20 Things You Desperately Need To Know About Mariah's Hallmark Movie
Is that a trolling headline? Is it intended to bring several million people here to shout "I DON'T NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING!" between sips of something organic and single-sourced?
Oh, maybe. Welcome, appalled people.
But let's face it: Mariah Carey appearing in and directing a Christmas movie for Hallmark is a delightfully bonkers addition to the firmament of holiday madness, and the film, called A Christmas Melody, which aired Saturday night, did not disappoint, weird-wise. Here are the basics. Now, be warned: This contains many spoilers for anyone who has absolutely never watched television before and therefore has a snowball's chance (seasonal humor!) of remaining in suspense about where they're going with any of this.
1. The heroine is a woman named Kristin. Like most Hallmark heroines, she has a creative and adorable job, which in this case is fashion design. It's not up there with "operates a year-round Christmas hat store" for pure whimsy, but what are you going to do?
2. Kristin is played by Lacey Chabert, who you will be glad to know still pronounces the "g" at the end of words like "sing" with the same endearing and distinctive punch she did during the paleolithic era when she debuted on Party Of Five.
3. Kristin is a widow, although the Hallmark press site refers to her as a "stylish divorcee," which means that (1) they didn't watch the movie, (2) they don't know what a divorcee is, or (3) a storyline was dropped in which it turned out that Kristin was secretly a monster angling for sympathy when she explained several times that her husband died of Unspecified Dispensability sometime after the birth of their daughter. That would have brought a very interesting Sleeping With The Enemy quality to this entire production. I cannot believe Mariah would have left it on the cutting-room floor.
4. Said daughter Emily is played by the quite pleasantly spunky Fina Strazza (who has played Matilda in Matilda on Broadway), who deserves her spunky name and scores only about a 2 on the Hallmark Scale Of Child Cloyingness.
5. Kristin moves Emily to — wait for it — Silver Falls, Ohio (Christmassy name: check!) because she has run out of options in L.A. and has come into ownership of her parents' small-town house. "I guess I'll take the free house, SIGH" is a classic lament of the First Act Hallmark Heroine, given that the free house is usually out in either A Sweaty Cowboy-Strewn Tumbleweed Landscape or The Twinkly Midwest, either of which is classified in these terms as tantamount to entering witness protection.
6. Emily's guilt trip upon being forced to leave L.A. is to stompily threaten to recycle the sheet music from the chorus she sings in, because LIFE IS TERRIBLE.
7. When Kristin arrives in Ohio, she makes contact with her daffy aunt who runs the local diner. Said daffy aunt is played by Kathy Najimy, using approximately 1/8 of her powers, but sure.
8. Once Kristin makes it to her free house, she finds a gift basket from Aunt Sarah that introduces the actual second lead in the movie: Folgers Classic Roast. Hallmark has begun to incorporate products into these films, you see, and while I haven't seen the contracts, I assume they are for more sweet dough than you get in 20 batches of snickerdoodles, because the lingering product beauty shots are legitimately audacious. Like, Aunt Sarah has built this gift basket around a giant canister of Folgers Classic Roast shown in close-up, and later in the movie, while conversing with her love interest, Kristin will pour two mugs of coffee and return to her kitchen table while the camera ignores her and zooms in for a beauty shot of the canister of Folgers Classic Roast. It's always possible that these are freely made artistic choices, in which the headline news coming of this movie is Mariah Carey Really Has Quite A Thing For Affordable Supermarket Coffee.
9. This is slightly less distracting, it must be said, than the Christmas movie they ran a while back where the camera kept zooming in on the heroine's boss' glasses case, which yelled "VisionWorks." There was also one where Candace Cameron encountered, as I recall, multiple LeapPads.
10. OK, so Kristin bumps into Danny, with whom she went to high school but whom she doesn't remember. He's the music teacher at the school, because in most Hallmark movies, you can tell the difference between the Good Boyfriend and the Bad Boyfriend by the fact that Good Boyfriends work either as Professionally Tough People (cowboys, firefighters, trail guides) or Professionally Cuddly People (artists, music teachers), while Bad Boyfriends work as Professionally Greedy People (finance dudes, lawyers, real estate monsters).
