31 days of festive-ass flicks, day eight: nothing like the holidays

Friday’s festive-ass flick was Nothing Like the Holidays which we really did sit down and watch on Friday over pizza (from a new place in town! We have no good independent pizza and this was definitely better than average! And CHEAP. What up, Chalkboard Pizza, we love you now.) and it has actually taken me this long to write about it because this movie is pretty forgettable. Do you see how few notes there are? And then we had to rearrange the entire movie schedule again because Netflix took Santa’s Slay off of Instant for no discernible reason (THANKS, NETFLIX!) and yeah. [Here is the updated version. Again. Good gawd.] Also, spoilers.

It is, however, a movie full of people of color! In a holiday movie! Puerto Ricans who do Puerto Rican cultural things like La Paranda! THIS IS COOL.

And it made me spend a lot of time thinking about how rare that is. Because we are all still operating in a culture and consuming media that says movies with casts of color are for “those” people while movies with primarily white casts are for everyone. STILL. In 2011 this is still a legitimate issue. And because we all keep buying into it, the studios keep operating under the assumption that we’re all still racist. [Read this for some additional insight. It is probably the one Cracked article you will ever see me link. Ever.]

But the movie itself is pretty good! It’s not great and it’s not memorable, but there are some nice tender moments that feel really authentic to the complexities of family and to growing up and the idea of home. And there are great funny parts. And just a lot of little moments that add up to a solid enough dramedy experience. It’s not really a holiday movie though.

The holiday feels really incidental to the things happening in the movie and it’s not exploited in a placemaking sense either. These people could have been coming back together at any time and had the same experiences here. And there are a couple of beautiful shots of winter-time Chicago, but nothing that screams holiday the way most holiday movies do. That’s totally an okay thing for a movie to do! But not one that tries to sell itself as a holiday movie and if you want to see how hard this thing is trying to be a holiday movie, just check out the website.

It also lacks that… warm bath feeling? At the end of most holiday movies you get that sort of snuggled-in-to-bed or sinking-in-to-a-warm-bath chest swell. Everything is going to be okay and you are happy for the people in the box. This one has a sense of well-okay-these-people-are-going-to-be-alright-but-also-their-dad-is-still-dying-and-the-sister’s-new-boyfriend/friend-of-the-family-was-still-going-to-shoot-someone-even-if-he-didn’t and that’s not a totally great way to end a Christmas flick.

It’s an okay movie though! Worth watching. Just don’t go into it looking for some Miracle on 34th Street Bing Crosby Charlie Brown warm and fuzzies. Nothing like the Holidays is kind of nothing like a holiday movie.