Falling for Christmas Review: Lindsay Lohan is Back in Holiday Rom-Com

The audience that hits play on Netflix’s Falling for Christmas will do the most to topple over Lindsay Lohan’s highly anticipated comeback vehicle. Director Janeen Damian’s light-hearted feature film, about a spoiled hotel heiress who falls into a character-enhancing circumstance, doesn’t exactly serve up your average cup of holiday cheer and rom-com charm. There’s a lot more to it than that. His subversive spirit, feminine intelligence, and sweet sentimentality remix the formulaic and festive, making all things merry and bright.

Wealthy, spoiled heiress Sierra Belmont (Lohan) plans to spend a snowy Christmas at her father’s (Jack Wagner) exclusive ski resort with her narcissistic, social media-obsessed boyfriend Tad Fairchild (George Young). She expects to be offered a job as the estate’s vice president of atmosphere by her father to give her something to do instead of drowning her days idly in champagne, caviar and couture. But she’s unsure of the position because deep down she knows it’s not her job. She’s considering becoming an influencer like Tad, who pressures her into being another of his accomplices – leading her to say yes to a mountaintop proposal.

However, fate intervened in the form of a catastrophic fall, leaving Tad unconscious on one side of the mountain and Sierra concussed on the other. Luckily for her, widowed single father Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet) comes by and saves her. Sierra, suffering from severe amnesia without ID, is in a bind. Kind-hearted as he is, Jake volunteers to host this lost soul at his humble family inn alongside his mother-in-law Alejandra (Alejandra Flores) and precocious daughter Avy (Olivia Perez) until someone comes to claim Sierra raise. His business is suffering from competition and a dire need for repairs. His personal life also needs to be put in order as he is still mourning the loss of his wife. While her hotel magnate father and Tad search for her, Sierra is determined to be a blessing, not a nuisance, and ends up transforming the place in more ways than one.

Damian and screenwriters Jeff Bonnett and Ron Oliver (working from a story by Bonnett) have figured out how to deliver an unproblematic twist on “Overboard,” a staple of the genre whose premise amounts to blatantly gaslighting someone with a traumatic brain injury to stick. Even the 2018 remake had trouble untangling that. Because the subjects here don’t recognize themselves by their disastrous meet-cute, there’s never any devious shenanigans going on here. Though he offers some comic relief and brings delightful depth to Young’s shallow character, the material struggles to properly engage him, leaving audiences unsure whether to love, loathe, or love to loathe him.

Although the first act telegraphs too much about explanatory dialogue, the rest of the script weaves in subtleties that magically illuminate throughout. Sierra’s journey from selfish to selfless takes poignant turns. From the start she shows a certain level of humanity and confidence – if not quite, so we sense that her subsequent arc will be gentle yet meaningful. Her character’s inner and outer interests are well defined and motivated from within, and she doesn’t need much encouragement from the male protagonist to change. Jake experiences a complementary shift in that he is tasked with letting go of sadness and pride. Their shared trauma, connecting with the deceased matriarchs of their respective families, is sincere and moving, with an angel tree top symbolizing grief: once pushed into a dark drawer but inevitably brought to light.

Lohan brings a soulful sense of humor, vulnerability, and panache to her character, who could have been a drab in lesser hands. She’s hilarious when given the task of acting utterly unbearable, and shows off her comedic musculature when falling over a barcalounger or falling down a slippery flight of stairs. But it is also finely faceted when melancholic moments arise. She has great chemistry with Perez in scenes that unleash the material’s resonant tenderness and heartfelt sentiments. Overstreet delivers subtle, understated work that deftly taps into both the jokes and the touching aspects.

Clever homages to Lohan’s oeuvre, referencing “Mean Girls” (where she sings “Jingle Bell Rock”) and “Just My Luck” (where her attempt at doing laundry leads to washing machine bliss) are used sparingly, so it’s her new, snappy and vibrant work that stands out. It’s a promising step for a possible “Lohanaissance” — this is the first of two Lohan projects Netflix has greenlit — and it feels like the perfect seasonal gift, seeing how she has the skills and employs the wit she’s well known for while deftly crafting a character whose journey to a second chance at life really delivers the goods.

https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/falling-for-christmas-review-lindsay-lohan-netflix-1235428589/ Falling for Christmas Review: Lindsay Lohan is Back in Holiday Rom-Com

Charles Jones

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