A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)

A New York Christmas Wedding opens with narration that feels cribbed from Love Actually and informs you right off the bat there's magic heaven-stuff going on. It introduces some characters who get in an argument, then it leaps ahead twenty years and starts throwing exposition at you to catch you up, letting you know two of the three characters you just met are dead. I found myself pitying actors as they recited dialogue that would have been cut from a soap opera...

A question dawned on me: were they doing this on purpose? Were they trying to make something so astonishingly bad it becomes a cult favorite? Were they trying to make a Christmas version of The Room? But as the movie started layering its message, it became apparent the opposite was true.

Someone believed in this. They were trying. They wanted to make a good movie...

I feel bad about this. I'm no stranger to honestly discussing astonishingly bad movies, but they're typically studio productions where the creatives are barely trying. You think Hallmark directors tear up when they read a negative review? They make those for a paycheck.

I thought... I thought this was going to be a Hallmark movie.

Not literally; I knew this was on Netflix. But Netflix has basically built its own in-house line of knock-off Hallmark Christmas movies. I naively assumed something called "A New York Christmas Wedding" would fit into that niche.

We were pointed to this by someone who sent us a link titled, "Netflix's A New York Christmas Wedding is a Wild, Howlingly Bad Holiday Movie for the Ages." I did not read the article - in fact, I still haven't. I merely accepted the challenge. But based on that headline, I went in with low expectations, hoping to have them exceeded. I was ready for this to be bad. I was not prepared for what followed.

This wasn't Hallmark, and - as far as I can tell - it wasn't really Netflix, either. Sure, it's premiering on Netflix, but it's not something they would have produced. I wasn't able to find much, but I came across an interview where the director referred to it as an "indie with a limited budget." That checks out.

The plot. Dear God, the plot.

The main character, Jennifer, is engaged to David, a wealthy heir to a Fortune 500 company. David's mother is pushing them into a Christmas wedding, which Jennifer is against because she has negative associations with the holidays due to the deaths of her parents. Her parents, I should note, don't seem to have died on or around the holidays - it's just that they died, so she doesn't want to get married at Christmas.

She goes for a walk to clear her head then sees a man on a bike get hit by a car. We don't see it - that sequence was apparently too much for the budget - but she sees it. She helps him up and walks with him for a while and discusses her problems.

Then he magics her into a parallel universe where she never met David, but is instead engaged to be married to her first love, Gabrielle, who died in the prime universe. Also alive here is her father, who she's happy to see, but not really happy enough, given the fact he's been magicked back from the dead. I'd describe her reaction as "mildly bemused" by the literal miracle.

The second act is mainly concerned with convincing the Catholic priest at her local church to perform the ceremony. Eventually, he relents and not only agrees to marry them, but does so in a surprise ceremony arranged by him, Gabrielle, and Jennifer's father. So it's only a surprise for Jennifer.

I should note all of this - everything in the tangent universe - occurs within two days.

After this, Jennifer's guardian angel reappears and informs her she needs to go back. She tries to argue, but he's not budging. Also, he reveals he is the spirit of Gabrielle's stillborn baby from the original timeline.

Back in the other universe, Jennifer goes to her church, hoping to find answers. She finally learns the truth about what happened to Gabrielle in that timeline - in the same scene we learn she didn't already know. Gabrielle had been pregnant, her family disowned her, her priest sent her across the country for some reason, the baby was stillborn, and she killed herself. The angel then shows up and offers Jennifer the chance to go back in time and stop all that from happening, which she does, removing the angel from existence and creating a new timeline where she can get together with Gabrielle when they were young.

So. Let's start with that premise, because... wow. There are two distinct movies here, one focusing on a lesbian couple confronting their church and another about a time-angel-multiversal Christmas journey. And the two movies do not gel. In fantasy - particularly in this kind of fantasy - we kind of need to believe in the main character's reactions to sell the genre elements. And it's kind of hard to do that when instead of reacting to her impossibly strange adventure, she's more interested in a different storyline. Likewise, it's difficult to get properly engaged with a story about mundane issues - even related to prejudice - when there's a literal temporal anomaly going on. The supposed authority of the Catholic Church to perform weddings is kind of a moot point if there's A LITERAL ANGEL ACROSS THE ROOM PROVING THAT HEAVEN EXISTS AND CLEARLY IS COOL WITH TWO WOMEN GETTING HITCHED.

But none of that matters, anyway, because the structural issues were the least of this movie's problems. In no particular order, here are a few of the glaring issues with this movie: Despite the absurd premise, there's no humor. The magic comes off as foreboding and ominous, which seems an odd choice given the story. The two subplots neither work on their own nor together. It's summer in the original universe, but Christmas in the alternate (unless you pay attention to the backgrounds when characters are driving because that was clearly shot in the summer as well). The acting is forced, the dialogue isn't natural, the music cues are baffling (think horror movie), the shots try way too hard to be artistic and come off as pretentious....

Even after all that, I feel like I'm only scratching the surface. I'm honestly having a hard time thinking of an element or aspect of this movie that works unironically. The individual pieces don't work on their own, and they're not put together into a cohesive whole. And on top of everything else, this is utterly lacking even the vaguest hint of self-awareness. It wants to be artistic, meaningful, resonant... I think it wants to be a holiday classic. And it doesn't just miss that mark: it doesn't even land in the right universe.

I honestly feel bad about this, because - like I said before - this wasn't made with a lot of time or money. This is a small, independent movie - it's unfair to judge it against major productions. But frankly, I don't think this would fare all that well compared with most student films. It wasn't ready for a wide audience, and I think Netflix did a disservice to both their customers and the filmmakers by placing it in front of one.

The people who made this movie were out of their depth. The tragedy here is I think they actually have something to say... they just don't yet know how to say it effectively through film. I hope they view the avalanche of scathing reviews and articles as a challenge to learn the basics and try again.

Depending on your mood and tolerance for melodrama, this might qualify as "so bad it's good," but that's the best I can do. And, honestly, that's being generous. This is bad in a way you rarely see, and it left me wondering if Netflix even watched the movie before buying it, or if they just read the title and assumed - as I did - that they were getting a generic Christmas romcom.