Happy Christmas to anybody reading this on or around the 25th! I hope you’ve had a wonderful time however you decided to spend it. The rest of my family have turned in for the night so I’m taking the time to post my review of the final Netflix Christmas film of 2018. It’s the one I was least excited about, which is why I left it til the last-minute. Of course, I can hardly say that I was looking forward to any of them (with the possible exception of The Christmas Chronicles) but, after seeing the trailer, my expectations for The Holiday Calendar were the lowest of the low. I mean the entire preview gave away the entire story. Not that I couldn’t have guessed from the poster anyway. But, needing to get a sense of completion, I knew I had to watch it eventually. At least I didn’t really have to pay attention to the plot. It’s not like there were going to be any shocks with the narrative. And, after a busy day at work, something this mindless is kind of the only thing I’m in the mood for.
The Holiday Calendar, as I’m sure you can guess, is about a magical advent calendar that either predicts events or makes things happen. It’s not entirely clear and changes to fit whatever the narrative needs. But the inner workings of the magical doodad at the centre of this plot isn’t really important. What is important is that Abby Sutton is a wannabe photographer stuck taking uninspiring portraits at a local studio. Her family doesn’t understand her career path and are keen to see her find a man. Abby stubbornly refuses to listen to them and follows her own path, despite how frustrated she may feel about it. The night before the start of advent, her grandfather presents her with the advent calendar her grandmother left her.
But, as you can imagine, this isn’t an ordinary advent calendar. The doors magically open at midnight and reveal a small toy that signifies something important that Abby is about to encounter. The first day gives her a pair of boots just before her childhood friend, Josh, presents her with a pair. Josh, a fellow photographer, is newly returned from time spent as a famous travel blogger photographer and is clearly in love with Abby. Although, she insists that there is nothing between them. Something the calendar seems to be agreeing with as it pushes her towards the handsome, single-dad, Doctor Ty. So, who is Abby meant to be with?
I ask the question despite the fact that it’s so fucking obvious that the film doesn’t even try to pretend that Ty is even an option. Yes, they go on a few dates but anyone who sits through this movie not knowing she’s going to end up with Josh has clearly never seen a film before. Watching this film pretty much feels like wasting time. You can’t really imagine how someone can be as clueless as Abby is. Not only about how Josh feels but about who she should be with. But that just goes with her character. She’s supposed to be this independent, modern woman who we should respect but she’s just super annoying and unnecessarily stubborn. She ignores the advice of her loving family and works at a job she hates just to prove a point. It’s difficult to see what Josh sees in her.
And it’s clearly not her photography skills because there is no evidence in any of the shots we see on film that she is any good. She is always lauded as this great talent but every thing we see that she has shot is just a huge fucking cliché. It’s hardly surprising that she takes everything in black and white. It’s the easiest way to make things appear deep without having to think about composition or lighting. She doesn’t even seem to realise that taking candid photos is better than posed because she actively misses a fuck ton of opportunities to take better pictures. She waits for her subjects to see her and put on awful poses. How the hell does she keep getting work? Is she the only photographer in her town?
But I’m getting distracted. The Holiday Calendar is exactly the type of film that we expect from Hallmark at Christmas. We have a young girl, two men, and a magical Mcguffin that helps her find her soul mate. To say it’s formulaic is an insult to the formula. It doesn’t even try to do something fun or original. It’s not even that you can say it’s so familiar that it feels cosy and entertaining. It just feels sad and boring. The acting is so sub par and the chemistry is so nonexistent that there is no real charm here. It’s as if everyone is just sleepwalking their way to a paycheck. The central conceit of the magical calendar isn’t interesting enough to keep your attention or make this film standout. It’s underdeveloped and not thought through enough. It’s difficult not to hate this film. It’s by far and away the biggest film related regret I’ve got for December. And I say that as someone who has watched A Christmas Prince 2 and The Princess Switch this month.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."