One of the greatest holiday traditions to rise up over the past decade or so is that of the festive made-for-TV (or streaming) romance movie. There's just nothing better during the cold winter months than popping on some easy-breezy tinsel-clad fare in which two bozos are going to fall in love just in time for Christmas morning. They always take place in a small town that is inordinately obsessed with the holidays. Someone's going to be a widow or widower with at least one precocious child. There is a flailing business venture (usually of the baked goods variety). There are holiday-themed activities. So many holiday-themed activities. And in the end, the two people in the middle of it all will realize over a worrisomely short amount of time that they are made for each other. It's heartwarming! And wholesome! And the perfect thing to have on the TV as you go about your own activities, be they holiday themed or, perhaps, laundry themed (do not knock the value of great laundry show, OK?). But anyone who is a fan of these types of movies knows that they really only work if you go in with the right level of expectations. We're not reinventing romantic comedies here! This is reliably entertaining holiday content, and there's nothing wrong with that!
Netflix's Lindsay Lohan holiday rom-com Falling for Christmas should be viewed with that same level of expectation, which is to say, a mediocre one. If you're going into it wanting to be surprised or believing it will be the one holiday romance to rise above the rest this season, you'll be sorely disappointed. If, however, you go into it realizing it's really just a Hallmark Christmas movie with a much more recognizable lead than most, you'll have a perfectly adequate, very merry time.
The script is dismally thin and hits almost every holiday romance trope in the books. Falling for Christmas tells the story of Sierra Belmont (Lohan), a spoiled hotel heiress who is looking to find purpose in her life aside from the "Vice President of Atmosphere" job her father (Jack Wagner) wants to hand her. Sure, she might have assistants to hold her glasses of champagne so she doesn't have to ruin her manicure-in-process, but you can tell she's a decent human being deep down from the jump. When her social media influencer boyfriend, Tad (played by George Young, who feels like he's in a completely different movie), hauls her up to a dangerous mountaintop to propose — the pictures will be incredible — she winds up tumbling down the mountainside and bumping her head. Tad, meanwhile, falls down the other side of the mountain, trapped out in the wilderness for days.
Sierra is discovered by Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet), the kindly owner of the North Star Lodge, located in the same town as her father's mega hotel. Jake's a widower (!) with a cute daughter (!!) named Avy (Olivia Perez) and is currently racked with anxiety over his flailing ski lodge (!!!). When Sierra comes to, she can't remember who she is — she can, however, remember that she likes room service and hates tacky clothes because sure, why not — and Jake offers her a room at his lodge where she can recover and try to get back her memories. Soon enough, Sierra's at the lodge, and her desire to be helpful rather than an inconvenience means she's getting close to Avy, making eyes at Jake, participating in so many Christmas activities (!!!!), and learning how to be a better human by doing things like carrying wood logs to places, feasting on bacon, and interacting with a fitted sheet for the first time. Not long after, Sierra and Jake are falling for each other. You know how this movie is going to go from the first act — the script follows the formula all the way through. You will not find any surprises or playful inversions of cliches.
And you know what? That's fine. It's fine! Did I have a lot of questions about how no one in this small town recognizes Sierra when her dad is probably a local celeb and her boyfriend is all over social media? Or about how Jake, who runs into her in the Belmont Hotel lobby while there to ask her father to invest in his lodge, doesn't remember her at all even though that long, bright red hair seems pretty memorable? Did I wonder more than once, "Wait, does Jake have a traumatic brain injury too, or no?" Yes, of course, to all of it. But I also know that internal logic doesn't really matter in regards to level of enjoyment of this type of movie.
If you aren't a person who can just go with it for the sake of holiday cheer, Falling for Christmas is not for you. The script leaves a whole lot to be desired. Lohan and Overstreet both do their best with what they're given and are both clearly committed to making it work. Lohan shines in several of the movie's physical comedy bits and can easily swing from entitled socialite to believable do-gooder. Overstreet is saddled with a blandly "nice" character and yet still makes a strong case for becoming a go-to romantic lead. Still, one can imagine the difference it would make if Jake had begrudgingly taken Sierra in — if the duty had been thrust upon him rather than him kindly volunteering. The chemistry between Lohan and Overstreet is middling at best; some antagonism between the two, or any kind of heat, really, would've been a welcome addition.
And yet I still found myself smiling throughout the whole festive ordeal. Falling for Christmas may have its faults, but if you're looking to spend an hour and a half being warmed by Christmas cheer and an inevitable happy ending, it has its charms, too.
Premieres: Thursday, Nov. 10 on Netflix
Who's in it: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet
Who's behind it: Janeen Damian (director), Jeff Bonnett and Ron Oliver (scriptwriters)
For fans of: The Lindsay Lohan renaissance, Hallmark Christmas movies but on Netflix