The Christmas Spirit, A Bootlegging Murder Mystery!

2015 was the year Lifetime made a spectacular break from the mold for a made-for-TV film about a woman who gives up her career (as per the law of the universe) to fall in love with a ghost! (A GHOST!)

The most shocking departure from the usual holiday schlock is that the film opens with the man’s murder. Thomas Beaudoin is Daniel, a bootlegger in the 1920s who runs rum from Montreal to Vermont to impress the pretty blonde Lily he and his brother are in love with. Daniel promises this poor woman he’ll be home for Christmas, but he’s whacked from behind (by his cousin, who would rather do it himself then let the mob do it, which, um, sure?) and dies in the snow. His super untimely death (Lilly’s pregnant!) comes with a curse: he’s fully corporeal for 12 days leading up to Christmas.

Yes, 12 freaking days. Sometimes I wonder if these holiday movies are written by people who hate Christmas. Do they love Thanksgiving? Labor Day? Arbor Day? Have at it, I could use quality content. (Or I could write it myself.) During that span the inn Daniel owned during his lifetime clears out for his arrival, and no one in town thinks it’s a bit odd that an inn would close December 12-24, during what must be a very popular time to visit snowy and picturesque Vermont. Daniel prefers this time moping about and eating whole roast chickens, but his annual routine is interrupted by Kate, played by Jen LiLley, a lawyer tasked with appraising the property for a quick sale.

Daniel, like any ghost, is opposed to this, though the sale of the inn will not change his yearly appearances. It doesn’t matter, because Kate is good at her job, and bad at love, and there’s no stopping a woman like that, is there? Only if she falls in love, which of course she does, though it’s not clear why. Daniel has that hot Nazi hair and a firm grasp on cocktails (you might think this is an underhanded dig at his Prohibition-ish wardrobe, but he does tend the bar at a party) but he’s also proud of being standoffish and carrying an aggressive form of “chivalry.”

Kate falls in love anyway. There’s no chemistry, and though the bulk of the movie is Kate figuring out how Daniel died, his realization of his own murder, the film speeds along to that conclusion. Daniel’s cousin has been haunting the inn too, as has Lily. Lily died in child birth after a sham marriage to Daniel’s brother. As a ghost Lily has literally nothing to say, and it’s frustrating, because she’s “blessed” Daniel with an opportunity to live again for 12 days every year; it’s like she walked out of a Christopher Nolan script. How does Lily have this power? And why can’t she come back too? SHE DIED A WIDOW IN CHILD BIRTH. 

Upon this realization Daniel hikes out into the woods. Kate has left her job as a lawyer, and it’s unsaid if she’ll return or just live in the wilderness of Vermont for the rest of her life. Probably the latter because over night Daniel chooses to stay in the realm of the living and be with Kate, and the movie ends. The last 15 minutes contain the most action and the least amount of answers, which is disappointing for a film that promised more when it started with murder.

The Spirit of Christmas is streaming on Netflix, but you know what’s filled with the Christmas spirit and devoid of murder? A Very Murray Christmas.

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