11. Danny is played by Brennan Elliott, who you will look at and think, "Who is that? Wait, no, who IS that?" And you will think he's in every Hallmark movie, but in fact, he is the Chris Harrison surrogate from Lifetime's great unREAL. He is very out of context as someone not monstrous, but he's pretty good!
12. BUT WHAT ABOUT MARIAH CAREY? I hear you cry. When Kristin brings Emily to the adorable little school in Silver Falls, Ohio, she learns that her high school nemesis, Melissa, is the Queen Bee of the PTA Moms. And Melissa is played by Mariah Carey. [angels sing]
13. Now, again, Mariah Carey directed this movie, and there are moments when it really, really appears that all of the shots of her are lit differently and from a completely different angle than anything used on anyone else. This was the case so much that I wondered constantly whether she shot all her stuff separately from everybody else and was never actually involved in scenes with other actors. But most of these scenes involve at least one wider shot in which she appears to be present with other humans, so I'm not sure what to think. But she definitely, definitely is shot from a very distinct angle with a peculiarly soft-focus feel that doesn't match anybody else. See what I mean? It looks ... weird.
14. Anyhoo, any time there's a single mom in a movie like this, the guy will enter her life in part by befriending her kid, so naturally Danny the music teacher bonds with Emily the Spiteful Choral Music Recycler to revive her interest in music by encouraging her to write a song about Santa.
15. You see, it turns out that the Christmas pageant is coming, and Melissa is in charge of it, and she has messed up all the costumes. BUT WAIT. Kristin is a designer! So this gives Kristin the chance to save the day. Which, of course, she does by working away at her sewing machine, where Hallmark women often achieve their greatness (there and at their cupcake ovens). Please note: That is as good a place as any to be great! Most of us wear clothing and eat, other than ascetic nudists, and what are the odds they're here right now? It's just noted for the record.
16. One wonders how much to credit Mariah Carey with this, but I would classify this Hallmark movie as fully ... 6 percent less white than average, given that in addition to Carey, who's biracial, the principal of the school and the two girls with whom Emily interacts the most are played by actors of color. The fact that this stands out is all you need to know about ... well, why it stands out.
17. The key moment in any movie that follows this "OH NO I HAVE TO LEAVE THE BRUTAL CITY FOR THE HEARTLAND FULL OF LOSERS!" narrative is the one where someone gives the heroine the opportunity to triumphantly return to where she came from and she decides not to, because of her soul and also her reinvigorated love life, and the fact that she's realized that where she is living now is ... the real America. In this case, Kristin's friend flies all the way to Ohio (!!!!!) from Los Angeles to tell her that a department store is interested in her designing a line of clothes (!), and is willing to pay all her expenses (?) to abandon the free house (...) and move back to the West Coast ( :( ). Who will keep her in Folgers Classic Roast, however, is not specified.
18. At the Christmas pageant, Danny is very cold to Kristin, because they've been getting increasingly involved in erotically charged glancing (which is pretty much what you get in these movies until you're ready to kiss at the end), and now he's heard she's going back to California and he's sad. So he's shutting her out. WILL THEY OVERCOME THIS OBSTACLE?
19. Fortunately, Kristin finds him at the piano at the Christmas pageant and, making use of some very strange timing, tells him while he's trying to do his job that she's not actually going to L.A.; she's staying put.
20. At the climactic moment of the movie, Emily performs what is actually a Mariah Carey Christmas song to the enormous elation of the Christmas pageant crowd, Kristin and Danny share a lovely smooch with their mouths resolutely closed, and peace and holiday spirit are restored.
The End. OH WAIT.
21. Santa is in this movie. I almost forgot. Emily keeps having conversations with the white-bearded school maintenance man (who I think is also the homeless man to whom Kristin gave five dollars in the film's opening moments, maybe? This is from memory), and at the very end when Emily is singing, you see Santa dancing awkwardly by himself as if he was called back to the set months later and asked to twist gently while they played no music at all, and then you see Santa's sleigh riding through the sky to the sound of ho-ho-ho-ing. So this all involved the magic of Santa, probably, but the real power turned out to be Mariah Carey music.
OK, so THAT'S the end. God bless us, every one.
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