Nov 9, 2018
No Film Buff Friday today because we are F-I-N-A-L-L-Y catching up on Netflix Originals. In fact, this film gets us caught up after a few weeks of format breaks, and yes, I am not very happy that it’s a holiday film this early in the year. But I said every Netflix film, and after checking out Netflix’s schedule for November, this won’t be the last. For a few other Netflix films from the previous weeks, check out “Gun City” (Episode #311), “The Other Side of the Wind” (Episode #310), “Jefe” (Episode #308), and “Dovlatov” (Episode #307). And if you have any suggestions, let me know at oneomoviepunch.com or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “The Holiday Calendar” (2018), the Netflix Original holiday film directed by Bradley Walsh and written for the screen by Amyn Kaderali and Carrie Freedle. The film follows Abby Sutton (Kat Graham), who is given an antique advent calendar while preparing for the holidays, which also appears to predict the future. Now as she marks each day, she wonders what her future has in store for her, even as her life falls apart this holiday season.
I’ll be honest up front and say that I struggle with a great number of holiday films, and that comes from their increasing prominence in our content streams around the holidays. Classics like “It’s a Wonderful Life!” and “Miracle of 34thStreet” are increasingly being forced out by a barrage of holiday films, increasing via the theaters year after year, and increasing even faster on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on streaming providers. Much like holiday music around this time of year, and pretty much anything related to the holidays, it’s a huge industry, and while “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Die Hard” may speak to my generation perfectly, older films either don’t appeal to the modern generation, or contain painfully awkward racism, like “A Christmas Story”. So, we’re going to continue to getting holiday films, and unfortunately, many of them are going to look like today’s film.
“The Holiday Calendar” feels like any number of quickly produced holiday films that have premiered on television during my lifetime, with a clearly defined story structure using a clearly defined plot device, used to change the hearts and minds of at least one person within the film that has lost some measure of what is considered “the holiday spirit”. And let’s face it, what we mean by the “holiday spirit” today is a lot different from the “holiday spirit” of Dickensian Christmas on which our current consumerist Christmas was based, which was based on relatively modest religious holidays prior to that, which was itself a cover up of long-standing Winter Solstice festivals by pre-Christian Europeans. I mean, this film even calls the Advent Calendar a “holiday calendar”, and while I’m not a “War on Christmas” nutter, I do think the abstraction of Christmas is a needless level of political correctness, even if it is the plot device driving the rest of the story.
And what an unrelatable story it is. Abby Sutton is a self-described starving artist photographer in the most racially, but not culturally diverse town in America, who hates her photography job at the department store, even though it apparently helps her afford a downtown loft space twice as big as my townhome. Poor Abby Sutton doesn’t like her life, nor feels like she’s met her parent’s expectations, but she’s working through it with her male friend Josh Barton (Quincy Brown), back from travelling abroad for a few years, and clearly interested in Abby more than a friend. And after a brief relationship with a seemingly perfect doctor named Ty (Ethan Peck), realizes with the help of the magical holiday calendar that Josh was the one who has always been there for her, and would always be there for her. And he is at the end, when, spoilers, it turns out he’s a secret millionaire, who buys the studio space she’s been dreaming about for years, along with the rest of the building. If you’re wondering what exactly the holiday message is supposed to be, join the club. All I saw was a privileged photographer getting everything else she wanted at the end, and maybe that’s just how shallow our current holiday spirit has become. Then again, I think “Die Hard” is a Christmas masterpiece, so what the hell do I know?
“The Holiday Calendar” (2018) is a saccharine holiday film about a middle-class photographer struggling with her privileged, but somehow unfulfilling life. While it is entertaining enough for an uncritical viewing, it also lacks a great number of the themes worth exploring in a holiday film. Holiday film fans may enjoy the film for what it is, but folks looking for the next great holiday classic may need to keep searching.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 5.6/10
“The Holiday Calendar” (2018) is rated TV-PG and is currently streaming on Netflix.