In the run-up to Christmas, my eternally un-named friend has been endlessly watching ‘Christmas movies’.
Not the big-budget Hollywood ones.
The low-budget, no-star, never-meant-for-cinema ones.
The TV-fodder that ends up on seasonal ‘Christmas movie’ channels and only screens for a few weeks in the lead-up to Christmas.
She has been doing this for a few years.
I decided I had to have a talk with my eternally un-named friend about her worrying addiction…
JOHN: Why did you first decide on this downward path?
MEUNF: It was a few years ago when I started watching them – on Channel 5. It does rot your brain cells slowly, though.
JOHN: What’s the appeal if you don’t admire them?
MEUNF: I watch them for… well, no, sometimes it’s really, really irritating and you wish you handn’t bothered – like eating something you really didn’t want to eat.
JOHN: You were telling me there is a point in every Christmas movie where the woman wears red…
MEUNF: Or green. It’s usually a coat, but it’s often a jumper.
JOHN: So they don’t start off wearing red clothing but there comes a point in the movie when they start wearing a red dress or a coat or jumper?
MEUNF: A coat. It’s usually a coat. A red coat or a green coat. Because it’s a Christmas movie.
JOHN: So there’s an emotional change and it suddenly bursts into…
MEUNF: No, no. No emotional change. A woman goes to a town and she’s supposed to only be there for the afternoon and she is wearing a grey coat but – Oh dear! Something’s gone wrong! – They’re snowed-in sometimes or a train isn’t running. So she has to stay overnight.
Next thing you know, she’s in another colour coat the next day which is green. Then the next day it’s another colour coat which is red. So she has three coats with her when she had gone away expecting to stay for only one day.
JOHN: The first coat is always grey?
JOHN: These are American movies.
JOHN: This chat came about because we accidentally stumbled on three Christmas movies and you were able to tell me what would happen in the plot development of each movie.
MEUNF: Well, there was the one on a train this afternoon. That was a much more complicated story than usual. It actually had a plot.
JOHN: There was a plot twist at the end.
MUUNF: Yes. The whole thing had been set up by the director for his secretary.
JOHN: What age are the women in these movies?
MEUNF: In their twenties. Mostly twenty-something going on for thirty-odd.
JOHN: But the one we saw this afternoon, in the train, unusually…
MEUNF: …had an older man, yes.
JOHN: And he unusually had a relationship with an age-appropriate woman.
MEUNF: Sometimes someone has a child or they become a widow or widower and that’s fortunate for the next door neighbour who happens to come along and ‘help out’ at some point.
JOHN: Have you ever watched any of these Christmas TV movies that had a sad ending?
MEUNF: (PAUSE) No… Well… (THINKS) Erm erm… Erm… No.
JOHN: They’re all American. So they have to have happy endings. Does anything awful even happen in the middle? In a British movie, at least something appallingly awful would happen in the middle.
MEUNF: Oh! There was one that WAS a British version of a Christmas movie. It was set in Britain and was a bit ‘reality’, so you had different family set-ups. Someone had their stepson not come along and one of the children was going to be ‘sectioned’ – sent into a mental home. But it ended up very boring. It didn’t work. It tried too hard. it included all the aggros of Christmas.
JOHN: Isn’t that good? Because it showed real emotions?
MEUNF: There was something wrong about it, though. It was too… too… There WAS a moment where you thought Well, maybe this will be good…
…and then it wasn’t.
JOHN: Did it have any humour in? Because American Christmas movies made to fill TV slots don’t seem to have any real humour in them.
MEUNF: (LAUGHS) Well, it amuses ME when they’re cocking it all up and seem to have forgotten that someone was related to someone else. Either the editing has failed to pull it together or they’ve forgotten what the storyline was.
JOHN: Have you seen any of these movies that actually worked?
MEUNF: Well, there were a couple that were quite good – but, then, I have seen a lot! There were days when I’ve sat through two in a row. Over the last couple of weeks this year, I’ve seen at least fourteen.
JOHN: Only fourteen?
MEUNF: (LAUGHS) At least. I’ve been watching Dress to Impress in between…
MEUNF: Because they’re shorter! And funnier.
(The pitch for Dress to Impress is: “Three fashion savvy competitors take part in a shopping showdown to win a blind date with a style conscious singleton.”)
JOHN: What made the two ‘good’ Christmas movies you saw ‘good’?
MEUNF: You cared about the main characters. It does matter. If the guy is reasonable-looking and the girl is…
MEUNF: The trouble with actresses is that sometimes their personality is a wee bit errghh. You don’t warm to them and then you don’t care about what happens.
You want to like the main female character because you want to identify. When you don’t really like her, you sort-of think: Oh, poor guy!
JOHN: When you say you don’t really like an actress, you don’t mean you DISlike her, but she’s a bit bland?
MEUNF: No, you do slightly dislike her, actually, because her personality is a bit caustic, a bit harsh.
JOHN: This doesn’t sound like my idea of an American schmaltzy movie.
MEUNF: When you think: Oh they’re REALLY spoilt! Or They’re REALLY expecting drivel. And it IS drivel.
JOHN: And they all live in big houses…
MEUNF: Yeah and everything is just too, too much… But if you care about the female character because she’s got a pleasant persona… if she’s a trier, someone who makes an effort to do things rather than someone who’s just passive and expecting good things to happen…
But sometimes it’s actually the actual female actor who, you think, you wouldn’t really like in real life. You know what it’s like? I mean, you’re beginning to warm to Keanu Reeves…
JOHN: Erm… yes…
MEUNF: Can we stop talking for a bit so I can find something interesting on television?
JOHN: Tell me how you can watch bland films when…
MEUNF: …It’s when you’re doing something else and you don’t want to concentrate too much on what the storyline is.
After watching a few, you usually know what’s been going on when you’ve left the room. You don’t need to think about it. It’s just something going on that’s totally unimportant.
You don’t have to concentrate. It’s obvious what’s going on and you just know what’s going to happen – usually from the very beginning!
It’s like paint-by-numbers or one of those things where you just add water and the colours appear. Simple. No effort.
But if you go to a movie in the cinema and see some of the films you… the John Wick movies… You think: Who’s that? What happened there? Why did that happen?
JOHN: Now you are talking movie-movies, though.
Maybe the John Wick movies are like wild Christmas TV movies. Best not to think too deeply about the details. The plots are on another planet. No hint of any known reality. I just sit back, ignore the plot and let the visuals flow over me. It’s like bathing in ultra-violent ballet.
Well, on second thoughts, maybe they’re NOT like Christmas TV movies…