Lindsay Lohan’s big screen return in Christmas special
In what has been widely hailed as the ‘Lohanaissance’, Lindsay Lohan returns to the big screen in an early, and quite frankly unhinged, Netflix Christmas special.
The 2010s were a little rough on the Mean Girls star, who hasn’t had much screen time in recent years. But Falling For Christmas banks on being her big return, and so allows itself to be low-impact corn-fest for the sake of some good old fashioned Lohan action.
Lohan plays spoiled-rotten hotel heiress Sierra Belmont whose life seemingly revolves around staying at her father’s hotels and her influencer boyfriend, Tad (George Young). But as the prospects of taking over her father’s business and marriage to her dimwit boyfriend loom, her life is turned upside down when she falls off a cliff, losing all her memory.
A hunky single dad and bed & breakfast owner named Jake (Chord Overstreet) luckily finds her unconscious and with traumatic memory loss. He eventually houses her in his charming-but-failing inn.
The plot doesn’t take itself too seriously, that much is clear. At heart, Falling for Christmas is an amnesia movie in which the main character can’t remember anything about her past life and must rediscover her identity and, crucially, the important things in life such as family and love.
The North Star Inn, run by the perfect Jake, is supposed to feel a little alienating, given that Sierra is suffering from memory loss (and traumatic brain damage, although that doesn’t seem to bother her). She doesn’t know how to make her bed or cook herself breakfast. But the atmospheric effect of the North Star Inn, which is supposed to warm her heart and make her appreciate the comforts of lower middle-class life, is a little too sickly-sweet and perfect.
It’s one of those films where every character is a caricature, a walking-talking paper cutout of two or three traits at most. The sets look like model Christmas-themed IKEA rooms if the designers overdosed on eggnog. The plot is like a Brothers Grimm fairytale, not in its sugary dreaminess, but in the subtle darkness which envelops fairytale stories that seem just a little too feel-good.
The plot, in this sense, seems like a vessel meant to incorporate as many cheery and tear-jerking scenes for Lohan to bask in. And while this is okay - after all, we’re living through the Lohanaissance - it makes for dreadfully unengaging viewing. You can see plot points and story beats coming from a mile away and everyone seems to uncannily imbued with the holiday spirit that Falling For Christmas often feels like an elaborate advert for the holiday season itself.
A core tension in the plot comes from the competition between Jake’s family-owned ski lodge and Sierra’s father’s billion-dollar resort on the other side of the mountain. The latter is pushing the former out as customers flock to the fancy hotel complete with swimming pools and all-inclusive suites. Jake’s rustic, roaring-fire-in-a-log-cabin business can’t hold a candle to the Beaumont’s chain of resorts, but Sierra the amnesiac falls in love with the bucolic bed-and-breakfast - and its owner - nonetheless.
But this narrative set-up, defined by market competition and really just money, works against the warm-hearted holiday message of the film. During the climax, when Sierra’s regained her memory and realises that she’s the daughter of the competition, the whole mountain town comes together to save the North Star Inn. The film, previously against materialism and money as a means for happiness, suddenly pivots towards perhaps the most outlandish scene in its series of strange set-pieces.
The whole town comes together to literally hand Jake checks - in other words, big bundles of money - in order to save his business. While nominally a moment of coming together in true Christmas spirit, it’s also a moment of thematic whiplash. The North Star Inn isn’t saved because people realised it’s nicer than some faceless ski resort. It’s saved because piles of money are thrown at it and because Sierra uses her clout to advertise it during a press conference.
Falling For Christmas, whether intentionally or not, does not strive to say anything new or really make any sense. It teeters on so-bad-it’s-good territory, more akin to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room than Miracle on 34th Street. And to some extent, that’s okay: Christmas movies aren’t exactly poised to reinvent the cinematic wheel.
There are unintentionally hilarious moments throughout and it’s actually nice to see Lindsay Lohan back in action. I just wish that it wasn’t so sickly sweet, so Netflix-y it hurts; and it sure could have done with a little more nuance. Nevertheless, it may still mark the beginning of the Lohan Era, the Lohanaissance, the Lohan-ing Twenties, you get the idea.