Falling for Christmas isn’t rewriting the holiday rom-com rulebook, but it’s an appropriately cozy affair aided by appealing production design and an utterly charming Lohan.
It’s been roughly a decade since Lindsay Lohan last appeared in a lead role in a feature film. That project, Paul Schrader’s dark erotic thriller The Canyons (2013), offered something of a reflection of Lohan’s chaotic personal life and troubled state during that era, while also proving to be an exceptional film in its own right. But now, finally — and a far cry from The Canyons — the beloved child star of the Millennial generation is back, kicking off the Netflix holiday season with Yuletide rom-com Falling for Christmas, a curious and exciting return to the public eye for the pop icon, already dubbed the Lohanaissance. The film opens on Sierra Belmont (Lohan), the spoiled heiress of a modern, bougie ski resort, waking up in bed with her sleep mask on, a winking little metaphor for the actress’ return (and a visual callback to the height of Lohan’s fame with Freaky Friday). Sierra is a wealthy, carefree young woman obsessed with little more than her fancy clothes and luxurious lifestyle, which finds her predictably on the verge of marriage to ludicrously narcissistic influencer beau, Tad (George Young). But when Sierra suddenly falls off a literal mountain — sudden snowstorm, of course — during a photo shoot with Tad that is capped off with a proposal, she hurtles headfirst into a tree (the camp factor is real in this sequence). Unconscious in the snow, Sierra is found by the young, charming widower Jake (Chord Overstreet), whom we earlier encountered during a quick meet-cute that found him bumping into Sierra and spilling his drink on her expensive dress, this after failing to secure a loan from her father to help save his own ski resort. After a quick hospital visit where amnesia is confirmed, Jake generously offers to let Sierra stay at his cozy, rustic, and remarkably cheerful North Star Lodge while she waits for her memory to return. Meanwhile, as Sierra deals with feelings of being “unclaimed baggage,” since it seems no one has noticed that she’s missing, Tad, who also fell over the side of the mountain and suffered his own Love Survivor-looking tumble, tries to make his way back to town with the help of wilderness eccentric Ralph (Sean J. Dillingham).
It’s certainly not necessary to observe that Falling for Christmas, for the most part, follows a predictably over-familiar premise — this is obviously just the Hallmark brand by another name, after all. You’ve got a simple narrative packaged with a bevy of corny clichés, twee moments, and frequent sentimental and soapy dialogue, all of which is rendered with a cookie-cutter visual style and some cheap CGI sequences; indeed, like so many of its ilk, Falling for Christmas can often scan as little more than a hodgepodge of chic, festive TV commercial aesthetics plastered atop the superficial wonder of the holiday flick. Yet, as straightforward as the film’s production tics surely are, it somehow — Yuletide magic? — manages to stay on the right side of the Christmas film fault line, remaining pleasantly cornball and genuinely joyful without sliding into purely anonymous territory. Beyond LiLo’s wonderful presence here — the film’s proverbial Star of Bethlehem — the Christmas ornamentation and overall production create an appealing environment that helps aid Lohan’s chemistry with all the secondary players, a quality that distinguishes Falling for Christmas from the morass of Hallmark mediocrity that dominates cable and streaming every year. In particular, the distinctive set design of the North Star Lodge — which can rightly be regarded as a main character here — casts an a palpable warmth and verve over the proceedings, a functional contrast to the wintry landscapes of pine trees and forest cottages that nonetheless works synergistically to craft a charming allure that will have viewers wish they could book a room. But make no mistake, director Janeen Damian does not underestimate the importance of Lohan here: when she isn’t tossing in the occasional winking reference to the actress’ filmography, she makes sure to keep things notably lighthearted, celebrating Lohan’s charm and playfulness and bedecking scenes with jolly, jellybean visuals of greens and reds and all manor of holiday decor. The result is a film that genuinely approaches fairy tale filtered through a Christmas prism, all cartoonishly good fun, kitschy pop, and old-fashioned Disney-like wonder.
Admittedly, Falling for Christmas rarely succeeds to live up to the rom-com zaniness of its memory-loss setup, but its vivid vintage vibes — best underscored via the film’s soundtrack — communicates a coziness that’s a bit difficult to resist. And as Sierra’s surroundings shift from a pampered lifestyle at the opulent Beaumont resort to the genial modesty of North Star’s welcoming folks — all of whom gather near film’s end to support Jake in a very It’s a Wonderful Life fashion — and her personality moves from self-involved daddy’s girl to a helping, caring member of the North Star family, the film touches on notions of one’s identity and self-reliance (though admittedly and predictably quite flimsily). In one scene, Jake directly expresses his humble worldview to Sierra, noting “You know, people, they like the new resorts, the flashy stuff, all the bells and whistles. But I still think there’s something really special about the simple things. You know, like homestyle meals, hot chocolate by the fireplace, a home away from home.” It would be gross hyperbole to call Falling for Christmas a “special” Christmas flick, but it certainly succeeds in conjuring the kind of homey ambiance necessary for a film like this to work, and ultimately delivers some family-friendly holiday escapism that will encourage plenty of viewers to cozy up by the fireplace with a warm blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, and an opportunity to luxuriate in Lohan’s return.
You can stream Janeen Damian’s Falling for Christmas on Netflix beginning on November 10.