Christmas Images & Reality
It’s that time of year when the world slows down and people take time to reconnect with old friends. Say what you will about the ever-increasing commercialization of Christmas, the holiday has some good aspects, including an enjoyable lineup of Christmas movies.
This year, we may sit down and watch It’s A Wonderful Life for the fourth or fifth time. The other day, we made an online reservation at our local library for the DVD of Home Alone, a slapstick fest that never gets old. And we will soon check out what has become a holiday classic at our house, August Rush.
Yet if you haven’t seen Norman Rockwell Presents: Coming Home for Christmas, I recommend taking the time to watch it during the next few weeks. Not because it’s a great film; in checking I found this “D+” review!
Still, despite that panning, I found it enjoyable. One reason I think it is worth the time is the way it strips away the image that if we just had the perfect family, the perfect home and the perfect parents, life would be perfect. Fat chance. The world is full of imperfect people, which means we have to accept the flaws and imperfections of our lives, along with everyone else’s.
Ironically, considering my distaste for Christmas commercialization, this movie trades on it. Namely, by including famed artist Norman Rockwell’s name in the title. As soon as we picked it up, I wondered how a movie that went straight to DVD in 2013 could come from an artist who died in 1978…
The connection is that supposedly the film tries to capture the feel of his many idyllic paintings. The set-up has its Rockwell imitations. Two sisters from a perfect family and two loving parents live in the perfect house (which reminded me of the artist’s Saturday Evening Post covers that I used to see regularly as a kid).
However, it doesn’t take long for this seemingly-perfect world to crumble. It happens when the sisters have a huge falling out over a painful moment at Melanie’s wedding. Kate sees her future brother-in-law flirting with a bridesmaid and—in her attempt to throw a monkey wrench in the impending nuptials—storms away from their house, site of the wedding.
That split causes a rupture in their parents’ relationship, which eventually ends in divorce. After years of not speaking to each other, fate brings the sisters back together. Kate discovers she was right about Melanie’s flirtatious husband, but recognizes she was wrong to storm off.
Once reconciled, they work to bring their parents back together at Christmas in their original home, since sold in the post-divorce era. And, yes, you can guess the rest of the story.
Pictures of Perfection
In their day, Norman Rockwell paintings were triumphs of Americana, their colorful portraits of humor, expression, and nostalgia rolled into memorable depictions of a world we admired. And yet, truly, one that never existed.
Life as Rockwell painted it reminds me of many Christmas movies. Romantic for sure, inspiring and hopeful. And yet, when we buy into the Hollywood image of a perfect life, we set ourselves up for disappointment, disillusionment, and cynicism.
So, while Coming Home for Christmas has the requisite happy ending, it also demonstrates how the world’s images of prosperity, perfection and fulfilling life are often just that—images.
So, enjoy the movie and remember that the only perfect life will come when we enter heaven and the company of the One whose birth we celebrate Dec. 25.