The conceit of Let It Snow is, well, there isn’t one. Take a bunch of teenagers and add a bit of Christmas cheer, mix in a hefty dollop of sexual tension and some woke buzzwords and you’ve got Let It Snow, the first in Netflix’s long line of Christmas movies.
Oh, and did we mention Joan Cusack as a tinfoil-wearing conspiracy theorist? Yep, Let It Snow has got everything.
The Netflix film is loosely based on the book Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances which, as you might guess comprises three stories: The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green, and The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle.
In the film, however, these distinct stories are all stirred into one snow-globe of a town which makes for a Love, Actually feel while still staying true to the saccharine sweetness of a John Green story.
Did we mention there’s a whole musical number? Yep.
The downfall of Let It Snow is the just-over lip service it pays to what teenage life is like in 2019, while still maintaining the air of fan-fiction to which all rom-coms inherently must adhere.
Despite the attempts at depth, Let It Snow remains a surface examination of being a teenager. A bright spark is undeniably Liv Hewson as Dorrie, the one LGBTQ+ character, and the only one who seems to have her head on right.
The pain, conflict and earnestness she exhibits make her the most well-rounded character. You’ll also recognise plenty of familiar faces: Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Kiernan Shipka (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home), and Isabela Moner (the pop star) to name a few.
They’re perhaps the best known, which may go a way to explain why their characters are the most memorable – and compelling. Unfortunately for Shipka, her character is wholly let down by her plot falling into a familiar trope Netflix has already given air time to.
In its attempts to be contemporarily woke, Let It Snow falls into a trap: by shoe-horning in every other culture into Christmas, it erases and negates their uniqueness. But all of that is pushed aside for a need to be “inclusive” which really means to Christianise them to fit into the “holiday spirit” (aka the Christmas spirit).
The baby Jesus is presented to the goddess Lakshmi and then everyone lights a menorah. Um…
One might argue that this has nothing to do with a teen rom-com, but teenagers today are far more attuned to political, social, and environmental issues than generations before them. If anyone’s going to call bullshit, it’ll be Gen Z.
The film fights itself, struggling to break out of the box it made for itself: being a Christmas movie. It should rejoice in being a Christmas movie! That’s fine.
The undeniable best storylines are the most authentic: Dorrie wanting her love-interest to acknowledge them publically, Jubilee (Moner) dealing with her mother’s illness and yet also looking to her own future, Odeya Rush’s Addie whose mother’s absence can be felt in her need for attention from, well, anyone, and Shameik Moore’s self-awareness and loneliness as pop star Stuart.
Beneath it all, there are the inarticulable feelings that so many teenagers have: stuck, alone, misunderstood, angry, desperate, and Let It Snow is best when it taps into those and leaves the desperation to be above it all somehow. Even if it all wraps up exactly how you thought it would, there’s a satisfaction in that.
Let It Snow is an average teen ensemble rom-com made better when it forgets what it’s trying to say and just says it – in all its teenage romantic glory. Luckily, there’s enough spunk from its cast to lift it out of day-old-slush. Just.
Let It Snow is now available to watch on Netflix
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