Every holiday season, a new wave of sappy, romantic comedies floods television and movie theater screens. For many, the familiar motifs of mittens, snowflakes and glowing fireplaces have become overdone. Nowadays, it’s become difficult to make a holiday film stand out on its own. However, Netflix’s latest holiday film, “Let It Snow,” makes a compelling case for itself as the latest feel-good, holiday movie staple.
The plot and characters of the movie are loosely based on the 2008 novel “Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, with some slight adjustments to the plot. Despite the inclusion of endearing, cheesy Christmas kitsch that we all love, this ensemble-based film is a charming change of pace in the way it handles modern teenage angst and familiar storytelling and holiday tropes.
“Let It Snow” takes place in the small town of Laurel, Illinois, and centers around a group of typical high school students. When a snowstorm hits Laurel on Christmas Eve, the teens and their individual troubles are forced together at a culminating Christmas Eve party at the Waffle Town restaurant, more commonly known by the teens as the Awful Town.
The ensemble cast features many newer faces alongside more established names, like Joan Cusack and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” star Kiernan Shipka. While ensemble casts run the risk of presenting a weak link, “Let It Snow” offers a stock of new young talent.
The film takes on a structure similar to that of the 2003 holiday hit “Love Actually” with several main plotlines all happening independently from one another. The teens’ individual conflicts hit on a variety of topics, ranging from navigating a tucked-away lesbian romance, to a runaway celebrity avoiding the limelight, to just trying to throw an awesome Christmas party.
Why did no one tell me that Let It Snow on Netflix is basically just a wholesome Love, Actually but with more POC, no gross sexist stuff, two whole queers, and Joan Cusack driving a tow-truck while wearing literal tinfoil???
Because I am very into it.
— Kayla Whaley (@PunkinOnWheels) November 12, 2019
The entire film is framed by Keon’s desire to host an awesome, alcohol-fueled holiday party on Christmas Eve and the persistent presence of the snowstorm. While the motif of snow is a not so subtle kind of background noise throughout the movie, it does allow for some continuity and connectivity between the, at times, disparate character stories.
While Julie and pop star Stuart Bale are having a wholesome night in with her family, Addie is riding around Laurel in the Tin Foil Lady’s (she is never given an actual name) rusty truck. The film is eventually tied up in a nice bow with everyone eventually finding their way to Keon’s party at the Waffle Town. Everyone gets what they want, and they all live happily ever after.
The charm of “Let It Snow” can largely be traced to its twists on conventional storytelling tropes. Holiday movies in particular tend to be guilty of relying too much on the “meet cute,” love triangles or hatred for the small-town setting. While “Let It Snow” still features some semblance of these themes, they do not dominate entire characters or story arcs. For example, almost immediately, a love triangle is established between JP, Tobin and Angie, also known as Duke.
Tobin and Duke have been best friends since childhood, but JP is the taller, more athletic college guy who’s home for the holidays. You might be thinking that, yeah, we’ve seen this before; but the saving grace of this cliché is that after Duke finally accepts her true feelings for Tobin, he asks if they can still hang out with JP.
Even though JP would conventionally be seen as the villain, the bully or the pea-brained jock, the writers make him respectful and a good friend to both Duke and Tobin. It is nice to see characters who are competing to not become vindictive toward one another. In a way, it further speaks to the holiday spirit.
On the flip side, these cheesy plot points are not entirely endearing. Without giving away too much, Julie’s storyline with the lost celebrity Stuart Bale is probably the most painful out of the bunch. Maybe it’s due to the sheer improbability of the scenario that you run away from a broken-down train with a major celebrity, but maybe it’s also because we’ve seen this star-meets-normal-person narrative over and over again.
My problem is not with Julie — she is smart, loyal and cares so much about her mother’s declining health that she considers not going to Columbia University for her. My problem is that the writers made her and Stuart’s relationship so lackluster. It is so wholesome and so bland that their scenes were by far the ones I looked forward to least.
“Let It Snow” is fairly self-aware and I don’t think they were aiming for an Academy Award during its production, but if tired relationship archetypes are going to be recycled, at least make them interesting.
— ⒷⒺⒶ ▪🤩 A Mᴏᴍᴇɴᴛ ᴏꜰ Bᴇᴀᴜᴛy 🤩 (@Rookie__99) November 8, 2019
Not only does “Let It Snow” try to flip clichés on their heads, but it also does that through its soundtrack. Most holiday films feature the same 10 predictable Christmas carols consisting of decking the halls, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Frosty the talking snowman.
In contrast, “Let It Snow” presents a broad range of music on its soundtrack, from bedroom pop bops like “Around the Block” by Julia Shapiro to 1960s Christmas classics like “Mr. Santa Claus (Bring Me Back My Baby).” Again, in this way, “Let It Snow” tries to expand the cheesy established boundaries of festive films and also appeals to a broader audience.
Overall, “Let It Snow” is admirable because it’s not trying to be something that it is not. It is not trying to aim for the iconic status of Christmas classics like “A Christmas Story” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Its goal is to be a feel-good holiday movie with characters who reflect modern teenage conflicts while still indulging in the frosted-sugar cookie sappiness that we all enjoy.
The clichés are rampant and the small-town atmosphere is a tiresome setting for a holiday movie at this point, but the film serves its purpose well. So, sit down in front of the fire, grab a cup of hot cocoa and line up your Netflix account and give this romantic comedy a shot.