VOD film review: Christmas Wedding Baby
Oh no she didn't3
Nathanael Smith | On 10, Dec 2015
Director: Kiara Jones
Cast: Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Ellease Aponte, Bernie Ask, Micah Austin
The title alone suggests something is off; Christmas Wedding Baby is a phrase that scans so poorly, it seems as though the makers simply listed three things that exist in the film. It feels like a first draft, which is fitting because so does the rest of the film. It’s a melodrama about three sisters, each with their own emotional problems in the run up to Christmas: Andrea is engaged but her ex-boyfriend is the photographer hanging around when the fiancé is absent; Charlotte is dissatisfied with her relationship with stay-at-home Dad Isaac; Lori is pregnant. Compounding all of these issues is a monstrous mother who is mean to everyone.
The most immediately horrible aspect of the film is the score, a combination of piano lounge music, covers of Christmas carols and someone plinking around on a harp. It’s almost constant, accompanying every scene without once sounding like it’s meant to be there. Sometimes it reminds you of the background music in The Sims, at other times it’s more like the polyphonic ringtones from pre-smartphone mobiles. The sound mix, with disconcerting ADR that seems one frame out of sync, is dreadful as a result, leaving each scene feeling curiously flat; all the drama fails to register.
When a film is this incompetently made, the onus is then on the performances and narrative to lift the craftsmanship. No such succour will be found here. Admittedly, there are small joys to be found if you are willing to invest in the implausible amounts of hand-wringing and relationship crises. Christmas Wedding Baby plays out like an extended episode of a soap opera, with potential divorces, romantic misunderstandings and last-minute wedding alterations piling on top of one another. The problem is that all of this plays out just through talking. Every scene is a conversation about the topics without anything actually happening, which saps any dramatic propulsion from the narrative. Scenes of uninspired dialogue drag leadenly on, and no one ever looks entirely comfortable on screen. At almost two hours long, the result is excruciating.
Levelling attacks against a fairly well-meaning film is, perhaps, underhanded. This was crowdfunded, plus written and directed by the same person, so it’s clearly a labour of love. Yet nothing in the film works, whatsoever. Every character beat feels false and forced, climaxing in a final moment that is abrupt and nonsensical. There are glimpses of an interesting depiction of sisterhood in the film, but it’s ruined by the fact that perhaps only one of the sisters approaches a character that functions as a believable human being. Retreading classic plot devices like choosing between two men and annoyance at a man’s unwillingness to commit are as old as fiction itself, so you’d better do something vaguely interesting with such well-worn tropes. Christmas Wedding Baby singularly fails at this.
The movie’s biggest crime, however, is not living up to the first word of the title: Christmas in the film is, at best, a background detail – the wedding and the baby play a much bigger role. There are decorated trees and occasionally some fairy lights, but Christmas doesn’t figure into the plot, affect the decisions made, or even register as a major theme – surely something that is the minimum requirement for a film with that title. All this leads one to suspect that they put the holiday in the title to lure audiences in with the promise of something festive. How disappointed they will be.
Christmas Wedding Baby is not currently available on UK VOD.