Christmas is four weeks away, and its rampant commercialization has already become a daily presence. Nothing new. All is normal.
I too am caught up in the hyper- activity, but in a slightly unusual way. I love Christmas movies, the cheesier and schmaltzier the better. Of course, they are formulaic and predictable. I don’t care. I suspend my critical nature.
Escapism is a powerful force. I yield to it happily and comfortably. All the holiday films have happy endings. Love triumphs. Villainy vanishes. The world momentarily seems at peace—or at least a cinematic, fantasy-like tranquility.
Just recently, I watched “Christmas Inheritance,” “Christmas Train” and “Christmas in Vermont.” The first was a Netflix flick, the other two were Hallmark productions. The acting and plot were more substantive in the latter.
Each movie features a romance that begins fraught with dislike and ends filled with commitment. Typically, a high-pressure woman with a successful career in a city (usually New York) visits a small, quaint town infused with the Christmas spirit. She cares only about achieving her business mission. Christmas is an abstraction. She then runs into a local guy, who is earnest and sincere. Discounted at first by the hard-charging woman, the man gradually wins over the woman. The heavily decorated town, comprising down-to-earth people, also plays a starring role in the movie.
“Christmas Train,” starring Danny Glover, Dermot Mulroney and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, takes a different, clever tack with an unexpected conclusion. The actors are first-rate. Mulroney is particularly effective as a prize-winning, unhappy former journalist who now writes fluff pieces. Unknown to others on the comfortable, cross-country train, Glover, a cagey movie producer, has manipulated relationships according to a secret script he wrote. He successfully engineers the resurrection of a troubled love affair.
Some people read romance novels to rest their minds. As a person addicted to mind-expanding non-fiction, I substitute the annual passage of movies focused on hope, love and faith in your neighbors. These ideals, while commendable and sometimes achievable, seem archaic, divorced from reality. Still, I watch. Eagerly so.
Readers may wonder why I use escapism as my excuse for watching feel-good Christmas movies. I become completely absorbed, ignoring for a few hours my prostate cancer radiation treatments and the messy condition of our apartment due to a fire six weeks ago in a neighbor’s unit.
For a moment, I take a welcome break from worrying about inflation, increasing number of hate crimes and senseless shootings, war in Ukraine, global warming, attacks on democracy, hunger and deprivation and political divisiveness. I briefly refrain from worrying about friends and family who are experiencing difficult health problems. Covid is still propagating illness and anxiety. Older friends are coping with heart and orthopedic ailments.
As a joyous once-a-year holiday, surrounded by good cheer and glitter, Christmas does offer a dollop of magic. It does provide a backdrop for charitable, non-confrontational behavior. It seems to bring out the best, albeit momentarily, of all of us; that might be a miracle. It is a compulsory respite.
Cynicism takes a rest, shuffled aside for a time, clearing the air for constructive dialogue and laughter.
My daily film binging continues. I will not tire. I will not become dismissive of the predictable scripts, the lovely small towns and the hard-charging women who thrust aside their hard surfaces and choose love with a local guy. While shallow and vacuous to many discerning viewers, these mushy movies do blissful wonders for my soul.
Please join me. Avoid being too judgmental about skimpy content. Give your mental well-being a break.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.