Another December day, another batch of festive gems. Welcome to Part 4 of my Christmas Film recommendations.
Workaholic Grinch restauranteur, Kathleen (Catherine Mary Stewart), is snowed in with her boyfriend’s daughter and a mysterious drifter. The three spend Christmas together as a makeshift family in this lovely, subtle movie that makes many nods to the classic holiday film themes of ghosts and forgiveness.
Fred MacMurray is frequently horrible in films, deploying excessive use of the word “baby” to ill-effect: I draw your attention to Double Indemnity (1944) and Miracle of the Bells (1948) (although the later has a lovely Christmas Eve scene in a small town restaurant). Either MacMurray is more palatable here, or it’s just a better story. Barbara Stanwyck meanwhile, is outstanding with a barrage of quality zingers. She’s the thief and he’s the district attorney who’s keeping an eye on her over Christmas. A version of this – with Mark Ruffalo – was made in 1997 under the name On the 2nd Day of Christmas.
At the time of publication, you can watch the full film at Dailymotion.
While writing my book, I compiled a list of adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Have no doubt, there’s a veritable deluge. This one is a particularly ridiculous version, created by Xerox as a United Nations propaganda piece: each ghost tries to convince protagonist Dan (Sterling Hayden) of the virtues of the U.N.
Sure, you could always watch Tori Spelling in A Carol Christmas (2003), or the bush-tastic pornographic romp of The Passions of Carol (1975), but Carol for Another Christmas is just so amusingly bad. (And will remind you of all those preachy kids at high school who liked the U.N. just a tad too much).
No trailer, but you can watch the whole gem online.
Grieving parents Zooey (Toni Collette) and Alex (Ioan Gruffudd) are having trouble conceiving. And then little Eli (Maurice Cole) turns up on their doorstep to, um… help them achieve their goals. Reminiscent of the non-Christmassy (but still highly enjoyable) The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012). Richard E. Grant puts in a typically lovely performance as the mysterious Mr. Potts.
I have an undiagnosed mental problem where I will cry pretty much every time I hear Bob Dylan. So the crying began early on in Love the Coopers even if the film isn’t particularly sad or even notably sentimental. Familiar territory here, with the convergence of the extended family for Christmas. Alan Arkin is in it and I pretty much want him in all my Christmas films. Ed Helms alas, is an uncomfortable addition to the mix and the completely ridiculous resolution of one couple’s marriage problems is, alas, genre-typical. Those issues aside, I liked it, with solid performances from Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde and John Goodman.
This post is an instalment from a 15-part series on my favourite Christmas films. The consolidated version - 75 Christmas Films Worth Watching - is now available.