Why do the British hate Christmas so much?
Is it their anti-Catholic thing, the culture’s sturdy and vigorous undercurrent of atheism?
Or maybe the better question is WHEN did they start hating Christmas?
Is it because they’re sick of the whole hullaballoo, thanks to 150 years of “God bless us, every one!” Yes, Dickens all but “invented” the holiday. But for some time now, it’s been obvious that filmmakers from there have nothing new to add to the Christmas entertainment canon.
Rubbish pop tunes about the holiday and rubbish holiday movies, some of them (“Last Christmas”) based on rubbish holiday pop tunes.
James Dearden scripted “Fatal Attraction” in the last millenium, went on to make “A Kiss Before Dying” and pretty much disappear. When his latest big screen project came out in the UK, it was titled “Surviving Christmas with the Relatives.” Kind of on-the-nose and artless, as titles go. But accurate.
“Christmas Survival” it is called as it reels onto Netflix, and a bigger bollix job of a holiday comedy I cannot remember seeing.
As a genre, such films are churned out, mostly for The Hallmark Channel and Netflix these days, inisipid almost to a one — “Christmas Prince” this and that. But they’re often perfectly acceptable background (visual) noise for when you’re wrapping gifts, ordering online and prepping holiday meals and treats.
I mean, you can’t watch “A Christmas Story” but so many times. And not everybody has Amazon Prime where they can see the lone new “holiday” comedy that works this year, “Feast of the Seven Fishes.”
But the very least one can expect from such fare is that it won’t offend the family. Because who, other than families, is even interested in movies of this type?
Dearden’s lump of coal in the stocking has profanity, annoying in-laws, domestic strife times two families, groping, drunken infidelity, a pot addict who’s gone mental and has to be hospitalized, and every few minutes, a word nobody drawn to “The Hallmark Holiday” and its movies wants her or his children to hear.
“Bastards!” That’s just for starters.
Dan and Miranda (Julian Ovenden and Gemma Whelan) are a couple of who given up London life and careers and taken over Miranda’s family farm. They’re spending everything they have to convert it to a B&B/organic vegetable and goats milk business.
They’ve hired a cadre of Eastern European laborers for the work (on the cheap). The house is half-wrecked in restoration projects. And they’re having her whole family over for the holidays.
Lila (Joely Richardson) is her sister, a fading film star married to Hollywood agent Trent (Michael Landes). They bring their American kids, and a Chinese exchange student (Jade Ma), with them. And they’ve gone ahead and invited more family to show up.
There’s also the local “tradition” that their parents started of inviting the entire village over for Christmas Eve drinks.
The stove doesn’t work. The roof leaks. Miranda is so rushed and distracted she never takes off her night gown during the hectic day.
Dan? He’s put off shopping, coping with his stoner teen son from an earlier marriage (Jonas Moore) and killing “Gobbles,” the big turkey they were planning on serving for dinner, until the last minute.
Elaborate set-up, drawn-out Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to follow, thank you very much.
There are hollow debates about presents. Trent is Jewish, and they shower their kids with Channukah baubles. Dan and Miranda want theirs to believe in Santa just a smidge longer.
Cooking debacles, kids who want to “prank Aunt Peggy” (Patricia Hodge) and yell “Child abuse!” the moment they’re corrected, a newly-broken-up-with-her-boyfriend aunt (Ronni Ancona), the wheelchair bound uncle (James Fox) who is no help at mediating financial disputes, drunken workers who flee the scene of the restoration, the whole drunken groping between in-laws, the Amerian teen daughter (Sophie Simnett) wondering how boy crazy she can go…
Oh, and the family “football” game.
Did I leave out a cliche? Did they?
There’s not a laugh in the bloody thing, and “grating” — what’s left — is not what you want out of your holiday romp, even if it’s just background noise with a British accent for everything you and yours have going on over the holidays.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, drug and alcohol abuse, infidelity, profanity
Cast: Julian Ovenden, Gemma Whelan, Joely Richardson, Michael Landes, Patricia Hodge, Sophie Simnett and James Fox.
Credits: Written and directed by James Dearden. A Studio Soho/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:44