The holiday movie season is here, and Netflix hasn’t forgetten. The streaming service’s recent release “The Holiday Calendar” follows Abby Sutton (Kat Graham, “The Vampire Diaries”), an aspiring photographer whose grandfather (Ron Cephas Jones, “This is Us”) gives her an advent calendar that, instead of chocolate, seems to give clues to whatever will happen in Abby’s love life that day.
Magical intervention, indirect or direct, is typical of any holiday movie and “The Holiday Calendar” is no different. Abby’s calendar influences her decisions and is the source of her major revelations, both about her life and her relationships. While the movie relies heavily on the reveal of what’s behind each little door, “The Holiday Calendar” makes good use of upbeat Christmas music and montages to establish Abby’s newfound relationship and the decline of her older friendship.
The movie’s two eligible bachelors allow “The Holiday Calendar” to explore the tried-and-true problems that come when a main character is ignorant to the fact that their best friend is in love with them. The first half of the movie is spent flitting between shots of Abby enjoying herself with her childhood friend Josh (Quincy Brown, “Street”) and being swept off her feet by the too-perfect doctor Ty (Ethan Peck, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). Other than the inner turmoil of forcing the audience to choose between two great guys, there isn’t a lot to “The Holiday Calendar.” But this lack of depth is the reason why people gravitate towards holiday movies in a time when family drama is high, and temperatures are low.
Double the love interests, though, means double the drama, and when Abby’s relationship with Ty gets in the way of her friendship with Josh, she’s forced to evaluate her life. The movie comes to a climax when Abby loses her job, her best friend and her new relationship all in the span of two days. The predictable nature of the way the movie ends, with Abby holing up in her room and ending up with her best friend, feels like leaving the Macy’s gift-wrapping station with everything neatly tied up.
One of the shining characteristics of this movie, though, is the cast. Typically, holiday movies follow a predominantly white cast with the occasional person of color thrown in to achieve “diversity” and please a network representative. But “The Holiday Calendar,” instead, has a mixed-race main character with a focus on her relationship with her African-American grandfather. Her best friend, and one of the key love interests, is also African-American, along with the comedic relief in the form of a Latinx third wheel in their relationship. The film even goes so far as to include a Latinx mayor — talk about diversity and gender equality.
Though the plot, the acting and the cast were leagues better than any of the Hallmark movies, “The Holiday Calendar” was still lacking in that one, unknown quantity that makes a movie a holiday classic, like “Love Actually” or “Home Alone.” Instead, it’s the kind of movie watched while baking holiday cookies, wrapping presents or decorating the tree.