Alexandra Berardelli ’25
Call me the grinch, but I’m not a fan of the Hallmark Christmas movies. Yet, every year I find myself caught up in a month-long binge of the Hallmark channel with my sisters. My biggest issue with these movies is that they’re so predictable. And this is not very new to some. But, it’s become such a big part of the holiday season that the countdown to Christmas would begin once the movies started before Halloween. After 40 (!!!!!) new movies this holiday season alone, the Hallmark channel certainly feeds into this addiction. After watching at least a dozen during Thanksgiving break, I reluctantly found my all-time favorite Hallmark movie: A Holiday Spectacular (Dir. John Putch).
It’s 2022, and you see the glimmering lights of New York’s very own Radio City Music Hall. Grandma Margaret (Ann-Margret) shares stories of encouragement and passion with her granddaughter, who struggles with going after her dreams as a dancer. These stories don’t seem to stick until Margaret (Ginna Claire Mason) taps into one of her most core memories. I’m a sucker for a nostalgic movie, so let’s throw it back now: 1958 America. You’re Margaret, the same lovely and wealthy woman from Philadelphia, stressing over the wedding of the decade.
Of course, for a woman in 1950s America, Margaret was expected to marry someone of high society, even if it was a loveless affair. Margaret is evidently frustrated with this expectation, and the thought of marrying someone as thoughtless and shallow as Maxwell (Torsten Johnson) makes her want to give it all up. She doesn’t know it yet, but Margaret gets one chance to change everything. (After all, it is a Hallmark movie, so I knew it.) After watching the Radio City Rockettes’ performance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Margaret has the opportunity to audition to dance with them. And, well, she got it!
Like almost every little girl brought up dancing, I wanted to be a Radio City Rockette at some point. I remember sitting mesmerized by their performances on TV. Whenever I saw them perform at the famous Radio City Music Hall, I was in complete awe. While I no longer see performing as a Rockette in my future, it coated this movie with warm nostalgia. Like I said before, I’m not a fan of the predictability of these types of movies, and it’s based on the fact that it’s the same old magical and nonsensical romantic script. Call me heartless, but I don’t believe in this type of romance: that some man hiding behind a very random and not planned lamppost will end up being my soulmate.
Do not worry. There is romance in here; we have yet to get to it. Through a series of intricate lies to her family, Margaret makes it to the Big Apple to make her secret dream a reality. When she first steps out of the taxi, well, can you guess? It’s the heartthrob himself: John (Derek Klena), pursuing his own secret dream of photography. Keeping up to date with her lies, a budding love affair, new friends, and preparing for the show of the season, Margaret, now going by Maggie, shows a story of real-time growth and pursuit of goals that don’t include a ridiculous amount of romantic referral. I am fond of love in several forms, and it felt authentic to see a kindling of genuine friendship among Maggie and her fellow Rockettes after enduring hard preparation. For the first time, I could insert myself into Maggie’s position, a woman who defies expectations and goes after exactly what she wants. So many of the Hallmark movies lack any growth and just leave the story out to dry. This film is unique in how it comes full circle and weighs several values beyond the stereotypical holiday romances, many of which we could and should learn to appreciate.What happens with John and Maggie? Well, you can probably guess. The ending is so precious, and it’s very well overdue and satisfying that we finally get a film that touches on themes outside of silly love stories. I must note that one of the most compelling aspects of this film is that there are some killer dance scenes. Obviously, it would not be a movie about THE Christmas Spectacular without including Radio City’s very own Rockettes to hold up the dancing. If you’re going to waste two hours on a Hallmark movie, I’d recommend this one. Come into it as a friend, and you’ll be happy to see you gain something out of it.