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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Retro Review: Holiday Heart (2000)

Holiday Heart
Cast: Ving Rhames, Alfre Woodard, Mykelti Williamson, Jesika Reynolds
Genre: TV movie

Plot: A drag queen takes in a drug addict and her daughter & helps raise her daughter

'Strong Performances by Rhames and Woodard, But Not Enough Heart'

Holiday Heart is an R-rated, not so family-friendly festive drama with big guy Ving Rhames of Con Air, Pulp Fiction, Mykeli Willamson (Forrest Gump, Con Air, Waiting To Exhale) and Alfre Woodard.

Holiday is a drag singer at a local club by lip-synching to The Supremes, wearing sequined dresses and dazzling her audiences with her personality and charm. Yet off-stage, s/he is still coming to terms with the loss of her long-term partner, who was a cop. Things take a turn when s/he takes in a young girl and her drug-addicted mother and Holiday becomes a surrogate father figure of sorts. 

Highlights, which are few, are Rhames drag queen Holiday lip-synching scenes and of him and Silas playing Super Smash Bros and a few seconds later, Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, in an editing scene that went wrong, but the tone switches from dark to frothy and it feels uneven and all over the place. Despite some light moments and having a good premise, Holiday Heart is mostly a bleak and dispiriting watch and for a festive film, it becomes too heavy-handed and edgy it takes away from some of the feel-goodness it evokes. But even with the good, it can often be corny. As the film progresses the fallouts become repetitive and tiring and thus losing its potency. Alas, director Robert Townsend's approach is dark and not as effective and strong as it should have been. 

Rhames's performance is good, but taking away his characters' sexuality and his faith in God and being a devout Christian, characterization-wise, Holiday Heart sadly has little going for her/him and with that, along with the other characters, characterisation remains flat to non-existent. Alfre Woodard is okay as Wanda as she teeters towards selfishness and callousness. Unfortunately, not one single character fully redeems themselves. An interesting fact I discovered is both Ving Rhames and Mykeli Willamson both portrayed boxing promoter, Don King with Rhames in Don King: Only In America (1997) and Williamson in 2001's Will Smith boxing biopic, Ali

Final Verdict:

It could have benefited Holiday Heart had it not taken itself too seriously, given its premise, & unlike many cross-dresser films, Mrs Doubtfire, Tootsie, To Wong Foo and Juwanna Mann, it sidesteps the comedy aspect and chooses to play it straight. Much to its disappointment as the story just wasn't compelling enough, nor did it hold up right up to the end. 

Like I said, the idea is an interesting one, yet unfortunately, it just wasn't executed well enough to elevate itself above many other TV movies. 


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