Dolly Parton released her 2020 holiday album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, on October 2, because she’s a very smart woman and knows we all need some holiday cheer a little early. I really don’t want to hear anyone say anything about not listening to Christmas music or watching corny Hallmark films before December 1. There are no rules this year. We work from home. We wear sweatpants to Zoom meetings and no one cares. We vote by mail. There’s no real moderator at presidential debates. Heck, there aren’t even real presidential debates anymore.
We need some holiday escapism this year. We need predictable romance plots, relatable family rifts, workaholic heroines who fall in love with someone they initially can’t stand, and titles featuring as many puns as possible. We need queer holiday love stories that aren’t Carol, though Carol will always be top billing at every lesbian Christmas-movie watch party.
When the holiday films start rolling in on Lifetime, Netflix, and Hallmark this month, don’t mock. Don’t smirk. Don’t tweet about how annoyed you are that you have the option to watch both Halloween and Christmas movies at the same time. Just heat up some hot chocolate, put on your coziest socks and sweater, and bask in the holiday joy. We all could use some.
Holidate (Netflix, October 28)
Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey star as Sloane and Jackson, two strangers who cook up a plan to be each other’s fake family holiday dates. They pledge to be each other’s “holidates” (yes, the word is bad, but the idea is good) for every upcoming holiday in the new year. Did you guess that they end up catching feelings for each other somewhere along the way? You’re such a plot genius.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix, November 13)
Did someone say they really want to watch a Christmas musical featuring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Ricky Martin, Phylicia Rashad, Hugh Bonneville, and more? Oh, you hadn’t ever thought of such a thing? Well, here you go anyway. This film follows the story of Jeronicus Jangle (Whitaker) whose apprentice (Key) steals his best inventions, and it’s up to Jangle’s granddaughter (Madalen Mills) to fix things. She’s joined by one of Jangle’s old inventions, a robot who appears to be some kind of cross between WALL-E and E.T.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again (Netflix, November 19)
The sequel to the 2018 Vanessa Hudgens Parent Trap-esque take on Christmas sees Duchess Margaret inherit the throne of Montenaro (fake town, somehow sounds real), and her lookalike, Stacy, has to step in to save the day before yet another lookalike, Fiona, ruins everything. Wait, so are we supposed to believe there are three people out there who look just like Vanessa Hudgens? I still want this movie to be about a pillow princess queer woman who learns to become a switch. *Shrug*.
A Taste of Christmas (Lifetime, November 20)
When her cousin Francesca has to cancel the big opening of her Italian restaurant on Christmas Eve, Natalie (Anni Krueger) makes it her mission to make the event happen. But she’s up against Chef Stefano (Gilles Marini), who believes the Christmas Eve deadline is impossible. Despite their differences, they have to come together to try to make some Christmas magic happen—and maybe cook up a little love, too. How was that? Could I write cheesy Lifetime movie blurbs for a living?
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Netflix, November 22)
Dolly Parton managed to put out both a holiday album and a movie this year. She’s serious about Christmas 2020, so we better pay attention. Christine Baranski plays a “wealthy and unpleasant woman” who comes home after her father’s death. She meets an angel (Parton, obviously), who kicks off a change of heart and even rekindles an old romance. Remember Christine Baranski aiming a Christmas-light gun at her roof in How the Grinch Stole Christmas? The woman belongs in charming holiday movies.
Happiest Season (November 25)
From director and co-writer Clea DuVall comes the queer holiday film we’ve been needing since Carol premiered in 2015. In this plot that actually makes my Christmas-loving gay heart scream with queer angst, a woman named Abby (Kristen Stewart), plans to propose to her girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), at Harper’s family holiday party. But it turns out Harper hasn’t come out to her conservative family. “I think I’ve wished to see a gay Christmas rom-com my whole life,” Stewart told People. “I’m so happy and proud of Clea for bringing this into the world.” Merry Christmas to us. Oh, and Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Steenburgen, Alison Brie, Victor Garber, and Ana Gasteyer all star.
The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (Netflix, November 25)
This follow-up to the 2018 Netflix film again features longtime real-life couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in the roles of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Years after Kate (Darby Camp) joined Santa in his efforts to help save the world and deliver toys to all the True Believers, he needs her help again on a very similar but important mission. And yes, Russell’s very 2020-pandemic beard makes its return.
Dear Santa (December 4)
This is a documentary about the USPS’s Operation Santa project, which gathers kids’ letters to Santa to send replies and as many gifts as possible to kids in need. In a year when the USPS is under threat, this film will tug on your holiday heartstrings extra hard.
The Santa Squad (Lifetime, December 7)
Rebecca Dalton plays an unemployed art teacher who takes a job with the Santa Squad. Her assignment? Lift the spirits of a wealthy widower named Gordon (Aaron Ashmore). As she plays a Maria von Trapp of sorts to this broken family, she also finds true love. Just like…Maria von Trapp.
Inn Love by Christmas (Lifetime, December 11)
Mandy Leeds (Jonna Walsh) is a successful hotelier who’s usually way too busy to come home for the holidays. (Trope? Where?) This year, she has a reason to go home: The local inn is for sale. But when she tries to buy it, she runs into Lucas, her high school rival, who also wants to buy it. Anyone else smell a rivals-to-lovers plot point here? Duh.
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