As a big fan of the book that this film is very loosely based on, I was not a big fan of the film. I think that if you choose to base a film on a bestselling novel, it should at least have the same characters and basic plot lines. In the book, three stories based in Gracetown all intertwine written by three separate authors, Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle. There’s Jubilee or Julie who meets Stuart and realises that her boyfriend who doesn’t care that her parents were jailed is not as perfect as she thinks.
There’s also Tobin, the Duke or Angie and JP. They have a late night Christmas Eve adventure to the Waffle House to bring Twister to fourteen cheerleaders. Their friend, Don Keun works at the Waffle House and when the cheerleaders enter from the train that also brought Jubilee to Gracetown, rings Tobin. The quest disturbs their midnight marathon of James Bond films. Complete with Carla, a lovable car; a race against the Reston twins and a pursuit of hash browns.
The final story is about Addie and her heartbreak over Jeb, her boyfriend. He was also on Jubilee’s train and they were meant to meet Christmas Eve to talk out her big drunken mistake but he didn’t show. Instead she chops off her hair and dyed it pink. She works at Starbucks and to show her friends that she isn’t as selfish as she appears to be agrees to pick up the teacup pig that her and Dorrie bought their pig-obsessed friend, Tegan. Forgetting to get the pig before it is picked up by someone else, Addie enlists the help of the last person she wants to see. In the final story, the other characters all make appearances.
The reason I have waxed lyrical about the book is that the film is so different in comparison. Jubilee is called Julie and meets pop star Stuart on the train instead of the Waffle House. He has no-one to spend Christmas with so spends the day with Julie and meets her family. In the book, Jubilee is cared for by Stuart’s mum and little sister. Her selfish boyfriend doesn’t exist and her parents who were jailed for a riot over a Flobie Village are transformed into her sick mother and grandfather. The Flobie Village, a collectable ceramic Elf display town is mentioned but never seen.
Tobin and the Duke are friends with Keon who wants to host a Christmas party at home but it is moved to Waffle Town where he works with Billy and Dorrie. Tobin and the Duke make friends with JP who is now white and a college guy. They shelter in a church and Tobin gets roped into a multi-denominational Nativity. He also loves Duke the whole times whereas in the book, only realises it at the end. There is no daring journey with Twister as the fourteen cheerleaders have been replaced by six dancers. Carla the car ends up in a shallow ditch but does not lose a wheel.
Addie has trouble with Jeb as he doesn’t want her to crowd him and prefers fictional Madison instead. She still buys the pig but there is no Starbucks around and she is also helped by Tin Foil Woman (not man who also never originally meets Addie). Dorrie also has a love story with Kerry the dancer. This extra gay relationship was a nice addition to the story which originally has no homosexual relationships but this is the only change I welcome. They even changed Gracetown to Laurel, Illinois.
My opinions of the film are quite biased but if you like cute Netflix teen rom coms then the film is still enjoyable. It has some great up and coming actors:
Isabela Merced (Dora the Explorer, Instant Family) – Julie
Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet) – Dorrie
Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) – Stuart
Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) – Angie (the Duke)
Odeya Rush (Lady Bird, Dumplin’) – Addie
Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Every Day) – Keon
Miles Robbins (Blockers, The Day Shall Come) – Billy
Joan Cusack also makes a cameo as Tin Foil Woman and the Narrator. I think the film was great for exposing new talent in a Netflix film that will be seen by millions. Some of the actors only have a few credits to their name. I feel very passionate about the book so felt let down by the film. Overall I give it 2.5/5.