A California Christmas review – a predictable rom-com that’s easy to like chemistry lesson

December 14, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 2
Film Reviews, Netflix
2.5

Summary

A California Christmas is much more California than Christmas, but this predictable, laidback rom-com coasts by on solid chemistry between its leads and will scratch a particular itch if you let it.

2.5

Summary

A California Christmas is much more California than Christmas, but this predictable, laidback rom-com coasts by on solid chemistry between its leads and will scratch a particular itch if you let it.

A California Christmas, the latest entry in the “absurdly good-looking people fall for each other over the holidays” subgenre, shouldn’t be half as charming as it is. The whole thing’s properly ridiculous, riddled with clichés and contrived plotting, the details can’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny, and you can predict every single thing that happens after the first fifteen minutes or so. And yet, at some point, right around the time that the well-matched leads were just starting to relax around each other, I realized I had bought into what Shaun Paul Piccinino’s movie is selling.

Any other time of year, this wouldn’t be acceptable. A California Christmas is set at Christmas but doesn’t feel particularly Christmassy – its plot could happen at any time of year – and yet it’s everything most people will want in a Christmas rom-com. All the tropes and story beats are there, the predictable arcs have a comforting familiarity, the setting is nice to look at, and the charm of the central pairing comes off the screen in waves – understandable, really, since stars Lauren and Josh Swickard are married in real life.

Lauren Swickard doesn’t just star but also wrote and co-produced the film. Her character, Callie, is a tough-as-nails rancher whose mother is dying of cancer and whose gorgeous familial land is about to be bought out from beneath her to offset considerable debts. Josh Swickard plays Joseph, a silver-spoon city-slicker who is despatched by his mother and boss to talk Callie into the sale, and finds himself instantly smitten with Callie and charmed by her family. Soon enough – as in, instantly – he’s impersonating the new ranch hand, Manny, and falling ever-so-surely in love with this woman who has fallen hook, line, and sinker for his noticeably unconvincing act.

You’ve seen it all before. Here’s the privileged man-child learning the true value of things in the arms of a good, honest woman; there’s the looming ticking-clock device that you don’t really believe for a second is going to matter. Callie even has a jealous friend named Connor (Gunnar Anderson) and a tragic backstory involving the death of her father and fiancé, as though the screenplay is filling a checklist, which of course it is. But once A California Christmas gets past all the scene-setting and starts deploying cutesy scenic montages, a lot of the artificiality bleeds away, and the chemistry between the Swickards really shines through.

There’s also some humor, courtesy of Joseph’s posh valet Leo (Ali Afshar) having to babysit the real Manny (David Del Rio) so that he doesn’t expose what they’re up to. I’m glad that the film doesn’t try and manufacture too much drama here. Manny gets on-side really quickly and before long the main characters all have an easy familiarity that makes it easy to root for the predictably happy outcome. There is absolutely nothing here that you haven’t seen before, but if what you’re looking for is a laidback romance that hits all the comforting notes you expect it to, then A California Christmas will definitely scratch that itch.


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2 thoughts on “A California Christmas review – a predictable rom-com that’s easy to like

  • December 15, 2020 at 7:17 pm
    Permalink

    Pretty sure the main character is “Callie”, not “Cassie”…

    • December 15, 2020 at 8:33 pm
      Permalink

      Yeah, you’re right. I’ve amended it. Cheers!

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