The Ringer’s 25 Days of Bingemas is a guide for people who love original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who hate original holiday movies; it’s a guide for people who occasionally watch these movies and want more; it’s a guide for people who never hope to watch these movies but would like to watch one writer descend into madness as she attempts to differentiate between 25 unique forms of holiday magic, 12 different fake countries, and eight different male leads who make you wonder, “Wait, is that the guy from Mean Girls?” (It isn’t, except for that one time when it is.) Every day for the next 25 days, Jodi Walker will feature one of this season’s 169 original holiday movies, answering a curated series of questions in order to showcase the genre’s masterful formula, the dedication to chaos, and the commitment to consistently widowing lumberjacks that launched an entire genre of TV movie. On the 11th day of Bingemas, we turn our cheerful spirits to …
What are we watching?
Christmas With You
Where are we watching it?
Why are we watching it?
Because, per Netflix, “Seeking inspiration for a hit holiday song, a pop star grants a young fan’s Christmas wish to meet her—and finds a shot at true love along the way.”
All theoretical Vanessa Hudgenses can suck candy canes this time—we got Freddie Prinze Jr. back on our screens, baby! Coincidentally, Freddie’s role as Miguel in Christmas With You lined up perfectly with my semi-annual panic-googling of: “Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. still married?” They are! And therefore the social construct of marriage is still worth believing in. Miguel’s love interest Angelina is played by Aimee Garcia, who was cast in this role after the producers saw her in the musical episode of Lucifer, a show about the Prince of Darkness, the Lord of Hell, the Devil himself—quite the crossover appeal with Aimee Garcia.
How believable are the lead characters’ ostensible careers?
Angelina is a longtime pop star, but more specifically she is J.Lo. Even more specifically, she is J.Lo’s character in Marry Me, who’s loosely based on J.Lo herself. And you know what? Aimee Garcia makes it pretty believable that she is a J.Lo character based on the real J.Lo, right down to being 44 but looking 22. On the other hand, Miguel is a high school music teacher who we never see teach music to any students, although we do see him teach music to a longtime pop star (and if you’re starring in a movie by or based on J.Lo, that’s actually a pretty common career).
You know this high school math teacher is a widower who’s busy planning his adorable daughter Cristina’s quinceañera. While practicing one of her quinceañera performances, Cristina uploads herself singing an Angelina song that she says always makes her think about her mom; a song she didn’t know that Angelina wrote after her own mother—you guessed it—died.
Is there a building in disrepair, or a business facing financial ruin?
Angelina is definitely a famous pop star, but less so for her music than just generally being famous at this point. It seems like her label is about to drop her, but they throw her one last lifeline in the form of telling her she needs to write an original Christmas song that will be as popular as Mariah Carey’s. The idea that the last grasp at staying relevant would be an original Christmas song is pretty ludicrous on its own, but for this original holiday movie to be like, “This song you’re about to hear after watching 45 minutes worth of hazy piano montages—yeah, you’re gonna be hearing it until the day you die,” is a level of audacity you simply have to respect.
How problematic is the meet-cute on a scale of “one saved the other from falling in a snowbank” to “one is the other’s boss and they fall in love on a work trip”?
Some original holiday movies are all-magic, or all-death, or all-Santa, but it’s rare to find one that is almost entirely meet-cute. First, while avoiding writing her assigned Christmas song, Angelina stumbles upon Cristina’s video and decides she needs to reconnect with her fans in order to feel inspired. In tracking down Cristina, Angelina also meets Cristina’s cute dad, Miguel: meet-semi-cute number one. While at Cristina’s school, it starts snowing so hard that Angelina can no longer drive home, forcing her to stay with Miguel and his family at their charming home for the night: meet-very-cute number two. While at their house, Angelina stumbles upon a Christmas song Miguel has been writing and proposes they co-write her song together, thereby thrusting them together on one tiny piano bench for the foreseeable future: meet-hella-cute number three. It is the turducken of meet-cute tropes, and if you ate this movie, it would give you a cavity that’d absolutely ruin your dentist’s Christmas.
Are there any snow-related high jinks?
Oh, the snow in this movie is working hard. First it traps Angelina in town so she has to stay with Miguel, and then, when she’s walking into his house, she has to put plastic bags over her heels because “they’re Yves Saint Laurent, custom.” That is, word for word, a line I heard Lisa Barlow say on this week’s Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, so … perfect character beat here for Angelina.
Is there any singing/crafting/baking/blogging?
You know what? There is some singing, but less singing than you’d think given the premise. The movie actually touches down on a pretty nuanced but central part of the creative process: avoiding it entirely. Angelina doesn’t want to write this song so badly that she drives out to a small town in a snowstorm to meet a fan. Of course, the simple stylings of Miguel Torres ultimately reawaken her love for music, but as it turns out, actual songwriting involves very little singing. Per the movie, it’s mostly just moving your finger around like you’re following an invisible bouncing music note, a little humming, and a lot of saying, “Oh yeah, that’s good,” to your songwriting partner.
How modest are the wardrobe choices?
Speaking of the simple stylings of Miguel Torres, this is the rare case where we have to talk about an original holiday movie not allowing the male lead to be hot. Don’t get me wrong, Freddie Prinze Jr. is still hot, but he is being stifled by blandness in a way only female leads usually are. Angelina is a pop star, so she gets to wear plunging necklines and skintight leather pants. I guess because Miguel is a teacher, he’s supposed to be nerdy—but nerds should still get to wear tight henleys in holiday movies. Instead, Miguel is often dressed in what can only be described as a crew-neck vest, which I didn’t even know was possible until now. But the worst offense is that someone has dyed Freddie Prinze Jr’s hair black, when we all know (from hours spent panic-googling) that he is naturally salt and pepper, one of the most handsome things a leading man can be. What gives, Netflix?
Does anything tip the scales from G to PG?
Angelina and Miguel don’t kiss until the very end of Christmas With You, but there is a scene where he’s teaching her how to make tamales that is … absolutely the closest we’ll ever get to hand stuff in one of these holiday movies. Eat your heart out “teaching someone to hold a pool stick” scenes! Ultimately there was more maize than expected in this movie’s sexiest scene, but we’ll take what we can get.
Did this movie make me cry?
Oh yeah. Pretty steadily from the moment that Miguel tells Cristina how proud he is of her—and how proud her mother would be, sob—just before she walks into her quinceañera, riiiight through Angelina, who ditched her Saturday Night Live Christmas Special performance (an entire plot line in this movie!) to make Cristina’s quinceañera and help her nail her baile sorpresa. It really is a very sweet movie, and the music is … listenable!
What is the meaning of Christmas, as stated by the film?
The meaning of Christmas is this Holiday Hot 100 list, with Miguel and Angelina’s song sitting at the top of it and absolute chaos and destruction below it.