The Christmas Card is a Hallmark original holiday film airing incessantly on both of Hallmark’s networks from now until the impending apocalypse in approximately eight weeks. It was widely popular upon its release in 2006 and remains so a decade later, but I can’t fathom why, because it is absolutely garbage in every possible way. If I could burn it to the ground I would risk my livelyhood and future to spare the world the pain of this piece of shit.
A piece of shit which resulted in an Emmy nomination for supporting actor Ed Asner. Incidentally, Asner is the only actor who doesn’t appear to be running lines like a cardboard cut out sent by a beleaguered agent, but that’s not enough for a nomination, right? The board couldn’t fill a third slot with anyone from Bury My Heart At Standing Knee (neither Aidan Quinn or August Schellenberg won that year)? If you could stream the 2006 miniseries I’d link that here and end this review, because you’d at least get something out of that, and all I get from The Christmas Card is white hot rage.
The Christmas Card tells the story of a depressed vet who is given a leave (and then, without an explanation, an early discharge) and visits Nevada City, Nevada to give his condolences to the girlfriend of a peer who died while delivering supplies in Afghanistan. We see the woman once and then that’s it for that flimsy premise, because really, it’s the urging of his heart that Sergeant Cody rides his motorcycle to Nevada, because the dead guy’s small hometown church sends soldiers Christmas cards, and Cody has received a lousy ass card, but it causes him to fall in love with the ugliest town the West has ever seen.
The card, which we see during the opening credits, is made from a piece of colored construction paper folded in half and has a photograph of the town church glued to the front. Remember the glue sticks you used in third grade? They stuck to your fingertips but not much else? That’s what Faith is using, and you can see the photograph peeling away. Cody carries the ragged card for most of the movie, and I guess we should believe it’s because he kept it close to his heart, and it survived the battleground, but it’s just a flimsy, hastily made card. As for the note, Faith’s voiceover includes personal facts that don’t illuminate much about her (except a narcissism that strangers across the world want to know about her personal life?) and an empty half-hearted promise to come visit her church if you’re ever out west!
Well, Cody gets on like gangbusters with everyone in town. Faith’s old ass father especially: “They don’t make ’em any better than him.” The film drags on through Nevada City, the country’s greyest, grimmest town, where the family owns a mill (and Faith acts like her accounting helps them make ends meet, as if loggers aren’t rich as fuck, which they are). Cody loves going to church, her practically moves in with the family, and then after some unspoken friction between Faith and Cody, Asner’s character conspires to get the two together, if only so Asner can have Cody as a prize son-in-law.
As for conflict, of which there is very little, Faith’s current boyfriend is anti-family (he wants to bring her with him on work trips, and Faith loves her parents so much she still lives at home, even though she looks like she’s 40) and anti-Support the Troops, which is why he would question a mysterious man who has suddenly ingratiated himself with the entire town, over night, for no reason at all.
In Paul’s defense, Cody’s efforts to show looks of longing and unrequited love are staring at Faith like he’s planning how to build a cage in the basement and trap her like an animal. He’s the killer My Favorite Murder and every Saturday night LMN film warned us about.
I assume Paul finds a town where the sun shines when he finally hits the bricks, because Nevada City has never looked so crummy as it does in this movie. Even Laura Palmer would say this town is too grim for her corpse to wash ashore. This wouldn’t be relevant, except the natural beauty is how Cody followed his heart and a handmade card West in the first place, and the lake where Faith’s parents pledged their love, and where Cody and Faith twice pledge love to each other, is in town. It’s the sort of vista I avoid, lest a man in a busy leap forward with his cached kill kit and drop my body into the water with a couple of anchors. I plan to die in my late ’90s in my impeccable apartment overlooking Prospect Park, and not a wing in my parents Colorado home, and that’s why Hallmark will never pledge its holiday script to me.
Finally, there’s an odd thread through the whole film, wherein Cody is connected to Faith’s father through shared military service. Ed Asner could have served in the beginning of the war, but he’s just so old, and Faith seems to young to be her daughter, and Cody’s timeline, that his father died during the Vietnam War, and his mother of a broken heart (…18 years later, in the early ’90s), feels improbable too. Hallmark’s end game was to remind everyone to Support the Troops, but tying a yellow ribbon on this movie is a half assed feat at best, and the story sucks. Hallmark aired the film for Jennifer Parsley, a young woman who sent thousands of cards to the troops and then met (and fell in love, we assume!) with one. That is the kind of movie Hallmark should have made, instead of this ham-fisted attempt at patriotism.
The Christmas Card is streaming on Netflix, but why bother?