' ' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Mulled Wine: Navigating Christmas

Friday, December 01, 2023

Friday's Mulled Wine: Navigating Christmas

Not long after reading Dorothy Wickendon’s October New Yorker profile of The Last Lighthouse Keeper in America, Sally Snowman, keeper of Boston Light, a lighthouse on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor, I sat down to watch my first Hallmark Christmas movie of the season. That movie turned out to be “Navigating Christmas,” in which divorced, hard-charging something-or-other Melanie (Chelsea Hobbs) books a Christmas excursion to a lighthouse on mystical St. Nicholas Island for her and her bratty teenage son Jason (Everett Andres) when the bratty teenage son’s dad bails on Christmas. Though Wickendon’s profile touches on archetypes and episodes that would not have been out of place in Robert Eggers’s “The Lighthouse,” Snowman isn’t out of her gourd, even if she was excited to batten down the hatches and stay put when a massive blizzard blew through. But the profile makes clear that maintaining a lighthouse isn’t for everyone, that the work is taxing, mentally and physically, and isolating. And though no one goes into a Hallmark Christmas movie, not even myself, snot-nosed critic, expecting veracity, I don’t know, that “Doll & Em” episode where they hole up in a lighthouse on a writing retreat seemed truer to the experience than “Navigating Christmas.” 

Apart from a foghorn joke that weirdly doesn’t become recurring, life in this lighthouse mostly just consists of putting up Christmas decorations, as ordered by the ostensibly jaded current lighthouse keeper in a performance by Stephen Huszar that seems more in the vein of slightly standoffish than jaded. (It isn’t fair, it really isn’t, which is why this is in parentheses, but just as Ryan Gosling should have played the male lead in another subpar seasonal Hallmark offering “Holiday Hotline,” so should Chris Evans have played this part.) Indeed, everything that transpires here is like every other Hallmark Christmas movie with the climactically illuminated lighthouse functioning as the climactically illuminated Christmas tree. In fact, that thinking outside the box is why I give “Navigating Christmas” one thumb up in addition to one thumb down. Opportunity was squandered overall, but you’re also required to paint within rigid lines, and so any flourish is appreciated. Plus, Andres’s performance as Jason really worked for me, not just mildly unlikable but truly spoiled, and when his character idiotically pilots a boat into the middle of nowhere at the end to churn the plot toward its conclusion, I kind of couldn’t believe how much I believed it. Kid needs therapy. And what is Santa if not the ultimate retail therapist?

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