I don’t post a lot of humor on my website, though I’ve dabbled, posting pieces like “Worst Descriptions of Classic Speculative Fiction Books.” Recently though, a writer’s group I belong to challenged each other to write Christmas satire pieces. Around that time, I accidentally volunteered to write an article about Christmas Movies on Netflix in 2022, and was feeling rather grinchy by the time I was finished. So, I worked out my frustration with this article, drawing more than a little inspiration from Roger Ebert’s book I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Enjoy.
I made a grave mistake in mid-November. I was at work, going through articles that needed to be written before Christmas season was upon us. Since Christmas content starts trending even before Thanksgiving, this means making sure everything is ready before December even rolls around.
As I was working through old content, I saw several articles on Christmas Netflix movies or new Christmas movies, but nothing that had been written in the last 2 years. So I hit up Google Chat and contacted a coworker.
ME: I’m republishing some Christmas content. Is anyone working on a “new Christmas movies for 2022” or “Netflix Christmas movies this year” article?
COWORKER: I actually just pitched that to someone, so I’ll see if she wants to write it or not. You could do Netflix-specific. I’ll let you know when I hear back from her too.
Well I couldn’t back-pedal. I asked if I should start the Netflix movie now or wait until she’d heard back from the freelancer. She told me to go ahead.
I am well aware the good book says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I wasn’t sure I wanted to test the verse in this way.
I opened up my laptop. I wrote “a good deed never goes unpunished” fifty times. Then I started looking for Christmas films I could stand.
I was able to survive, largely by making half my list Christmas cartoons like Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas. I did find one film that was difficult to get through. Here are my grinchy thoughts on it.
A Castle for Christmas (starring Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes)
Sophie Brown is a romance novelist in trouble because she killed off a main character. So, she heads for the hills. Hang on a minute. This is Misery. As written by Danielle Steele.
Anyway, Sophie heads for the hills of Scotland, the castle where her grandfather worked before immigrating to America. I was under the impression one of the highlights of the United Kingdom is once you get out into the rural areas, most people don’t care about your celebrity status or are too private to bring it up. Sophie gets recognized the minute she checks into her hotel. Fortunately, although the villagers are sort of Americanized Scots, they are all kind and cute in the Hallmark tradition. There is one token gay villager, a 65ish man who doesn’t speak until two-thirds of into the film. I was a little relieved when he finally spoke. I was worried the implication was not-so-nice villagers had his vocal cords removed in a different time.
Having arrived in this rather Americanized Scotland, Sophie gets a tour of the castle where she meets its grumpy laird, Myles Duke of Dunbar, played by Cary Elwes. Film critic Mark Kermode has joked that you can always tell a movie based on a Nick Sparks book based on whether the guy 1) has a dog and 2) is seen sanding a boat down. Myles has the dog, but it’s too cold in Scotland to be out shirtless sanding a boat. So we get him doing gardener work instead.
Elwes’ accent is Scottish in a way that I suspect seems too American to UK viewers, much like the setting. There is enough phone service for FaceTime (in the castle where the upper floors “have no phone service”). There’s a branded taxi (this in a country where many small towns don’t even have public bus service).
Sophie discovers the grumpy gardener is also the laird, and that the castle is up for sale. Sophie decides she’s not just going to get away from it all. She’s going to buy the castle. After all, no husband anymore (remember, the messy divorce?) and her daughter is in college now.
Myles is too hard up to reject her offer, but thinks he can get her to agree to an exorbitant deposit and get rid of her after Christmas. The rest of the story is devoted to Sophie learning about the castle, neither her nor Myles admitting that they are starting to like each other.
Speaking of shirtless men, we do get a scene where Sophie walks in on Myles taking a bath. There’s a wooden breakfast tray across his (ahem) neeps and tatties. Since he’s sitting down in a bathtub and there’s a wooden board, we don’t get a shot of his pectorals either. Perhaps Elwes is too over-the-hill for the Hallmark treatment. Then again, there’s a scene where Sophie FaceTimes with her daughter, Myles walks in and the daughter says, “that’s him? Woah….” So, apparently we’re supposed to think he’s too noble or old to be sexualized, but it’s fine for a twentyish student to be into him. Everyone clear on the policy?
Eventually we have the teary kissing scene, followed by the angsty “what do we really know about each other?” breakup scene. After the breakup scene, Sophie tells the villagers that she’s going to pay off their mortgages herself. This removes the movie’s big plot dilemma (the laird owns the village, if he can’t sell the castle then the village is in trouble…). This proves that whether or not Danielle Steele wrote this script, Sophie is clearly at her income level (or whatever level Steele would be without six divorces). How else can Sophie can afford, after years of living in New York, and one year after a “messy divorce”… to buy a Scottish castle, pay an exorbitant non-refundable down payment, or offer to pay off all the townspeople’s mortgages?
Fortunately, Myles realizes in time that he cares more about the girl than his pride. They dance at his big Christmas party, and Sophie stays. And writes a new book under her maiden name: The Heart of a Warrior. I could swear I’ve seen a book with that title on the John Eldredge shelf at my local Christian bookstore.
P.S. There is one interesting scene I assume belonged to a subplot left on the editing floor. We learn that the castle is being rented for a wedding. Later we learn that Sophie’s ex-husband is getting married over Christmas. Still later we see a flashy couple enter the pub to get a room with the wedding package. This is the last time we see them. I assume there are alternate scenes involving a big reveal where Sophie meets her ex in the pub, realizes he’s getting married at her castle, tries to get Myles not to host her ex’s wedding, and they have a fight that causes their falling out. Personally, I’d rather see that movie. More angst, but we could have had a more natural falling out and reconciliation. Cary Elwes could waffle about returning the wedding deposit, generating a more plausible fight, and then a reunion where Cary Elwes truly gives something up to get the girl back. (Insert scene of Myles throwing the ex-husband out of the castle. “Ye can’t have your wedding here, here’s your deposit back! Now, if ye’ll excuse me, I’ll be upstairs with the wife you left!”)
P.P.S. After further research, it appears this couple aren’t who I assumed. They are apparently a couple cameoing from another Netflix Christmas film (https://www.cautionspoilers.com/film-articles/re-caps-spoiler-warning/a-castle-for-christmas-ending-explained/). If true, this means we may have something truly dark on the horizon… a Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe.
Article copyright 2022 by Gabriel Connor Salter.
If you liked this, you may enjoy these humor and satire pieces I’ve created in the past:
More of my worst book blurbs (and some by other people)
4 thoughts on “A Christmas Movie Satire”
Thanks for this! I love the idea of a Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe!
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