Okay, I admit it, I’m a sucker for the holidays, and holiday movies, and holiday books, and…well, you get the picture.
Over the Thanksgiving break, I watched two holiday classics with my husband and elder son – “Christmas in Connecticut” for the first time (possibly the only Christmas classic I’d never seen before), and “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the, I don’t know, fiftieth?
These are movies that combine the magic of romance and Christmas, and both are definitely worth watching – though “Christmas in Connecticut” doesn’t hold up quite as well, particularly for a younger audience (i.e. my son). Which made me even more aware of how pitch-perfect “It’s A Wonderful Life” remains to this day.
Each of these films has inspired remakes, retellings and seasonal reruns. “It’s A Wonderful Life” was named “The Most Inspiring Movie of All Time” by the American Film Institute. But what I love most about them is that the women are the champions. Yes, of course, George Bailey overcomes evil Mr. Potter’s attempt to put him in jail, but while he’s meeting Clarence, stopping time, and taking himself out of the earthly mix, it’s Mary who’s knocking on doors, coordinating a Bedford Falls fundraising drive, and calling London and DC to guarantee some financial backing and save her husband. (I shouldn’t even mention completely renovating a broken-down shell of a mansion with four kids under the age of ten underfoot, because that just may be the biggest stretch of reality in the whole movie, guardian angels come to life, or no.)
I watch this movie nearly every year, and every time I do, I notice something new. It’s also an excellent reminder of how to layer conflict, and, frankly, we can learn a lot from the writing, particularly for its secondary characters. Annie, the family’s maid, steals nearly every scene she’s in, courtesy of a few well-crafted, character-driven phrases delivered by a charismatic actress.
“Christmas in Connecticut” has a very different kind of heroine, much less traditional than Mary Bailey. She’s a writer famous for her monthly women’s column on her idyllic home life, complete with perfect husband, beautiful baby and a gourmet menu perfect for any occasion. Trouble is, she’s really a great fiction writer, since none of it is true, and she’s really unmarried, living in a small Manhattan apartment. Definitely problematic when your publisher, who’s enamored of your fairytale existence without realizing it’s not real, invites himself for Christmas, along with a war hero who’s dreaming of a gourmet meal. A fun, silly romp that nonetheless has lessons for writers regarding setting up conflict and situational comedy – always handy in a writer’s toolbox.
I hope you have the chance to catch up on some holiday movie watching this season, and don’t forget the classics. Just remember, watching too many movies at Christmas-time is impossible. If anyone tries to imply otherwise, just say it’s all research in support of your New Year’s resolution to write more.
Happy Holidays! May your days and the season be filled with light, whatever holiday you celebrate, and may your new year be filled with all good things.
(Some other great romantic holiday classics to consider: The Shop Around the Corner, Meet Me in St. Louis, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, and Holiday Affair)[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/bobbiColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Bobbi Dumas loves good writing. Of all kinds. She also loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. When she’s not in the virtual world or one of her own making, she can usually be found in Madison, WI with her husband, two boys, and a clan of great writers she feels grateful and honored to know (some of whom you get to meet here, too). Lucky you![/author_info] [/author]