As N and I watch just about every Hallmark Christmas movie each year, and as I have mixed feelings about this, about the entertainment quality of this, and about the point of it, I figured one way to make this mindless watching feel less mindless would be to live blog about each one. I’ve started this series late, about 6 movies in, but I’ve started it.
Cranberry Christmas is about a couple with a well known lifestyle company called Cranberry Lane, who just happen, at this Xmas season, to be probably on the outs with each other. The Woman isn’t living in their home on the farm anymore, she’s living with her sister (and requisite niece character). The Man is focusing on the farm work—it’s a cranberry farm in Maine—while the Woman does things like make an appearance on an Oprah-type show to promote the brand.
Already this one has some disasters and delights. The disaster is the actor who plays the Man, who appears in one Hallmark Xmas movie each year, and who looks like a sickly Zach Quinto with an ass like an empty bag. What we’ve found this year is that Hallmark seems totally disinterested in casting real handsomes, or perhaps the subhandsomes are all saved for the movies they air in October and early November, before anyone but us real Xmas sickos are tuning in. The Men in the movies thus far have had greasy hair hanging down the napes of their necks, or nothingy shoulders. One was so unpleasant just to look at that N & I kept making audible groans whenever they cut to him.
I see how this sounds. I recognize I’m just as much an uggo as anyone. My point only is that if Hallmark doesn’t need to find actors who can surprise through their acting talents, they might as well spend time and money seeking out actors with faces and asses I’d like to imagine my own face and ass in combinations with. But I get I’m not the target audience. I get the target audience has a taste in men that’s perfectly valid but which I find suspect.
The delight is this movie’s singular premise: every Hallmark Xmas movie involves a too-busy-for-dates woman needing to run off to a small town for job reasons and finding there a simple man who seems at first like A Real Pain but ultimately becomes not just dateworthy, but Drop Everything In Your Old Busy Life And Move In With The Guy–worthy. Here the Woman is already with the Man. Cranberry Christmas is about the power of the holidays to heal old wounds.
“I’m leaving the company,” the Man just said to the Woman before the first commercial break. Now he’s talking to his dad about it while they play, in dun-colored barn jackets, at fixing an ancient tractor. There’s a farce-y quality to this movie, in that the Oprah-type has invited herself to the farm during their town’s big holiday festival, and the Woman and Man need to keep up appearances that they’re still together. For PR purposes.
Another delight: this nihilistic niece. The Woman is doing the scene we always need where she bakes gingerbread in a vast white kitchen, and she asks the niece who Is Helping, “Want to know the secret to making perfect gingerbread?”
“No, thank you,” the niece says. This gets a shocked gaping eyeball face on the Woman, who asks why not. “Because nothing’s perfect,” she says. She’s my hero.
This white lady just said “Yaaaaaas” in response to an idea the Man had about what seems for now to be the next stage of his career, without her. She’s being a good spirit, the Woman, even though we know she’s crushed and worried about running a lifestyle brand on her own. It’s a reminder of the troubles with new slang. It’s fun, new slang! It’s a relief to have new things to say after language has gotten stale, and it’s something any non-utilitarian language does in time: get stale. So it’s also tiring, new slang. That window of “new” shuts so quickly, and then the rest of us are left listening to old slang get delivered with all the same enthusiasm we’ve long lost. New slang that’s old slang makes everyone just embarrassed.
Speaking of, the Man just cried on the sofa under an afghan watching an Xmas movie.
The Oprah-type has offered the Woman her own TV show, making the pending professional and personal breakup less bittersweet, for her, and more tense for those of us who don’t really care whether these two stay together but know we’re meant to want this for the sake of drama. Because: maybe they’ll really split up at the end. Wouldn’t that be something? For a Hallmark movie to present the Woman at the end of her movie with personal happiness going at her life and work alone would be revolutionary. We’ve ousted the fascist in the White House: maybe this will be our reward?
Oh wait, the Oprah-type just confessed that she was always too busy for marriage, and now she’s alone with regrets, so no fucking way will the Woman not get back with the Man in the next 24 minutes.
Every Hallmark movie has to end just seconds after The First Kiss between the Man and the Woman. Turns out this time it’ll be The First Kiss After A While Of Not Wanting To Kiss.
Holy shit they just kissed by the fire under plaid blankets! This is the part of the movie where we’re supposed to get The Almost Kiss—it’s usually broken up right before impact by a proud and needy child. That the Man and Woman are already married has really tossed all the Hallmark conventions out the window. Will we even have an All Is Lost mixup?
The Oprah-type just called a man on her phone, so we’ve got a B-plot love connection coming up as well.
So far, the Hallmark Cinematic Universe cannot abide a global pandemic, and so in turn here’s Cranberry Christmas‘s big festival party in a barn with a long table full of delicious looking cookies and treats that everyone is just walking up to and taking with their hands. Every romantic comedy is an exercise in masochism. We watch and try to derive pleasure from it while (or chiefly through) forgetting that our lives and relationships aren’t half this easy and fulfilling. But all this masklessness and Xmas-As-Usual partying seems especially cruel this year. Any Hallmark movie that even acknowledges the life we’re all suffering through will be my instant favorite.
Okay: the Man is now angry that the Woman didn’t tell him about the Oprah-type’s TV show offer, which turns out was meant for them both but which the Woman has been trying to figure out how to do on her own. Now they’re fighting about whether it can work, and we’ve got our We Want Different Things breakup moment. Oh shit and the Oprah-type totally heard them arguing! It’s all over.
I’ll get into the richness of the All Is Lost moment in another post. It’s fascinating to think about, the necessity of it. It’s probably ancient. It’s probably in Aristotle somewhere.
Typically, the Dad of the Man is the handsomest handsome in the movie. This one has a Sir Ian Holm In The Shire vibe I’m into.
Now the Man just gave the Woman a ring he designed himself. Jewelry has been huge in Hallmark movies this year. The Woman’s mom has started making her own jewelry, and at least 3 of the movies we’ve watched so far have featured closeups of things like gold snowflake pendants that I’d bet dollars to donuts are currently for sale at any Hallmark store in the country that are still allowed to be open.
Okay here it is: the Man just got on his knees in tears after saying “You’re my best friend” to the Woman and has asked “Will you continue to marry me?” And then the proud child ran out to the porch to announce dinner’s ready, thus breaking up the Almost Kiss!
Wow. This movie’s throwing me for loops like a carnival ride and I don’t want to get off.
Final grade: A.