Let It Snow (2019)

Netflix has been trying for a few years to encroach on Hallmark’s dominance of the disposable holiday rom-com. One of this year’s attempts is this adaptation of a set of YA short stories.

The film starts and ends with narration by Joan Cusack. She is, of course, awesome, but the narration itself is so corny and obvious that I was literally laughing out loud, and not in a good way.

Taking place over December 24, the movie follows four and a half separate stories and features an array of attractive young actors, many of whom have history working for Netflix or Nickelodeon. I have already forgotten all the characters' names. Many major plot moments take place at a restaurant called Waffle Town.

The plots each fall into a basic romance trope or two:
  • Pining for the girl next door
  • Too-practical girl has meet-cute with celebrity in search of "something real"
  • One-night stand (maybe one-night hangout, it's ambiguous) turns out to be true love
  • Girl dumps cheating boy to learn to love herself

In more detail:

A teenage boy is in love with his best friend. She has a name, but goes by a boyish nickname ("The Duke"). This is the only piece of character development she gets. They are spending time together, mostly hanging out with a friend of hers who is already in college. He becomes jealous thinking that she might be interested in the older guy, and in an attempt to be cooler, he steals a keg from some known bullies for a party at the Waffle Town. The car ends up in a snowbank, and teen boy, the Duke, and college boy hang out at a church for a while for a lot of almost-meaningful staring and not talking about their problems. Eventually, his car gets towed to the Waffle Town, and he faces down the bullies.

Meet-cute girl has just received her college acceptance letter, which she's angsty about. She's out trying to buy a special ceramic elf for her mother for Christmas when she literally runs into an up-and-coming pop star on the train. The train gets stuck in the snow and she decides to walk home, and he tags along as a bit of an adventure. They stop briefly at Waffle Town, escape from a bunch of girls with cameras, end up going sledding, crash in the snow, and dry off at her house. Her mom insists that he stay for dinner. She's obviously catching feelings for the pop star, but thinks she has to be realistic and let this relationship just have been one day. She's planning to turn down a scholarship because she wants to stay home to take care of her mom, who has cancer. (When her mom finds out about this plan, she is none too pleased.)

The one-night-hangout-to-love story features a lesbian couple. The main girl (who looks a lot like the red-haired girl who plays Max on Stranger Things, but is not her) is already upset because of a falling out with her best friend when her crush shows up at her waitressing job at Waffle Town. She tries to connect, but the other girl acts like she doesn't know her. Only later they run into each other in the bathroom and there's kissing.

Soon-to-be-single girl is the best friend of the red-haired lesbian. After they fight about her priorities, she continues social-media-stalking her boyfriend until they have a fight and break up at the Waffle Town. Several times she runs into Joan Cusack, who is playing a quirky tow truck driver and font of practical folksy wisdom.

The half story, incidentally, follows a character played by the actor who plays Ned in Spiderman: Homecoming. He's an aspiring DJ trying to throw an epic party at the Waffle Town.

At the party/finale, boy confesses his feelings for the Duke, and they kiss. Too-practical girl goes to the party only for pop star to show up looking for her, and they agree to meet again in NYC when she's there for college. Lesbian waitress tells her crush that she loved hanging out with her, but she needs to be respected. Crush apologizes and explains that she lied about being out of the closet. They reconcile and kiss. (Crush's friends are supportive.) Single girl reconciles with her friend and has her own meet-cute with the college-boy friend from the other story.

I've seen a few places online trying to compare this to Love Actually, due to the multiple plotlines and sketch of a frame story. I don't think that comparison does this movie any favors. Love Actually has its issues, but it handles the intersections between its plotlines cleverly and gives every character at least a little time and dimension. Let It Snow only gives us one perspective on each romance. While that is fine for the fourth plot, it means that the girl next door, the pop star, and the crush are merely idealized perfect partners for the three main characters who fall for them. That this isn't more annoying is largely a credit to Kiernan Shipka and Shameik Moore doing some heavy lifting with thin material.

One other weird thing is how sexless this movie is. I know it's about minors, but despite some occasional comments, everything on-screen is quite PG. Not terribly realistic for teenagers' conversations.

One last comment: partway through the pop star plot, they attend a church event with the girl's family. (It's ambiguously in the background of the girl-next-door plot, but doesn't affect it in any way that makes sense.) It's an over-the-top multicultural holiday celebration, and the teens laugh at how cornball it is. We found the choice to poke gentle fun at the extremely progressive side of religion (with the implication that this tolerant-to-a-fault behavior is common) refreshing.

So this wasn't terrible. It also wasn't good. It was inoffensive and occasionally cute. It wanted to pretend it had something to say, but in the end, it had nothing. It was just a collection of little wish-fulfillment romances with too-obvious writing. And despite the title, the heavy-handed introduction, and a forced metaphor, almost nothing that happened had anything to do with snow.