With a year as difficult as 2020, we’ve decided to start Christmas early on the Collab. Will we regret this in a couple of weeks? Most likely. However, at the moment it’s a relief to consume stories with endings both incredibly predictable and overly sappy. This week’s pick is no exception.
A New York Christmas Wedding
After a chance encounter with a disguised angel, a woman gets the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones she has lost, reconsidering what her New York Christmas wedding will be.
In Queens, NY, Jenny Ortiz faces a familiar teen predicament: she’s in love with her best friend, who is dating a dirtbag. To make things a bit more interesting, Jenny’s bff is Gabi, an Italian-American girl with a conservative family. Uncertain about her own feelings for her bestie and feeling a bit smothered, Gabi blows off an evening of Christmas decorating with Jenny (which would have provided a convenient time to share true feelings) in favor of an evening with her boyfriend.
Jenny doesn’t handle things well–understandable considering she’s still hurting following the death of her mother. After writing off Gabi (literally), Jenny must live with regret when her bff dies a few months later. The holiday season is never the same again when, years later, Jenny’s father dies close to Christmas.
Unaware of Jenny’s aversion to the holiday, her future mother-in-law has made arrangements for a Christmas Eve wedding. While Jenny claims it’s the sense of loss she feels around the holidays that makes her dread the wedding, it’s clear early on that other issues are at play.
Following an awkward dinner with her in-laws, Jenny goes out for a late-night run, coming to the aid of a cyclist struck by a car. When Jenny notices the stranger, Azrael Gabeson, is unscathed–crisp white clothing not even a smidge dirty–he gives the kind of vague mystical advice that will surely lead to a memorable turn of events.
When Jenny wakes up the next morning, she is astonished to find herself in an apartment she shares with Gabi and their dog. After some confusion, Jenny meets Azrael again, who explains that she has more or less entered a parallel dimension. She has 48 hours to enjoy an alternate timeline in which both Jenny’s father and Gabi are still alive (though apparently Jenny’s mother is SOL).
In this timeline, it’s Jenny and Gabi whose wedding is around the corner. However, this couple has the additional obstacle of struggling to get approval from the venue, the church where Gabi is the choir director. A meeting with Father Kelly (played by Mr. Big from Sex and the City) yields no answers, as the priest’s personal feelings conflict with church decree, which still doesn’t officially recognize same-sex marriages.
After a Christmas Eve feast, Jenny uses the time with Gabi to resolve their fight from decades ago. Surprisingly (but also not surprisingly at all), there may be a Christmas wedding after all. But with Jenny rapidly running out of time, what will happen to her happy alternate timeline life when the 48 hours are up?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Okay, this film has a lot of problems. First, the sort of reverse It’s a Wonderful Life plot doesn’t work because of its own setup. Whereas the 1946 film encourages its protagonist to accept his life as it is, disappointments and all, this 2020 film emphasizes how much better the alternate timeline is than reality. How relatable that message feels at the moment…but it still doesn’t feel like a satisfying moral.
Also, the LGBTQ messages are certainly welcome but lacking subtlety. There are a LOT of scenes and lines of dialogue that feel pulled from an after-school special. What’s more is that these scenes give the audience no credit to connect the dots–always a pet peeve of mine.
And (spoiler/not really a spoiler), there’s a twist in which Azrael is revealed to be Gabi’s stillborn fetus, which I find extremely cringey. Perhaps it’s a consequence of watching too much horror, but the revelation made me immediately concerned Azrael may be seeking vengeance or otherwise up to no good. Being haunted by a fetus strikes me as unsettling at the very least.
Overall, there are way too elements here for a light holiday rom-com, and the amount of death here is much too heavy for the breezy happily-ever-after we get.
That being said, I appreciated watching a film that centers an LGBTQ couple and the experiences of people of color, especially in a genre that’s often painfully white and heteronormative.
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