So This Is Christmas (2013)
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The rough storyline was quite predictable, but could still have made for enjoyable viewing. Some things are a question of taste, of course. I have liked quite a few films with strong moral messages in the past, but the Christian message in this film really was very in-your- face. I wonder if there wouldn't have been a more subtle way to get the message across, that may have had a much stronger effect. Granted, it is a holiday film, but still...
On the slightly more formal side of things, I quite liked the lighting in some of the scenes, but can't say the same for the cinematography or editing.Overall okay-ish, with a number of "oh- what-a-weird-shot...Why would-they-do-this?" moments scattered throughout. All in all, a real shame. I appreciate the work that must've been put into it and there were some good elements, but for me they just didn't come together at all. This could have been a much better film.
Kids are exposed to so much these days regardless of how parents may try to protect them or whether everyone gets a trophy. They have so much access to information of all sorts and are exposed to problems most of us weren't in our youths. They may not know what to do with all the information, misinformation and feelings about information. Some of them learn the hard way that NOBODY'S life is "perfect." This film gives everyone a problem. It's an excellent vehicle for helping your kids explore not only the problems featured in this story, but also helps parents or other adults set the stage for open discussion on life's touchy subjects.
May be a little R-rated for the wee ones. Still, if you've ever wondered how to bring up subjects surrounding the idea of losing to win, this well-acted, well-directed and well-filmed movie is an excellent starting point. Bravo to the cast and crew!
For Ainsworth, my standards were much higher than for the film. Any holiday film is going to be restricted by the parameters of the genre. For the actress, however, I was looking for signs of whether or not she could carry a film, and if she could score points for more than just avoiding the garden-variety acting mistakes which were absent in her performances on General Hospital, like in the scenes where she flourished, either by staring down an intimidating Bruce Weitz without saying a word, or by humbling soap vet Maurice Benard at the tender age of sixteen. Where other actresses would have cried, screamed, yelled, and moved their extremities like traffic cops, Ainsworth's instinctive understanding of when to let the scene do the talking strongly suggested she could handle this step up in class like a champion. My bigger question was whether director Richard Foster, and the writers, could handle her. On whole, I would say she gave the better accounting of herself.
This is a good, but not a great film. It is worth the purchase price, and will definitely be worth the time spent watching should it land on cable or Netflix, if only for Ainsworth's performance alone. In the film, eighteen year-old Ashley Lane (Ainsworth) is put in the position of media-res narrator, which allows her to showcase her talents. Within minutes, we are shown where the film winds up, leaving the question not what will happen, but why, who will be involved, and how. Casino was the textbook film on how to pull this off, and this film does so adequately. Fans who were wondering if Eric Roberts and Vivica A. Fox could sing will get their answer.
The film's saving grace, if one pardons the pun, is the director's astute use of third-billed Ainsworth, clearly the star of the film, with screen time to match. The lesser talents in the cast are relegated in direct proportion to their ability, except for Roberts, who is seriously underutilized. Fox gives a good accounting as the mother, but the blended family is more of a gratuitous political statement, as if to say we've come so far against racism that no one bats an eye at a racially mixed family. The message is useful, but not really central to the film. What is central is Ashley's journey of self-discovery, played flawlessly by Ainsworth, to the point where, by the end of the film, it Is rather clear she has outstripped the writing, and does not just belong in the majors, but needs to be traded to a championship team, or to have one built around her.
The other actors in the film are competent, with Danielle Vega (Angelina) giving an exceptional performance in a limited supporting role. Her physical resemblance to Ainsworth is a bit confusing, so pay attention; absent Ainsworth, she could have played the lead more than adequately, and her scenes were among the best of the film. Glee's Titus Makin (Jason) shows competence, but not greatness, while Fox and Roberts are not given enough to do until near the end. Bryan Massey (Mac) plays the "white Magical Negro," who assist the lead in her journey of self-discovery, a job on which the writers fell down a peg or two. Justin Avery (Jon) plays the romantic fodder, but is otherwise superfluous and stereotypical. Ainsworth is left stranded by the writing, not because the film is poorly written, but because of her amazing talent. There is only so much one can do with a film like this.
Very early on in the film, Ainsworth mows down the "movie star" checklist: flawless body language and voice tone, the ability to slip into character convincingly, a rare level of attention to detail, exceptional range which exceeded the writing, and a sexuality which, while not the typical "bombshell" variety, would leave one hard-pressed to find a man who would reject her, and which, even while front-and-center, is never gratuitous or crude. Surround her with top-shelf talent, and she can and will go anywhere in film, or in series television; perhaps ABC will reconsider Ainsworth and Jennifer Beals's pilot "Westside" on which they foolishly passed.
For all its many good points, the film needed a stronger compass, particularly with regard to what makes Ashley tick, and why she transformed into a good girl without much resistance, but these are minor plot issues that detract very little from an excellent performance in a decent film, one which could have ruined my afternoon off, leaving me feeling like I wasted my $14.98, but which definitely did not. I highly recommend this film. My primary question was answered: Lexi Ainsworth is more than capable of carrying a film. I look forward to her future work.
