On the first day of The Second Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, it’s the perfect time for me to publish my second review that I mentioned in my post of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Because Hallmark has chosen to premiere their Christmas movies in late October, I thought that reviewing One Christmas would be very fitting. Before this blogathon, I had seen parts of this movie but never the whole thing. Choosing this film for the review gives me a second chance to see it in its entirety. While looking through Katharine’s IMDB filmography, it seems like One Christmas is the only Christmas movie that she starred in. Even though Little Women features the characters during Christmas-time, the story itself isn’t revolved around the Christmas holiday. One Christmas was released in 1994 and created by Hallmark Entertainment, yet it was not a Hallmark Hall of Fame production and Hallmark Channel had not existed at that time. I watch and review Christmas movies from both of Hallmark’s networks, so I was curious to see how Katherine’s movie compared to the kinds of films that Hallmark creates today.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: In One Christmas, the acting was pretty good. Henry Winkler’s role in this film was very different from his other roles I’ve seen. But he did a very good job at portraying Buddy’s father! Seeing Henry go out of his comfort zone and take on a role that is more villainous shows how versatile of an actor he really is. It also made me appreciate his acting talents even more. Speaking of Buddy, T.J. Lowther also did a good job with his acting performance! Through his portrayal of Buddy, he was able to affectively convey skepticism paired with a child-like sense of wonder. T.J. helped create a character that was naïve yet kind-hearted. Because of this, it made the audience want to see his story unfold.
Christmas in New Orleans: In Christmas movies, New Orleans rarely makes an appearance. These types of movies stick to featuring locations that will present a “traditional” Christmas landscape. Choosing to have One Christmas take place in New Orleans was an interesting idea. While the Christmas aspect of this story was briefly shown, it was great to see garland, Christmas trees, and string lights in and around the buildings in this Louisiana city. It also shows that everyone doesn’t experience the type of Christmas that these movies typically try to display. As I said in my review of Christmas Camp, everyone has their own unique and special way to celebrate this holiday. Locations such as New Orleans play a role in someone’s personal idea of Christmas.
Historical accuracy: The story of One Christmas takes place in 1930. This time-period with the backdrop of New Orleans offered an interesting picture that looked and felt authentic. Things like costuming, buildings, and even the automobiles appeared accurate to that particular period in time. There was an airplane featured in this movie that also looked like it came directly from the late ‘20s to early ‘30s. As I’ve said on several occasions, this film’s historical accuracy shows that the movie’s creative team cared about this specific aspect, especially through the amount of detail that was incorporated. It could be something as simple as a business sign on a nearby barn or a piece of jewelry. These things are proof that nothing was left unnoticed when it came to bringing 1930 back to life. The music that was found in this film also reflected sounds and the atmosphere that specifically come from New Orleans as well as the early ‘30s. It effectively fit the overall tone of the movie.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Limited presence of Katharine Hepburn: Katharine Hepburn is one of the reasons why I chose to watch this movie. In fact, she is the top billed actor in One Christmas. However, she only appeared in about five scenes. I understand that this was one of her last films, so she probably could only devote so much time and energy to acting. But to give Katharine the top bill on this movie, yet only allow her to make brief appearances kind of does a disservice to her talents. It also does a disservice to her fans as well as the overall project. When a film’s creative team chooses an actor to be the top billed performer, they make a promise to their audience that this particular actor will be prominently featured in the movie. But in Katharine’s situation, it almost seems that the creative team made a promise they knew they couldn’t keep.
Christmas making a minor appearance: Like I just said, I liked seeing Christmas being showcased in New Orleans. But, in the movie as a whole, this holiday played such a small role. I was hoping to see Christmas traditions and celebrations that are specific to that location, wondering how the project would bring something new to the table of Christmas films. Sadly, Christmas just felt like a glorified extra, with decorations used for background aesthetic and the holiday itself an afterthought. When Christmas Day does arrive, it feels anti-climactic. Because of how little emphasis Christmas was given, it made me question why this story had to take place during this time of year.
A weak conflict: Every Christmas movie contains a conflict that can be resolved within the Christmas season. In One Christmas, however, the main conflict was so complicated and lasted for a long period of time, it seemed like a solution was nowhere in sight. Because this conflict took up the primary focus of the plot, it caused the story to have very few moments of happiness and joy. When the conflict did reach a resolution, it didn’t feel earned or like the story was working up to that moment. Anything happy that ended up happening seemed like it was there just because it had to be there.
My overall impression:
I’m glad that I was given a second chance to watch One Christmas. However, I found this movie to be ok, at best. At worst, though, it was one of the most depressing Christmas movies I’ve ever seen. It put too much emphasis on a conflict that, realistically, would never get resolved in a month’s time. Another major flaw is how Christmas itself is barely featured in a movie that takes place during Christmas-time. For me, Christmas movies are about stories that rely on the holiday to compliment the narrative. They also try to make me feel good about what I had chosen to watch, either through the story or the messages/themes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that feeling while watching One Christmas. The film’s attempt to make me feel good about the project didn’t work either. While I liked it more than It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, I was expecting more from One Christmas.
Overall score: 6.2 out of 10
Have you seen any of Katharine Hepburn’s movies? Are there any Christmas films you’d like to see me review? Please tell me in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!