A Picture Perfect Holiday review
A Picture Perfect Holiday is an enjoyably heartfelt Christmas romantic charmer that snaps into focus on the strength of its two leads.
Tatyana Ali (The Reason) is Gaby, a freelance fashion photographer who’s bored of taking photos of shirtless dudes for Christmas campaigns. When an opportunity to become the staff photographer at her dream job, Gaby pleads with her mentor, Leila (Dina Meyer, All-American), for a recommendation.
Leila isn’t up for gifting Gaby the gig. While she’s great at controlled environments, Leila isn’t sure Gaby can bring out true emotion in her work. After some prompting from Gaby, Leila recommends she attends a Christmas photo retreat organized by a former longtime staff photographer, Bill (Scott Takeda). If anyone can help foster Gaby’s creative side it’s Leila’s old mentor.
Gaby immediately books a room at the local bed and breakfast only to get shocked to find it’s already occupied when she arrives. And it turns out Sean (Henderson Wade, Riverdale), is a wildlife photographer and also in town for the retreat. Thanks to a scheduling mishap by the landlords (Ben Lokey and Joyce Cohen), they double booked the room and there’s not another vacancy within 20 miles.
Forced to roommate up, Gaby and Sean try to make the most of their living arrangements. Sean is a Christmas fanatic with a new pair of Christmas pajamas every night and a plethora of holiday gear. Gaby doesn’t have much use for Christmas while avoiding being a total Grinch about it.
Another personality clash deals with their preferred shooting method. Gaby uses the more practical digital method while Sean goes old school with film complete with supplies to create a makeshift darkroom. Screenwriter Anna White actually takes impressive precautions to avoid playing Christmas rom com cliché BINGO.
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As the commercials during any Lifetime show would attest, the network is doing more than paying lip service to diversity and inclusion. That’s not just played out with the two leads, but the lesbian couple of Amelia (Rivkah Reyes) and Gaby’s old photographer running buddy, Dani (Paula Andrea Placido). There’s a practical purpose for the LGBTQ pairing beyond token representation. Both Amelia and Dani plan to propose and separately enlist Gaby and Sean to help.
While both keep waiting on the ideal moment, Dani and Amelia quickly realize they might have to play Cupid to get Gaby and Sean to focus in on each other.
Ali and Henderson have strong chemistry and play off each other so well the early personality clashes come off like a very minor obstacle.
Henderson gives Sean a slightly Christmas-geeky presence without being annoyingly corny. Ali is probably at the typecast in these Lifetime romance movies simply because she’s so good at it. And there’s some authentic moments with her performance with her inflection of words and reactions that show she had some influence on how Gaby was portrayed.
Director J.E. Logan also avoids slapstick scenarios so there’s no goofy falling or unrealistic moments playing out.
The only real drawback is the whiplash inducing payoff. Lifetime films are notorious for dutifully building up this cute love story only to have the speed reader credits pop up immediately after the pan out final kiss.
Given the setup it seemed like there were a few lingering subplots that weren’t resolved like how the script seemed to suggest Sean was using a two-headed coin to ensure Gaby kept winning the coin toss to determine who got to sleep in the bed. And for all the mention of his family, it seemed like there was going to be a dramatic reveal with their identity later on as well.
My biggest gripe is this was a film that really felt like it would have benefitted from a quickie one year later epilogue. Just to offer a little bit of encouragement that this happy ending actually panned out.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Lifetime
A Picture Perfect Holiday will air again on Lifetime on Nov. 28.
Want a little more Christmas joy? Check out The Perfect Holiday on Amazon.
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