Falling for Christmas (2022)

Credit where it's due: Netflix has mastered the art of producing low-to-mid budget TV Christmas romcoms capable of garnering far more attention than they deserve. This time, they managed to lure Lindsay Lohan into taking the lead role, presumably by offering her an ungodly amount of cash. The investment seems to have paid off, at least from a marketing perspective. The movie apparently attracted a great deal of interest and - assuming Netflix's numbers mean anything - quite a few views.

As for the movie itself... well... you probably have a fairly good idea what I'm going to say. As a rule, I don't like these things. Falling for Christmas, like so many pseudo-fairytale G-rated holiday romances before it, seems to flaunt the fact the script isn't trying. It adheres to its formula and fills in the blanks with some of the worst dialogue I've heard in... well... honestly, I watched a Hallmark Christmas movie two days earlier, so the worst dialogue I heard in about 48 hours. But the bar was pretty low on that one.

For the most part, the only effort that goes into any of these is in the cinematography, and that's spent giving these movies the sheen of a diamond commercial. And, for what it's worth, this does look like a well-produced TV commercial. Mission accomplished.

The plot centers around Lohan's character, Sierra (later Sarah, for reasons that will become obvious), the pampered daughter of a wealthy hotel mogul. The movie uses fairytale music and stages her introduction to paint her as royalty in keeping with successes from recent years. This time she's a figurative princess, but the movie wants you to know she's still a princess.

Sierra's self-obsessed, but timid around her father, who's giving her a cushy job with his company that she doesn't really want. It's an odd detail present to demonstrate growth: at the beginning she's too timid to tell him how she feels, but by the end that will change. Only everything else about her will change, too - hell, Sierra learning to make her own bed has more emotional weight behind it. Also, the disconnect between her obvious wealth and the notion she needs any kind of job is a challenge to anyone trying to suspend disbelief.

Weirdly, the movie wants us to like her obscenely rich dad, who is relatively down-to-earth and direct. They even try and make him likable while refusing to invest in Jake Russell's lodge, which is failing due to his massive ski opening nearby. Russell, a kind-hearted, single father trying to keep his bed-and-breakfast ski lodge open, is obviously going to be the love interest, though Sierra is currently with Tad, her social media-obsessed boyfriend who makes a living as an influencer.

Jake's daughter, Avy, makes a wish and is overseen by an old man who... look, it's Santa. It's always Santa, but this time, it's weirdly, aggressively obvious. If he'd been wearing a nametag that read, "My Name is Santa Claus," it would have been more subtle.

Tad brings Sierra to a secluded mountain peak to propose, and the two are separated by magic wind emanating from Avy's wish that causes them to fall off different sides. Look, I can only describe what happens - I can't make it less stupid. Sierra hits her head and gets amnesia, while Tad wanders into a B-plot that ensures he stays alive without being in a position to alert anyone to Sierra's absence prematurely.

Jake finds Sierra, takes her to the hospital, then eventually brings her back to his lodge for the holidays, since she doesn't have anywhere else to go. In addition to not knowing who she is, she's comically inept, incapable of doing even common chores. But in the few days she's there, she learns how to function as a human. In exchange, she teaches Jake, who's afraid of making new memories and risking falling in love after the loss of his wife a few years beforehand, to open up. Sierra also bonds with Avy, who nicknames her Sarah, and she convinces Jake to hold a massive party/fundraiser for the lodge.

Around this time, Tad finally makes it back to civilization, Sierra's father goes to the authorities, and - in the movie's sole realistic detail - they're immediately able to piece together that Sierra is the amnesiac woman at the lodge. They bring the father and Tad to Jake's lodge just as the two are about to express their love for each other. Sierra realizes who she is and is whisked away by her father and fiancé. The next day, she uses a press conference about her ordeal to promote Jake's lodge, which drums up the business it needs. Avy convinces her father to go tell Sierra how he feels, so he rushes to do so.

By this time, Sierra's broken it off with Tad, who immediately winds up in a relationship with a guy who works for Sierra's hotel. One more cameo from Saint Nick and a conversation later, and Jake and Sierra are a couple.

As always, I'm torn between my opinion as a viewer and the nagging sense that I've got to be missing something. I'm honestly trying to understand what fans of these see in them. This isn't the worst romance I've seen on Netflix (hell, it's practically Casablanca compared to last year's A Castle for Christmas, which gets a cameo of its own in this movie courtesy of a gimmick recycled from other Netflix Christmas movies), but I find it incredible dialogue this bad makes it to screen. The characters are one-dimensional, a fact only exacerbated by the direction, and - assuming you care about such things - the continuity is a mess. I understand these are produced quickly, but it shouldn't be that hard to write passable dialogue, assuming that's the goal.

So... is that not the goal? Is this what these are supposed to be like? What's the appeal here? I realize I'm not the target demographic for something like this, but I actually love a good romance. I love camp and fairytales and comedy... but I don't care for bad movies. And this one's pretty awful.

I feel like I should address the movie having Tad wind up in a same-sex relationship. To be honest, I'm torn on the choice: on one hand, representation should be celebrated. But Tad isn't a character we're supposed to like: he's impolite, self-centered, whiney, and foolish. In short, he's a clown. He's a punchline through most of the film, so it's difficult not to view him winding up with the assistant (also a comical character, though not unlikeable) as yet another punchline. To be fair, they at least partially moderate this by having Tad come off somewhat sympathetic in the breakup. He ends the movie less of a villain, at least, which is the only reason I'm giving the ending any benefit of the doubt. But even so, it still feels like the kind of poorly considered "representation" plaguing '90s comedies.

Poorly considered is a good synopsis for the movie as a whole. Or it would be if the film hadn't accomplished precisely what it set out to do. Falling for Christmas was made to get attention, both good and bad, and help Netflix retain some of the yuletide clout it built up over the last five years or so. For better or worse, it worked. I wish it hadn't, since it means I'm almost certainly destined to be right back here next year writing up another one of these...