Thursday, November 24, 2022

Holiday Harmony: Movie Review

Uplifting and sweet tale of music and romance.

Holiday Harmony is an uplifting and sweet tale of music and romance, and in equal measure. Gail (Annelise Cepero) is an aspiring musician who lives out of her van and plays music in dive bars and on Instagram to all her friends in her phone. A real-life friend helps her apply for iHeart Radio’s Christmas show for her big break on national TV; however, on her way to LA she runs into van trouble in Harmony Springs, Oklahoma.   2022

Directed by: Shaun Piccinnino

Screenplay by: Lauren Swickard, Christopher James Harvill

Starring: Annelise Cepero, Jeremy Sumpter

This is a hard movie to get into since Gail is a surly person, a little self-ish and mean, and not in a cartoony way or played up for laughs way. She’s not a very likable person which is a tough start for a Christmas romance movie. The main incident that starts the plot is Gail almost running into an alpaca and crashes her van. While she is concerned for the alpaca, she never apologizes to the woman, Savannah (Brooke Shields), who goes out of her way to help her and she never realizes that the accident was entirely her fault for talking on her cell phone while driving and not watching the road. All of this could have been avoided if she wasn’t so obsessed with her chance at fame. And yet the heart of the movie, and all of the good that happens in the story, is because she’s stuck in Harmony Springs for two weeks.

There are a few storylines forming as she takes up residence in this small town. The primary one is the romance with Jeremy (Jeremy Sumpter), Savannah’s son, and the town mechanic, and the popular heartthrob in town, and the guy who sets her up with a job in order to pay for her van’s repairs. Jeremy initially is also a little mean at the beginning, but who can blame him when everybody wants a piece of him. Half-way into the movie as Gail and Jeremy’s relationship grows they both reveal their childhoods, and what's happened to make them the way they are, and everything just clicks. The walls that Gail has put up appearing as selfish and mean are fully explained, Jeremy’s anger is fully explained. Not only can the audience now understand and accept these characters, but of course they’re growing more open and happy as people. It really is a very lovely romance.

Star Annelise Cepero grows into her character of Gail very naturally, it’s ultimately a beautiful performance. She also has quite a few moments to sing in the spotlight, the highlight is probably her rendition of Johnny Cash’s Wayfaring Stranger. The romantic chemistry with Jeremy Sumpter fits the movie perfectly.

The second main storyline is Gail working as the school’s music teacher to get a group of kids ready for Christmas concert. And the kids suck. It’s a cheesy part of the movie and the filmmakers know that so they just skip over it a lot.

There are some pacing and timing issues throughout the movie. Time moves fast and then slow, an entire week just evaporates in thin air, and then Christmas Eve is approximately four days long. The writers definitely have problems fitting everything in and the movie is longer than typical for the genre (a full 110 minutes). I also have no clue how they got approval to use iHeart Radio’s real name given that all but two of the characters who work there are absolutely skewered as awful, fake, nasty people who make Gail look like a clown (I mean literally that make-up job is hideous, and on purpose, that’s why I’m shocked iHeart Radio said ‘sure, you can put our name on this’).

There’s a surprising lack of kitschiness; given how well the characters are developed the romance and the emotions in their relationship are well-earned. By the end we have a really sweet tale of two broken characters who find one another. The kids and their song is hokey, but since that’s par for the course we have to let it pass.

Holiday Harmony has nice music and lovely romance and you can’t ask for much more in a Christmas romance.

Hallmark has an almost identical movie with “In Merry Measure”. There’s a little bit more to Holiday Harmony to round it out, but if you’re a music and romance fan then I’m sure you can find time for both.

Want a different Christmas movie or just more holiday-themed movies? Holiday Movies