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A Thorough Breakdown of Lindsay Lohan’s Christmas-Aided Comeback

The Netflix holiday movie ‘Falling for Christmas’ obviously isn’t an Oscar contender, but watching the embattled actress in it still feels revelatory—and it may be exactly what she needs

Netflix/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Jimmy Kimmel is hosting the Oscars, Chris Evans is People’s Sexiest Man Alive, Kristin Cavallari and Lauren Conrad are somewhat begrudgingly mic’d up in a room together, and Lindsay Lohan is on the cover of Cosmo promoting her role in a new movie everyone’s talking about. If you close your eyes and wish hard enough, it could be 2006. And if you make that wish in the vicinity of a mysterious bearded man, don a puffer vest full of candy canes, and fire up the ol’ Netflix anytime over the next few weeks … it could be Christmas. With Thursday’s premiere of Falling for Christmas starring Lindsay Lohan, Netflix’s original holiday movie season has officially commenced, and along with it comes one more irrefutable fact: the Lohanaissance is imminent, and it’s launching on a streaming platform near you.

Those who study the holiday arts know: There’s a method to this madness, and as it turns out, Lindsay Lohan slots right into it. Because in original holiday movies, whether they be on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or Hallmark and Lifetime, the holidays aren’t about neatly wrapped gifts or honey baked ham, and they’re certainly not about organized religion. The holidays are about finding romantic love, wish-related magic, and firing up IMDb to see where you recognize that person from (it’s Law & Order: SVU). The fun is in the format, and now, the fun includes LaLohan, dressed in fits to kill (which are then immediately covered with a full-body sequin duster, as is tradition).

Scott Everett White/Netflix

Original holiday movies can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time: They can make you buy into the value of a monarchy in a country that doesn’t even exist; they can get you to believe not only in Santa, but that every white-bearded man at every winter market in every small town in America (or, let’s be honest, Canada) just might be the jolly old man himself; they can center every holiday story, no matter the message, no matter the setting, no matter the random mysticism, on the all-consuming societal demand for heterosexual holiday romance. But most importantly, their familiar and now well-established beats can lure you into the sense of warmth and comfort you need during the often anxiety-inducing holiday season. In Falling for Christmas, Netflix has built just such a movie. To prove it, I’ll quickly run Falling for Christmas’s entire plot through my Original Holiday Movie Binge Cheat Sheet (that I’m soft-launching now and that I hope you will see more of in the future):

How many Vanessa Hudgenses star in this movie?

No Vanessa Hudgenses star in this movie. In her absence(s), one Lindsay Lohan stars, which is almost as good as two Lindsay Lohans, and definitely comparable to three Vanessa Hudgenses. (I smell a crossover-sequel event.)

Was any of the cast ever in a CW and/or WB series?

Chord Overstreet was in Glee, which is like a CW series, only with a Fox budget and lit on fire with Katy Perry–branded kerosene.

How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?

Sierra Belmont is an otherwise jobless hotel heiress; that’s probably a pretty ostensible career path among friends. Jake Russell—a man of two first names played by a man of two fake names, Chord Overstreet—runs a bed and breakfast in the same ski town as one of the Belmont’s glamorous resorts. He was gifted the BnB as a wedding present by the father of his now-deceased wife, and is attempting to keep it in business by working every single job in the hotel. This man is flipping pancakes, he is scrubbing toilets, he is doing snowmobile tours, he is turning into a teapot and singing “Be Our Guest” to the only two people actually paying money to stay there. Ah, the burden of inherited wealth!

How problematic is the meet-cute on a scale of “one saved the other from falling in a snowbank” to “somebody’s unconscious most of the time”?

