Monday, December 12, 2022

Hallmark Holiday Watch: Lucky Christmas (2011)

for the record, I don't believe there's any snow in this movie

Watched:  12/10/2022
Format:  Peacock (apparently now carrying old Hallmark movies...)
Viewing:  First
Director:  Gary Yates

So, did I watch this 11-year-old, largely forgotten Hallmark movie because it stars Elizabeth Berkely, she of Jessie Spano of Saved by the Bell fame?  

Buddy, you know I did.  

Let's get to it. 

Is the movie good?  No.  

Is it Berkley's fault?  In no way.  She's doing what she can here.

Oh, Jessie Spano.  Continue to lecture me on global warming or whatever.

For a Hallmark film, this thing is wildly convoluted, depressing in many ways, and features two of my least favorite tropes when it comes to character.  But it's also one of those movies where coincidence plays a factor in an un-fun way.

The basic plot:  Berkley is a would-be chef and single mother who rents a room in a nice house somewhere in the greater Detroit/ Ann Arbor area.  She seems to have been a private chef who just was let go.  At Christmas.  But she has dreams of (gestures generally at food.  It changes 3-4 times in the movie).  Somehow she can't find work in a kitchen, which...  I don't believe it.  And seems to apply for hostess jobs?  She is 35 if she's a day  Like - I don't know shit, but I know that seating people is not the same as catering and cooking work.  I don't think the people who made this bothered to talk to anyone in food.

Berkley plays the same lotto numbers every week, and then kisses the tickets.  This time, she wins!  But between buying the ticket and winning, her car is stolen by the worst character to ever grace one of these movies, and that is not easy.  

You see, our love interest is a guy named "Mike" and his friend "Joe" sux.  Sucky Joe is living on Mike's sofa because his girlfriend just booted him, and we can *immediately* empathize with the unseen, unnamed girlfriend.  

I'm not sure if the movie thought Joe was cute or funny or what.  But - as I mentioned - this movie contains a trope I hate.  And it's having a friend to our sympathetic lead who is just an absolute piece of shit.  Sometimes that friend is dumb.  Sometimes they're a criminal.  This lousy character exists to enable the movie to have a catalyst for bad behavior but not put the blame on the hero, exactly - he's just being a good guy being friends with an amoral dick.  The *problem* is that the hero then just seems like a doormat enabler who can't find a spine for 2/3rds of the movie until someone like Sucky Joe finally does something so shitty Mike here has to cut him off (in the right movie, Joe dies badly).  But Sucky Joes are often redeemed by some clumsy but kind act so we see they had a bit of growth or character arc, and we're supposed to forgive them for their dipshittery.  And not notice that Our Hero was an ineffectual by-stander who we're supposed to find sympathetic.  

I hate this.  I hate it so much.  I've turned off so many movies that relied on this trope.  And had Elizabeth Berkley and her giant eyes not been in this movie, there is no world in which I would have soldiered on otherwise.

Anyway, Sucky Joe finds Berkley's keys where she dropped them and - fully intoxicated - takes her car, piles in an unwitting Mike and drives he and Mike home.  (RED FLAG RED FLAG!  Dump him, Mike.)  Where he leaves Mike in a car in freezing weather while he sleeps it off on the sofa in the warm house.  JFC.

Via the morning TV lotto announcement, Berkley learns she has won a million bucks, can *prove it* and tells the press.  Joe figures out he has the car and therefore the ticket and assumes he'll walk into the lottery commission and not get arrested for stealing the car and fraud. 

Joe just sucks so bad.  And Mike isn't much better.  He spends the first 20 minutes of his screen time trying to decide if Berkley is rich enough, maybe it IS okay to try to find a way to steal the money (which he logistically cannot).  Or sniff out the possibility of a finders-fee.


shut up, Mike.  You are not worthy of Ms. Berkley and her cool million.

The second trope (or whatever) is that Mike basically stalks Elizabeth Berkley to try to figure out what to do and lies his ass off for a 2/3rds of the movie, all but bedding Berkley under false pretenses.  It's...  such a gross and morally bankrupt meet cute.  If your friend told you that they'd been dating someone for a while and just found out the person had lied about something huge, and it was part of how they'd met the guy - you would be advising them to get out of the relationship.  Massive, flapping red flag.

Somehow we're supposed to root for Berkley and Mike to get together, but... no.  I don't care that he's a nice guy who wants to build eco-friendly housing.  You either come clean at the outset or you lose.  It doesn't even matter that you wanted her to have the million if you don't come clean. None of this is cute.  It's gaslighting and disturbing (flap flap).

Let us be honest - if the winner were married already, sexually unavailable, or even unattractive - how far was Mike gonna go to do the right thing?  

The million bucks would clearly fix a ton for Berkley, and so there's absolutely tension there.  It's just weird the movie decided that the guy doesn't just slip her an envelope any of a 100 different ways.

A major point is that Berkley has a son, and there's a *lot* about him "missing" his dad, but we're also told his dad scooted when he was a baby, so I'm not sure what he's missing.  Maybe imagining having a dad, but it seems like Berkley literally shares a room with a kid she can't have a conversation with and... it's dumb.  It's bad writing.

Moving on:   somehow Berkley's son, who is maybe 10 in this film and acts like he's 8, has the voice of a two pack a day smoker.  He's a fine kid actor, but it's WEIRD to hear this kid talking about his superhero toys with a deep baritone.  

We make fun of how bland the dudes are in Hallmark films, but for some reason on this one they went for an *actor*, and Jason Gray-Stanford is a decent actor.  He's got a truckload of credits on imdb, you've seen him before in at least 7 things.  But he's also a weird pairing with Berkley.  He's not the usual handsome leading man, but that's okay.  IF HE WEREN'T LYING NONSTOP.  The basic factor for EB seems to be:  he seems game for hanging out with my kid.

It's possible this movie, minus Elizabeth Berkley, isn't very good.  But it's also the first writing effort by the screenwriter.  The director did a bunch before and after so blame that guy, I guess.  

Anyway.  Here's to Jessie Spano in a Hallmark movie.  

No comments: