A classic comedy of mistaken identity and romance set during the holiday season at a ski resort that is owned and operated by a Native American Nation. Shot on location at The Sundance ... See full summary »
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A classic comedy of mistaken identity and romance set during the holiday season at a ski resort that is owned and operated by a Native American Nation. Shot on location at The Sundance Resort in Utah, this is the first contemporary romantic comedy to feature an almost entirely American Indian cast. The film was featured at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Written by
"Christmas in the Clouds" is a charming romantic, Native American take on "Fawlty Towers".
Set at a Utah resort that's Indian tribal owned and operated (as was the production of the film), with a majority Indian cast, the plot entanglements and eventual resolution in debut writer/director Kate Montgomery's film are pretty obvious from the first ten minutes, but how the colorful characters get there is fun.
The opening voice over narration is a bit awkward in setting up the situation for the mistaken identities, but the introduction of each eccentric character is quite entertaining. While the plot contrivance in romantic travails probably goes back further than Shakespeare, the dialog that keeps the mistakes going in double entendres is amusing (including her as a NY Mohawk "passing" as NY Italian by using her father's last name).
Amidst the funny running joke about romance novels' depiction of a "savage" lover, Timothy Vahle as "Ray Clouds on Fire" and Mariana Tosca as "Tina Little Hawk" are staggeringly gorgeous, but they each bring a wariness and neediness to their characters that has you rooting for them more than for the vicarious thrill of watching beautiful people kiss on screen. We rarely see in films educated off-the-rez professionals like them back home, having returned to their families for emotional personal reasons (it's inferred that his ex was non-Indian). The parent/child relationships throughout are much warmer than any we've seen before in the few Indian films.
There are jokes throughout on Indian stereotypes in image and language, and that's the term the characters use, not Native American. Here the alcoholic, alienated father is the white guy, M. Emmet Walsh, who is both comic and touching. But none of the whites are played for stereotypes (including a cute flirtation between a British guest and "Ray"s father, played by a solid Sam Vlahos). In another reverse, this may be Wes Studi's only comic performance, in a cameo as a guest bingo caller. Singer Rita Coolidge of the distinctive husky voice also has a brief cameo as "Tina"s mother. Graham Greene is very funny as a vegetarian chef with serious issues about his menu.
There is some contemporary Native American music on the soundtrack and lovely performances of translated Chrismas carols.
The tiny budget is obvious with some continuity errors and background shots with inconsistent snow/no snow, but the Utah scenery is lovely, and this is much more about the people up front than the details in the background.
What a shame that I was the only one in the theater in NYC, when a broad stereotyped ethnic romantic comedy like "Big Fat Greek Wedding" was a hit. While I would enjoy following these characters in a continued life in a sit com, this sweet little film could have an extended life as a holiday staple on cable, like on the Hallmark Channel.
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