The trick for any critic reviewing Netflix’s Falling for Christmas is how to talk about Lindsay Lohan’s new movie without falling into the apparent traps. It’d be easy and dangerous to go down the slope of trashing a performance because of an actress’ personal life (or worse, appearance) and moaning about the end of cinema. We hit many moguls while coursing this 93-minute runtime, but none are Lohan.
It’s we who have refused to let her grow up. From the moment the film begins, we’re in a distant-familiar territory with Lohan acting the brat. Her character Sierra is a hotel heiress who huffs and stomps her way through life. And though Sierra would like to so bravely shun nepotism forever and strike out on her own, Daddy (Jack Wagner) doesn’t think it’s such a good idea. Undeterred, off Sierra goes on a winter retreat with her influencer fiancé Tad (George Young).
On the other side of her holiday destination rests The North Star Lodge. Its owner Jake (Glee graduate Chord Overstreet) is as busy as he is blonde. His folksy retreat is close to shuttering. His daughter (Olivia Perez) is growing up without a mother. And his mother-in-law (Alejandra Flores), is concerned that he hasn’t gotten laid in a while. But The North Star Lodge is a magical place.
When wishes and bad weather bring Sierra crashing down the mountains, she awakes in the lodge, unable to remember who she is. But in the oaken cozyland of Jake’s care, and through the spirit of charitable fundraising, Sierra might discover not just who she is but who she is meant to be.
As with most holiday romances, the plot of Falling for Christmas has its own bit of amnesia. Time has different priorities in this genre, which can make for a noticeable unevenness. We move from Sierra’s introduction to her accident, amnesia and recovery at a clip. If you’re looking for rich psychology and complex human relationships, the Netflix holiday film may not be for you. These characters, made more of charm and star power than believability, change their minds very quickly. In the case of Falling for Christmas, Sierra’s brain chemistry quite literally changes. Twice.
We can forgive these elements as part of the laughable pleasures of the genre. We know Mr. Side Part and Ms. Middle Part will fall in love. But there are a few weird things that Falling for Christmas forgets, which stick out like red flags, warning we’re close to going off course. The idea of a widower maintaining a caring relationship with his mother-in-law is sweet and tender, but the film forgets to let Alejandra be a person. Instead, she remains a maid, as cheery and unreal as the winking Santa who stalks about. It also forgets that bisexual people have feelings. Tad’s whole persona has a hyper-capitalist foppishness that suggests his “alternative” masculinity from the start. He’s flamboyant and vain, so when it’s his turn to have a quick change of heart, his male attraction seems more hedonist than human. Still, it’s clear Lohan made sure there was someone for the gays in her movie.
If there’s one thing Falling for Christmas won’t let you forget, it’s that Lohan is in the film. With slight winks and all-out nods to her previous films, including an extended sequence singing “Jingle Bell Rock” just as she did in Mean Girls, Falling for Christmas is obsessed with its leading lady. Janeen Damian’s camera whirls and glides around Lohan, thrilled to have her on board. And Emerson Alvarez’s glorious costumes, which are full post-Dynasty après-ski, never let us forget that La Lohan is a star.
She could have cemented her celestial turn if her best monologue wasn’t delivered to a fucking horse. Here at the stable door, we have emotionality and commitment with a mature sense of character. But nay: Lohan may be back in the saddle, yet a hackneyed script bridles her range. She still can play the consummate brat with a heart of gold, huffing and sarcastic one minute, blushing and giggly the next. But our former child star is nearing 40, and deserves material better suited to her age.
Yet, so much of Falling for Christmas feels like a business decision. It is a heavily Netflix-branded film, with the now commonplace “tudum” playing as our leading lady settles in to watch TV in bed and the script including self-owns about their loud autoplay function. More than that, the film gets distracted by bizarre moral disagreements between Daddy’s old way of business and Tad’s more contemporary, erratic, influencer approach. Did Netflix forget it highly favors the latter? Did Daddy forget his cronies created influencers?
But Daddy has dirty hands too. His luxury hotel with a rooftop infinity hot tub is pushing the Ma and Pa lodge out of business. In Falling for Christmas, memories and mortgages are at stake. Jake’s had to fight against social handouts to forget that the same social aid saves him. After taking a tumble down a jumbled script of conflict and motivations, the holiday spirit restores our financial and mental health.
Falling for Christmas feels less like a genuine chance to give Lohan a due shot at a re-return to acting as it does like some executive’s opportunity to capitalize on millennial nostalgia. This self-disinterest makes it incredibly hard to understand Lohan the actress, let alone Lindsay the person. And she is both! We have forgotten more about her than we remember. Hollywood needs to treat her as something other than a precious princess. Yet this film makes it quite plain that Hollywood sees Lohan as a decorative angel, one kept in a drawer until the time is right to place her imperfectly on top of the billing.
Director: Janeen Damian
Writer: Jeff Bonnett, Ron Oliver
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet, George Young, Jack Wagner, Olivia Perez
Release Date: November 10, 2022 (Netflix)
B.L. Panther is a culture writer, scholar and Pisces from Northern Illinois. B! writes for outlets such as Honey Literary Journal and The Spool, where they’re also the cohost of The Meh-thod Podcast discussing great actors in less-than-great films. A champion hermit, they enjoy reading, the indoors, afternoon naps and doing nothing at all.