Let’s get one thing very straight: Moments after getting engaged to her influencer boyfriend, Lindsay Lohan falls backward down a mountain and sustains a head injury so severe that she passes out. She’s found by local teapot Chord Overstreet, and when she wakes up in the hospital, she has full-on amnesia. Cannot remember a damn thing, including that she has a fiancé, or that she is a very rich lady whose dad wouldn’t give the very blond man now standing in front of her an investment for his floundering BnB—the very BnB that Jake Russell offers as a place to stay out of the goodness of his widowed heart. While this plot is very clearly derived from the Overboard School of Cinema, it lacks any of the pesky consent issues, because in holiday movies, the characters don’t have sex. The suggestion that mouths are made for anything other than hot chocolate and Christmas cookies is verboten in this genre.

Say, are these two opposites?

Yes! Sierra is super rich and Jake is poor. So poor that he can’t even walk through a rich person’s resort without dodging, spinning, and weaving through all the fast-walking rich people. That is, until he spins his penniless body directly into Sierra, spilling hot chocolate all over her and causing her to yell, “My Valenyagi!” (the made-up brand of her extravagant jumpsuit).

It’s with a heavy heart that I say that there’s hardly a flicker of real chemistry between Lohan and Overstreet, but their characters are both desperate for human connection, and sometimes that’s enough.

Is there a mysterious old man, and does that old man turn out to be Santa?

Yeah, of course. The old man who staffs the roasted chestnut kiosk at the winter market looks so much like Santa Claus that there is not a person alive who, when coming face-to-face with him, would not ask, “Excuse me, sir, could I have two bags of roasted chestnuts, and also, what’s it like being Santa Claus?”

What about a wise child?

Obviously, the widowed Chord Overstreet has a precocious little daughter whose sole drive in life is to assuage her dad’s grief by finding him a new (jobless, memoryless) partner. This little girl so resembles an American Girl doll come to life that I’m not convinced she didn’t time travel from the industrial revolution, through my Instagram explore page, and directly into this Netflix original movie. She is so wise, and her ringlets are so perfect.

Is there any magic?

I don’t know if you’ve heard of a cute little quirk called amnesia, granted to Lindsay Lohan by a cute little chestnut roaster over at the local winter market called Santa—but this movie’s got it in spades. Early in the movie, Chord Overstreet’s daughter makes a wish while Santa looks on, that wish sails into the air, and the next thing you know, Lindsay Lohan is slamming noggin-first into a pine tree at 20 miles per hour, sustaining only a mild concussion and full slap-your-ass-and-call-her-Goldie amnesia. When it’s later revealed that the little girl wished for her dad to “find someone to love,” it can’t be denied: Santa Claus gave Lindsay Lohan magic amnesia, and he did it on purpose.

Are there any snow-related hijinks?

Other than the amnesia-inducing concussion? Sure. Lindsay Lohan has, like, eight more traumatic head injuries due to snow throughout the course of this 90-minute movie. We’re lucky she’s still talking by the time the town has a fundraiser to save Jake’s BnB, let alone speaking in the vaguely British accent that tells us Sierra is rich, even though she doesn’t remember that.

Is there a villain who sows discord?

No one in this movie is really “bad” (even though there is at least one coded billionaire), but Sierra’s original boyfriend, Tad, is the biggest obstacle to overcome. Not to mention: He’s the impetus for the first of her many concussions (men in this movie are always trying to make Lindsay Lohan ski even after she tells them she doesn’t know how to ski). Tad’s worst trait is that he’s a full-time influencer, and his best trait is that you spend half the movie being like, “Wait, is Tad slowly falling in love with the middle-aged ice fisherman that saved his life and served him baked beans,” only for Tad to then actually ski off into the sunset with Sierra’s male assistant. We’re not on Hallmark anymore, babes.

Does anyone get to first base?

With the aid of mistletoe, Sierra and Jake are finally able to share one tongueless kiss. At least one American Girl doll is getting a new mommy and a new BnB night manager, all in one slightly concussed Valenyagi package.

At the end of the movie, does the title make sense?

Lindsay Lohan is never not falling in Falling for Christmas, and she is always doing it during Christmastime, so yeah, solid pun work.

You may have surmised that Falling for Christmas is not life-changing cinema. But it’s Lindsay Lohan’s ease within it that’s a little revolutionary. In between the gingerbread-house fights and the pratfalls, watching Lohan—in the first installment of her multi-movie deal with Netflix—still serve up a fun, festive, convincing performance feels revelatory.

