The Christmas Movie That Wasn't

by Jen on December 24, 2008

in This film is not yet rated

One of my more bizarre Christmas traditions is that every year I watch (at least) one of the movie versions The Lion in Winter. I own both versions — yeah, I’m dorky like that — the Academy Award winning 1968 version starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole and the Golden Globe winning 2003 remake starring Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close. I like both versions equally well.* It’s the original dysfunctional family holiday story.

Although each version has its shortcomings, many of those probably wouldn’t be noticed by someone who wasn’t a scholar of English Medieval History. Hey, we all have to have our area of excruciatingly obscure expertise, right? Each movie is riddled with anachronisms (a Christmas tree in 1183 France?) and the costumes in the 1968 version are particularly bad (Oscar nomination notwithstanding). However, there are few things I like better than a movie made from a play. The reason is that the dialogue in these productions is always particularly smart, sharp and witty and the dialogue drives the action, rather than the other way around.

The Hubster mocked me yesterday for considering these movies to be holiday fare and I have to admit, although the events are set against a Yuletide backdrop, they’re not much of a Christmas story. A typical exchange between two character is

Eleanor: Henry’s bed is Henry’s province. He can people it with sheep for all I care, which on occasion he has done.

Henry II: Rosamund’s been dead for seven years.

Eleanor: . . . two months and eighteen days. I never liked her much.

Henry II: You counted the days.

Eleanor: I made the numbers up.

Ok, I admit, if you don’t like English history, bickering families and antique- style snarkiness, you won’t find this sort of thing witty or entertaining. And yes, if you’re looking for an idyllic Christmas movie chronicling a loving family, neither of these fit the bill.** Somehow, though, they speak Christmas to me.

*The way you love your kids; equally, but differently, each for their own unique qualities.
**My other favorite Christmas movies all fit the loving-family bill: It’s a Wonderful Life (Actually, one of my top-5 favorite just plain movies.), Miracle on 34th Street (The original. Puh-lease.) and A Christmas Story (Natch.).

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