Tuesday, January 10, 2012

City Girl, You'll Be a Country Woman Soon: Lifetime Holiday Movies

"A girl like that should get married and raise a whole bunch of kids, put her hang-ups into something worthwhile."
 —Elvis Presley to Mary Tyler Moore in "Change of Habit"
Every year, shortly before or after Thanksgiving, Lifetime shelves its usual rotation out of control teen dramas and movies where a woman gets raped because no one felt like writing her backstory. It's the holidays, ladies!! Time to stop killing your husbands and becoming meth dealers to support your families. Instead, it's time to believe in love like you married your high school sweetheart and watch the Hallmark channel exclusively.

In fact, during the month of December, Lifetime movies are remarkably similar to Hallmark movies. Like Lifetime, Hallmark only has about a dozen plots it recycles over and over, and one such plot is a successful, yet boyfriendless city woman experiencing an alternate life as a country lady and finding love. This popular Lifetime Christmas movie subgenre--which is what this review is all about--troubles me. Because I myself am a city lady, and I am extremely successful by Lifetime standards, if I do say so myself. I have a boyfriend, and I'm a book editor! Granted I work exclusively in sweatpants and don't have have a sassy assistant, but I do work my ass off, and my hot boyfriend wears suits to work. So it's only a matter of time before I find him in bed with my best friend in a hilarious, yet humiliating TV-PG sexual situation.

Kristin Chenoweth (from "Pushing Daises") is unfit for
rock climbing, and has to be rescued by a hot fireman. Yay, Country!

Once that happens, I'll simply wait to find myself in a small American town, and attend their tree-lighting ceremony. Perhaps I'll get an "assignment" out there from my hardnosed boss. Or maybe I'll have to go out to meet with an author who does not have a phone. (If you're not a writer/editor like me, you will probably end up in the country hiding from the mob at an FBI agent's wacky parents' house.)

All I want for Christmas is rustic-osity
At the tree-lighting ceremony (or maybe on way), I'll meet a handsome, single man who is pure of heart and honest about his feelings. If he doesn't already have a child by his dead wife, he'll be ready to impregnate me ASAP.

"But wait!" you're saying, "I don't want to have kids!" Well that's before you experienced Christmas magic, which made you realize that what you really want to do is live in a small town, where you can pop out some kids who you can pull in a sled.

And now you're all, "Christmas magic? I'm fucking Jewish!" Well not if you're on Lifetime you're not.

Except for one scene at the gym early
on, Nancy McKeon doesn't wear a
single sweatshirt and is sadly un-
Jo Polniaczek-like in "Comfort & Joy"
Christmas magic can take many forms. If you're Nancy McKeon in "Comfort & Joy," it's a magical car accident that transports her to an alternate reality that makes such little sense that there's an entire imdb message board of people confused about what's going on. Message to screenwriters: Just have someone in the know (ala Michael Caine in Mr. Destiny) show up and explain all the wackiness, then get on with the movie. The majority of "Comfort & Joy" is about everyone wondering why Nancy can't remember the past decade, and it's actually creepy when all the characters are pretending it's hilarious. Her husband is all, "Don't pretend like you don't know who I am! I'm your husband!! Har harr!" 3 seconds after she's just slammed her car into a pole. Good husbanding, dude.

I haven't seen "Eve's Christmas," which has the exact same plot except with some star-wishing magic. I've saving it for next year. (After making sure to catch the Hallmark classic  "A Family Thanksgiving")

Hayden Panettiere (left), future Lifetime Movie royalty,
in "If You Believe"
In "If You Believe," Christmas magic comes in the form of adorable, 10-year-old Hayden Panettiere, who plays the invisible "inner child" of a hardened book editor who goes out to the country to edit Amy's Dad from Everwood's book. You know, because you can't do that in your New York office. Hayden pelts her grown self with snowballs and knowledge of her true desires, in a plot similar to Sundays with Tiffany's but without the imaginary-friend-sex.

In "The Twelve Men of Christmas," one of my favorite of the city girl becoming a country woman genre, the only Christmas magic needed is a fireman hot bods calendar.

In "Holiday Switch," Nicole Eggart may have a
fur coat, but she doesn't have an adorable child
"Holiday Switch" is arguably the most creative movie in which Christmas magic teaches a dissatisfied woman a lesson. In this classic, Nicole Eggart already has children, and wishes she had a flashy city job. She climbs into a magical clothes dryer (yes, really) and soon finds her life transformed into that of a living-in-sin rich lady. Of course, she decides she likes the kids and husband better.

So maybe Christmas is more fun when you have a bunch of kids around to pretend like it means something. But what still confuses me is why anyone would ever decide they want to move to the country mid-winter?? You have to warm up your car, shovel your own walk, and pay your own heating bill. And no one is going to deliver homemade lentil soup to your door. I mean, a fireplace sounds cozy, but I love December in New York. The lights on everything look fantastic, it's the best place to do holiday shopping, and there are lots of boozy parties to go to. Plus, no suburban barbecues to be jealous of. The air smells crisp and free of rotting garbage, and the roaches mostly go away.

So go move in with your country fella who's never lived outside his small town, city girls! Leave the businessmen with studio apartments to those who deserve them.

Kristin Chenoweth's ultimate reward in "12 Men of
Christmas." Maybe staying in the country WAS worth it.

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