Surviving Christmas


Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O’Hara

Director: Mike Mitchell

Drew, a refreshingly smug free and slightly vulnerable Ben Affleck, is a millionaire who seemingly has it all, a great job, sexy girlfriend but at Christmas time when he wants to go off on an exotic holiday his girlfriend dumps him because he doesn’t seem to want to embrace the whole festive season. Drew takes it all very casually until he discovers that none of his friends is willing to have him over for the festive season and all this results in him having a panic attack. A therapist advises him to make a list of all his grievances and take it to some place from his childhood and burn it. Drew ends up at a house from his childhood only to find a new family living there. He begs to stay with them for the festive period but they turn him away so in desperation he offers them $250,000 and wouldn’t you know it, the man of the house played by a heavily bearded and very grumpy James Gandolfini readily accepts the offer. His wife (Catherine O’Hara) and son are forced into the scheme as well and it all seems to be working out fairly well until the daughter Alicia played by Christina Applegate turns up and soon enough she instantly disapproves of the whole scheme. Eventually Drew gets closer to Alicia and she begins to see him in a new light and just as they seem to be forming a bond Drew’s ex-girlfriend turns up with her parents and it all goes haywire.

Ben Affleck is actually quite funny here as he seems to actually be enjoying himself. His character essentially creates an alternate reality in order to deal with the emotional pain that he has had in the past but as always at Christmas time the alternate reality just doesn’t cut it. So out of desperation he offers complete strangers a whole load of money to avoid the pain yet again, and to fulfill a dream of having a perfect family Christmas. He isn’t going to win any Oscars for this performance but it is still very entertaining.

The supporting cast are all good but Christina Applegate stands out with her portrayal of an outwardly cynical yet actually very sweet and caring woman who finds herself in a position with someone she would never have imagined herself with. The chemistry between Ben and Christina is very believable.

This is a predictable yet enjoyable Christmas movie that has a very good idea and with better development it could easily have been a classic instead of ending up as a basic Christmas family/romantic film. Even then it is still entertaining enough to be worthy of a trip to the cinema.

3 out of 6 stars