I figured let’s throw all of these movies into a blender and see what would happen if these Oscar films existed in the Hallmark Cinematic Universe (HCU). Will our movie smoothie be disgusting? Maybe, but worst case, we can just add vodka.
I personally (and emotionally) black out when it comes to British history, despite thriving during my time abroad in London—and by thriving, I mean drinking gallons of Pimms cups and asking everyone if my terrible British accent was any good. So, I kind of don’t totally know what is going on here. But what I do know is that Emma Stone and Mr. Taylor Swift are in it, so there’s that. What I also know is that it’s about royalty and two cousins trying to be the favourite (with a ‘u,’ mind u). So when it’s Christmas time, they’re two cousins fighting over their neighbors love. One is engaged to her and has everything you’d want in a man: a steady income, a great hairline, and a job that requires him to talk about briefs. However, they don’t have LOVE. Which is why, when she meets with the other cousin to prepare for their Christmas dinner and she realizes she doesn’t need a retirement plan or a joint-bank account, she needs the Christmas spirit and… love, duh.
Vox Lux is Natalie Portman as a pop star (girl, what?), but in the world of Hallmark, the pop star is actually the Christmas spirit, and the lux (or light, nbd but I did take Latin in middle school) is the north star that everyone follows to an amazing party on Christmas Eve. At the party, they do karaoke to holiday songs (my personal heaven) and… what’s this? The quiet girl from high school has a gorgeous voice? This shocks everyone, but most of all the guy she had a crush on in high school. Who knows who the hell is having this party, but that doesn’t matter—because of course, when the clock strikes midnight, they kiss! Does the girl with the amazing voice end up being a pop star? Of course not, because that would entail her going to the city at some point. In the HCU, cities are the root of all evil.
‘Ben Is Back’
Ben Is Back is already set during Christmas, which is perfect. But it’s mainly about drug addiction, which isn’t super Hallmark. So, we sub that out for something worse in the HCU: NOT BELIEVING IN CHRISTMAS. Could you even imagine? The mom (not Julia Roberts, unless she REALLY wants to buy another house somewhere and needs the Hallmark cash, which I’m assuming is just Panera gift cards), spends all of Christmas Eve showing her son the magic of Christmas—aka, having a group of carolers sing to him and finding an old ornament. Suddenly, Christmas is saved! Sidenote, should we all go out this year as famous Carols and go around singing as Carol Carolers? Dibs on Radziwill.
‘Mary Queen of Scots’
Okay, AP European History is truly trolling me this Oscar season. I somehow passed that exam, but it’s almost definitely because I was next to the really smart junior that i’d give life advice to in exchange for him letting me see his Scantron. Whatever, my degree’s in Communications anyway. ANYWAY, I do love that two Oscar queens from last year are in this together (Saiorse Ronan and Margot Robbie) and looking more gorgeous, talented, and wealthy than I will ever be. What I do know about this plot, though, is that it has had some historical inaccuracies so I’m going to say is that this is basically Hallmark’s version of Miracle On 34th Street, but the saying is “every time an iPhone XR rings, an angel gets its wings.”
‘A Star Is Born’
A Star Is Born would basically be A Star Is Born, but set in the community theater world and their production of the night Jesus was born. Ally Maine here was the understudy for playing Mother Mary, and the eight grader playing Joseph would pick her out of the costume department and bring her up to sing. Weirdly, they sing “Shallow,” but it works—because they’re far from the shallows now. And by shallows, I mean the point in history where we switched from “BC” to “AD.”
Green Book tells the story of a famed NYC bouncer becoming a driver for beyond-talented pianist Don Shirley. In the world of Hallmark, though, who needs a car? The driver is obviously operating a SLEIGH. Because let’s be real, Rudolph is drunk and no one knows where the hell the other reindeer are. He’s not driving because it’s his passion, but because he’s been on Santa’s Naughty List for decades and this is the only way to turn his fate around. Will he, or will he just give up somewhere over a fly-over state? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT.
Santa’s in the (Snow) White House and we don’t know WTF is happening. It doesn’t matter, though, because an elf is his Vice President, and this elf ends up calling all the shots. He goes crazy shoving Christmas cookies into his mouth while trying to become the actual leader of Christmas and we see him going fully batsh*t while Santa is… just sort of standing there. Who knew we’d end up (almost) missing gentler-seeming (but equally ghoulish) Santa later on. Womp.