The besties review
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This is one of those movies where the credits roll and I immediately think, “hey now that we’re done with the intro, let’s get onto the actual romance, shall we?” *sigh*
This was not very Christmas-y at all, but it does take place in late December and the mere idea of going on holiday is an important plot point, so I’m going to let it slide. I liked this a lot in the first half, but it really dragged on the back end unfortunately. Obviously Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are great together (and on their own), but there was just not enough ingenuity and excitement in the plotting of this film. When you hear “Hepbrun-Grant holiday rom-com” you think physical gags, verbal gymnastics, and a relationship you can really root for— this had none of that. Maybe if I hadn’t already seen Bringing Up Baby I wouldn’t have gone in with such high expectations, but I have and I did. Oh well, I still had fun!
The Shop Around the Corner
I think I may be adding this to the Christmas rotation!
Though it takes a minute to get going, once Lubitsch’s script kicks into high gear there is no stopping this delightful romance. Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart make a fine duo, but Stewart is especially magnetic as the prideful sales clerk. It’s nice to see Stewart in a holiday movie that’s a little sillier and more erratic than It’s a Wonderful Life. The supporting performances really bring it all home, with stand-out scenes from Felix Bressart, William Tracy, and Frank Morgan. Though The Shop Around the Corner could definitely be described as “Christmas-adjacent,” I think it captures just enough of the Christmas atmosphere to solidify it as a must-see holiday flick.
On the one hand, “White Christmas” ❄️
On the other hand, blackface 😬
This movie starts relatively strong and ends relatively fine, but everything in between is boring as hell. Unfortunately, it takes all the way until halfway through the movie to realize that none of the characters (not even Bing Crosby) are remotely likable. Maybe if this movie didn’t have a prominent and uncomfortable blackface number (which may in fact be more prominent and uncomfortable than the Bojangles number in Swing Time), it could at least serve as some nice holiday background noise, but I’m not sure I can even grant it that. I guess I’d recommend this to “Old Hollywood” or Christmas movie completionists, but there’s nothing really worthwhile here for your average movie fan.
Meet Me in St. Louis
Only a fourth of this movie takes place during winter, and I’m supposed to accept this as a Christmas movie? I know this is the reason we have an all-time classic holiday tune (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) but is that reason enough to cement this as a Christmas classic? I’m not sold.
The movie itself kind of waxes and wanes for me. I liked the opening sequences and the Halloween bits, but most of the really good stuff didn’t feel like it had much to do with Judy Garland’s character or her central romance. That said, Garland’s musical numbers are the clear standout here, and I suspect they are one of the primary reasons this is considered a classic. But for me, the whole thing was just alright.
Miracle on 34th Street
I can’t believe I had never seen this before! This is, without a doubt, one of the most classic Christmas films of all time and now I can see why. The premise is simple and cute without being too kiddish and the plot is laid out in a way that appeals to people of all ages. The idea of interacting with the real Santa draws in the kids, the somewhat sophisticated courtroom drama aspect draws in the adults, and BAM— you got yourself a family favorite. Though I will never have that nostalgic connection to Miracle on 34th Street that many people do, I look forward to many more rewatches in the years to come.
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!