Haley (Laur Allen) is a San Francisco power broker. Kate (Amanda Righetti) is a Nashville cowgirl. Can they overcome their differences to save Meemaw’s ranch? Christmas at the Ranch joins a growing list of holiday romcoms with queer protagonists. Writers Julie Anton and Christin Baker stick close to the Lifetime/Hallmark formula. But they embrace the genre’s problematic elements while skimping on the Christmas cheer.
The film spends the lengthy first act mocking Haley’s San Francisco life. Influencers, corporate retreats and “social media emergencies” are targets of scorn. Meemaw (Lindsay Wagner) would prefer Haley become an unpaid ranch hand like her long-suffering brother (Archie Kao). Eventually the film acknowledges that Haley’s business skills are useful. But it ignores the alienation minorities can feel in rural areas. Why does Haley hate coming home? It’s not because she’s one of two queer women on the local dating app. Or that she’s the only woman of color in the cast. It’s because (spoiler, but not really) home reminds her of her dead parents.
Enemies to Lovers
Haley isn’t introduced to Kate till 28 minutes in. Their meet cute goes sour when Haley ends their date to take a work call. Kate sneers at the idea of remote work. Enemies to lovers is a popular trope. But Kate goes overboard. When they next meet, she belittles Haley in front of her brother. Haley’s done nothing to merit such inappropriate behavior. The characters soften in the third act for some romcom hijinks. Happily, the actors have the chemistry to sell the abrupt transformation.
What happened to Christmas?
Fans of Christmas romcoms can be the first to admit their flaws. But most provide a hazy nostalgia for trees, ornaments and fresh baked cookies. This film avoids holiday trappings. It might as well be called At the Ranch. Midway through the story our heroines take a “Christmas Hayride” through a humble display of lights and snowman statues. We’re told this is the ranch’s primary attraction. No wonder they’re broke.
I’m being harsh on this film. But f/f holiday stories are still novel. We’re dealing with a subgenre that includes the polarizing Happiest Season, the offensive Lez Bomb and the dour A New York Christmas Wedding. Compared to these Christmas at the Ranch is comfort food. You know the pretty people will eventually kiss. Sometimes that’s enough.
Christmas at the Ranch premieres on December 1 on VOD. For more reviews of queer holiday romcoms click here. You can find more of my reviews on The Avocado and Letterboxd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.