Catherine Called Birdy was one of the popular novels I did not read when I was young because I was busy trying to read literally the biggest books in my school library. Boy, I missed out. In the adaptation by Amazon Studios, Catherine, called Birdy (Bella Ramsey), is a 14-year-old lady whose mother (Billie Piper) struggles to build the family of her dreams while her father (Andrew Scott) tries to keep them from falling into poverty. For Birdy, that means marrying a rich man and trading her title for a hefty dowry. Locked in a war of wits, she scares off the many suitors that her father finds, desiring instead to stay with her nurse, Morwenna (Lesley Sharp), and her best friends, Aelis (Isis Hainsworth) and Robert (Dean-Charles Chapman).
Another film using the trend of pairing a period story with contemporary music, Catherine Called Birdy gives a girl coming of age in medieval England the Jo March treatment. Birdy approaches life with some misguided self-assurance and a lot of gumption, and although her story is highly improbable for her time, watching her figure out life is at turns hilarious, heartwarming, and sad. Having never read the novel, I cannot judge the faithfulness of the adaptation, but Lena Dunham’s screenplay imbues the story with insights into the experience of becoming a woman and a great deal of fondness for the characters.
Bella Ramsey’s performance makes Birdy endearing, even at her most immature. As her parents, Billie Piper and Andrew Scott balance knowingness about the hard truths that adults learn and their characters being filtered through the naivete of a 14-year-old’s perspective. They both give emotional and comedic performances.
Catherine Called Birdy reminds me of some of my favorite books and movies from childhood. There are some Little Women vibes, a little Harriet the Spy, and a dash of Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging. The playful, innocent energy does not undercut the seriousness of Birdy’s lot in life, an impressive feat in a silly, funny film. I really enjoyed it.
Catherine Called Birdy was written and directed by Lena Dunham, based on the novel by Karen Cushman. On Amazon Prime, it runs 108 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Netflix launched the Christmas movie season and brought Lindsay Lohan back to the screen with Falling for Christmas. In this formulaic movie, Lohan plays Sierra, a spoiled heiress who falls down a mountainside during a skiing session with her boyfriend, vain influencer Tad (George Young). As she suffers from amnesia, a local ski lodge owner, Jake (Chord Overstreet), and his family take her in.
Falling for Christmas uses the Hallmark Christmas Movie mold without deviating. Although it is fun to see Lindsay Lohan in a movie again, she is the only thing this movie has to offer, and sometimes I wondered if that was even much. At first, it seems as though Lohan has lost touch with all human emotions until she enjoys a heart-to-heart with a beautiful horse and a glimmer of her talent comes through. Despite the weakness of her performance, Lohan clearly had fun filming this project, and that playfulness comes through in the project. Furthermore, even at her most awkward, she is far from the worst actor. Jack Wagner as her father, Beauregard Belmont, performs slightly better than a cardboard cutout would have, and the scenes he shares with George Young in his over-the-top, junior-high-play-quality portrayal of Tad are beyond cringeworthy. Chord Overstreet acts the most naturally and his chemistry with Lohan buoys the story a bit.
With Christmas movies like this, you must ask yourself why you are watching them. If you want creative storytelling, moving performances, or intelligent comedy, Falling for Christmas will not satisfy you. If you want something fun to watch while you prepare your own holiday cheer or veg with your favorite person on the couch, it does fine. With the added factor of people cheering on Lohan’s recovery (or rubbernecking at another attempted comeback), no doubt the movie would have hit Netflix’s Top 10 regardless of quality. I just wish a fraction of the energy put into marketing had gone into the screenplay.
Falling for Christmas was written by Jeff Bonnett and Ron Oliver and directed by Janeen Damian. It runs 93 minutes.
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