Part of the evidence for that is that I approached the movie convinced it was a Christian movie but about 4/5ths of the way through, I found myself wondering if I had drawn the wrong conclusion that it was a "Christian movie" because of the repeated use of foul language (including the "F" word) and the somewhat risqué dressing of Lexi Ainsworth, while there had as yet been *no form* of gospel message presented. (Note the contrast between my claim and those who mocked it and judge for yourself.)
That reveals the less_than_honest denigration of the movie as being "preachy."
To viciously lambaste an entire movie because one hates Christianity so much one can't stand to hear a character humble himself for the hurt and harm he's done and cry to God for forgiveness is a bit over the top.
The acting is frankly better than most Christian movies, though, of course not on par with a $30,000,000 budget and the experienced professionalism that brings. Lexi Ainsworth's acting was excellent and her performance gave a quality to the film that it would not otherwise have had, though Cassidee Vandalia also did a very fine job.
It seems this movie is geared to the unchurched/non-Christian and labeling it a "family film" was an error. Many parents would not want their young children watching this film.
Unless you despise any mention of the Lord Jesus *at all*, I don't you'll find the movie offensive at all regarding its Christian agenda. It's not overdone, regardless of the claims of the rabid atheists.
In all of our lives, trouble seems to come when we least expect it or at our moment of greatest weakness. There is no good time to lose spouse or parent and the loss of a loved one can tear a family apart. God is a healer and He works in mysterious ways. Sometimes we need an affirmation that God is really working to help us out. What God does isn't always direct or obvious but his healing touch is profound never the less.
Christmas is the time we celebrate God taking action to heal a lost and broken world and "So This Is Christmas" illustrates how God is also concerned with our world,our private brokenness and how he works to heal us and those we love. If you are one of the many people who feel down at Christmas time, let this movie lighten your heart. If you need a lift, or just want to watch an enjoyable movie; So This Is Christmas is well worth your time this holiday season!
I did appreciate the message and all. And I appreciate a depiction of a modern day interracial family. Other than that, this movie was a complete waste.
Also, I think this movie should be rated. It is for a more mature awesome as there was some language and even some intense scenes. It is definitely not a movie for younger children.
Word to the wise when trying to create "A different kind of Christmas movie" advertise it as such and don't label it a family film. I'm sure a lot of people were mislead into thinking it was a family film.
It started off your typical Christmas movie but after the first five minutes took a cringe worthy. Lots of bad acting during those scenes where Ashley was parading around in short shorts drunk. Eric Roberts seemed lost an confused like he didn't know which movie he was filming at the moment. He gave the same amount of effort he gives for most of his low budget films which amounted to basically none. Vivica Fox's was playing a caricature. She was the wicked stepmother to Ashley's Cinderella. When Ashley stumbled into the house I thought for sure she was gonna smack her up the way she was lunging. Jason, black athlete addicted to coke in need of saving. I've never seen that one before.
This movie was too preachy, too violent, and there were too many plot points. As someone who lives in the city and hears about violence frequently the last thing I want to see when watching a movie expecting Christmas cheer is a bunch of violent stereotypes put together to be showy and make the movie seem deep.
I've noticed a lot of the positive reviews for this movie moan about the negative reviews being anti-Christian, personally I'm not for or against Christianity, you can worship whatever you like I couldn't care less, that's not the problem, the problem is its a very bad movie.
As for an actual review: This is one of those "family torn apart by tragedy and they come together thanks to the power of Christ" movies, except in this movie, the message doesn't work at all. One character, who's a drug user, gets his girlfriend pregnant, is in a gang, and uses the foul language that should keep this movie from a PG rating, just all of a sudden changes for the better after cursing out God after his girlfriend gets stabbed in the stomach. Really, his change comes pretty much out of nowhere.
The main character's change for the better is more gradual and makes a bit more sense - she's convinced to help with a church's nativity play, and that mostly combined with the friendly carpenter changes her from being a clubbing, drunken mess to a more put-together young lady.
But that's not enough to save this movie. The plot overall is slow, and there's somehow too many plot threads and yet not enough. The characters are almost entirely unlikable, and nobody ever calls out the step-mom for her obvious preference for her biological son and her blindness to his drug use and stealing her money and how absurdly critical she is of her step-daughter; at one point the step-daughter shows up in short shorts and a sparkly shirt, and the step-mother says "Did you get that at a thrift store?" with contempt. Which is absurd - she's more concerned that her step-daughter may have bought clothes secondhand than that her step-daughter is dressed like a hooker and keeps coming home drunk.
But then in the end we find out the step-mother is responsible for the death of her step-daughter's biological mother, but her new husband (the step-daughter biological father) is fine with that, and the drug-using son says "Hey God, please let my girlfriend live" and then there's a mediocre duet of "Mary Did You Know?" that then repeats during the credits immediately after the duet first ends.
There's plenty of other Christmas movies that have a "redeeming power of Christ" message that have much more solid plots and likable characters than this one.
The only part of the movie I liked was the idea of the movie, certain ideas, the love story, the children's play, I just wish they did a better job at filming the movie, the camera angles, the script, the acting, some scenes left out or some script parts left out or changed. I didn't like the boy and Angle's story line, it was really kind of stupid and dull. The drug use always frustrates me in movies because the people are just unbelievably stupid.