This is Lohan’s first major role since 2013’s strange, campy disaster The Canyons—if you don’t count her brief foray into fronting a reality television series. In 2019, Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club was intentionally marketed as the actress’s comeback from a decade plagued by substance misuse, legal woes, and personal tragedies, often most earnestly by Lohan herself. But once the series aired, Lohan’s apparent desire to prove herself as a responsible businesswoman whose employees should eagerly accept mentorship from her felt confusing on a few fronts.

But now, after retiring from nightclub entrepreneurship and spending a few years well and truly out of the spotlight, a return to acting in the low-stakes, potentially high-yield arena of the Netflix Extended Holiday Universe that’s nurtured so many other occasionally precarious child stars before her—well, that makes a lot more sense. And it involves so much less dancing in the blaring Mykonos sun.

Falling for Christmas is not the first attempt at a Hollywood comeback for Lindsay Lohan, but it is the most humble. It would be easy for someone who was once so revered for her natural charisma and talent to want to make her return in a vehicle that promises Oscar consideration; a vehicle that doesn’t ask her to share an emotional scene with a snowglobe. But by not trying to prove too much, Lohan proves plenty. In Falling for Christmas, when she sweetly cries to a horse named Balthazar that she can’t do anything right, it’s just nice to see she’s still got the spark—even if “the spark” in this case is “nice chemistry with a horse.” They say good comedy is even harder than good drama, but perhaps nothing is more difficult than bringing life to a made-for-TV movie with a four-figure location budget and a mandatory no-visible-collarbones rule.

In playing a spoiled hotel heiress who doesn’t know what to do with her life, there is a pleasant self-awareness floating through Lohan’s performance that also never feels too try-hard. Lohan isn’t aiming to subvert the infamous mythology that’s grown around her, nor is she leaning too far into making a mockery of her difficult years in the limelight. She’s just trying to have a little fun while being hand-fed caviar by a team of assistants (including none other than little Ali Lohan, all grown up). Perhaps the best part of the entire experience is the blooper reel playing over the credits that stands as proof Lohan did have fun filming this easy breezy movie. It’s not a comeback for comeback’s sake, but because there’s something to be gained from it—a little bit of fun for all of us.

And finally, I’ll just say it: Lindsay Lohan looks incredible in this movie. Her hair is the exact natural shade of red you remember from before she had to start getting chunky blonde highlights to play rebellious teenagers. It is so long and so flowing that it’s difficult to know where the amber waves end and the winter flannels begin. The film’s press tour (yes, for a holiday movie!) fashions, styled by Law Roach, have been nothing short of revelatory. And when Sierra dons a monochrome fuchsia set—the perfect undertone for a natural redhead, I can tell you as a natural redhead—it briefly feels like the fashionable little tween from the iconic Disney Channel Original Movie Get a Clue is all grown up, about to solve another New York City mystery.

And while it may not be entirely fair to want Lindsay Lohan to look and act the way she did when a generation of teens and tweens attached themselves to her talent, her charm, and her impressive rise to stardom, it’s also impossible to deny that instinct as fans. It’s impossible to keep those memories from flooding right back.

It’s unclear whether Lohan is trying to lean into or away from that fan nostalgia in Falling for Christmas. Because mostly, original holiday movies are a blank canvas for audiences to feel whatever they need to feel during a vulnerable time. When Sierra cries out, “Vice president of atmosphere, that’s not even a real job,” it’s hard not to think of Anna, the frequently squealing teen in Freaky Friday (before she gets possessed by Jamie Lee Curtis, obviously). And allowing that comparison to her former and beloved Disney roles at all feels like a special little treat for those of us who have been rooting for a proper Lohanaissance—who’ve hoped that, eventually, the time and script would be right. Ultimately, Lohan stops short of playing two roles in one movie, a Lindsay Lohan and Netflix original movie classic. But there’s always next Christmas. For now, let the Lohanaissance commence.