As sure as a reindeer poops in the snow, you can be certain that another Christmas Carol variation will be aired. Most have a been-there-a-lot-done-that feel. Kristin’s Christmas Past tries to alter the formula in a good way.
It’s famously said about New York that if you can make it there…well, you know the rest. Kristin Cartwell (Shiri Appleby) is 34 years old and is seriously testing the “make it there” part. To put it plainly, she’s struggling: no boyfriend, in debt, and estranged from her family. Her only salvation is Jamie (Will Kemp), her long-time best friend. When she finds out that for the first time since they were kids he’s not going to spend Christmas Eve with her, she opts to celebrate instead with a free bottle of champagne gifted to her by a mysterious liquor store clerk.
When Kristin wakes up from her “celebration” she finds herself in bed with Kristin…17 year old Kristin (Hannah Marks) “Krys” in 1996 in Krys’ bedroom. After introducing old Kristin as “Kay” to the family as Krys’s stranded NYU mentor, she’s taken in as a guest. Kay suspects her job is to change her past, and she tries mightily — trouble is, she’s trying to change the mind of a very headstrong and lovesick teenage her. It’s not going to be easy.
During her stay, Kay learns things about Barbara, her mother (Elizabeth Mitchell), Glenn, her father (Judd Nelson), free spirit aunt Debby (A.J. Langer), and young Jamie (Michael-James Olsen). Almost all of these are “if only I’d known” moments that I’m sure we all recognize.
In true Christmas Carol tradition, she finally awakens back in her own home in her own time. What the results of her journey are remain for her to discover….to quickly discover as the movie is nearly over at this point.
The middle of this adventure, the part filled with revelations and character emotions is without a doubt the best part of this movie — or it is if you have more in common with the adults than the teens. They feel like life. I even got something in my eye once or twice.
Older Kristin was relatable in her regret-fueled attempt to change her past. The explanation of Debby’s free-spirit energy made her all too human. And then there was the love of family. For all the obstacles young Kristin presented, making her a worthy antagonist, you had Kay providing balance with the pent up love she carried with her. At times you even felt that Barbara knew-without-knowing that Kay was her daughter.
The beginning was a little bumpy, but not unusual as the plot needed quick setting up. By far the weakest point of the film was the end. Sure, they had a conclusion to the story, a logical one, but it needed one or two more scenes to explain and to bond. In short: the denouement was criminally lacking.
Kristin’s Christmas Past is a better than usual take on the Christmas past motif. That Kristin interacts with her past and her past self provides for more satisfying story points than recognizably similar attempts. Unlike a lot of films, you don’t notice it’s length. The story flows well. I say if you can watch it, give it a viewing. The second act (the middle two fourths) is definitely better than most and that alone is worth the time.
|3.5 of 5|
For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies
Photo: MarVista Entertainment