screen gems

Who doesn’t love some Dolly Parton at Christmas?

DOLLY PARTONÕS CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE (L to R) CHRISTINE BARANSKI as REGINA and DOLLY PARTON as ANGEL in DOLLY PARTONÕS CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Dollywood: Christmas on the Square

In a season of schmaltzy, fairy tale romances, Santa making holiday dreams come true and schmaltzy, fairy tale romances with Santa who then makes dreams come true (seriously), what could feel more fitting than an old-fashioned musical about love and forgiveness in an impossibly quaint small town?

For that matter, who else could get away with it but Dolly Parton? Parton produced, composed the music for, and stars in this glitzy, ridiculous, totally irresistible musical. Christmas on the Square takes a cue from It’s a Wonderful Life in telling the story of Regina (Christine Baranski), a wealthy real estate tycoon hellbent on bulldozing her hometown just ahead of Christmas. Of course, there’s more to this lady Scrooge than meets the eye, hence the arrival of Angel (Parton), an actual cherub that confronts Regina over her bitterness. We soon learn that Regina has turned sour over fears of breast cancer, a traumatic childhood, and unsaid feelings for her former high school beau (Treat Williams). Will Regina experience a holiday turnabout and open her heart to the magic of Christmas?

Of course, it’s all ridiculous, particularly the sight of a glammed-out Parton trying to look like a homeless woman. Still, in the hands of director Debbie Allen, Christmas on the Square knows exactly what kind of sweet, campy movie it is. In the lead, Baranski delivers a three-dimensional, genuinely affecting performance. Yes, as she weeps in song over her painful life, we even found ourselves misty-eyed. Parton’s score allows affords both leads, as well as Donovan and co-star Jennifer Lewis opportunity to show off their powerhouse vocal chops.

Oh, and the voguing, coded-gay hairstylists were a great touch.

As with The Christmas House or The Christmas SetupChristmas on the Square ain’t exactly high drama. That said, as with those movies, it offers viewers a fairytale vision of an idealized world–just the kind of hopeful, candy-coated treat we crave during the holidays. So, pour the eggnog and get ready for a trifecta of divas to enchant and steal your heart away.

Streams on Netflix.