Christmas with a Capital C: Part 3

The judge comes to town, and it’s a pretty informal affair—she checks out the handmade nativity scene, then sits down with Dan, Mitch, and Willa to discuss options.  (And yes, the judge is a she.  Refreshingly and surprisingly to me, she is an older lady.  She’s also fucking awesome.)

She’s very sensible and wants things to be settled with a minimum of fuss and drama, and tells them that if they want an official ruling, it’ll be for Mitch, but they have other options.  I’ll present them, along with Dan’s very mature and Christian reactions:

Judge: Well, there are three options to consider.  You could add to this as a holiday display and include elements of a non-religious nature or elements that are of other faiths.

[Dan sighs and looks away]

Judge: Or the city could donate or sell them, the statues and the platform, to a private individual, who can display them in another place, either on private property, or with permission in a public setting where there is equal opportunity for others to put up their own holiday displays.

[Dan looks away, rolls his eyes, and shakes his head]

Willa: And the third?

Judge: Don’t display them at all.  But if you ask me, that would be a shame.

[Dan nods]

If there’s one thing this scene drives home, it’s that Dan is very, very unused to not having his own way.  He’s not even being told “no,” here; he’s just being told that he has to make some kind of small compromise, and cannot have things exactly as he wants.  But clearly this woman is just a pawn in Mitch’s evil scheme to “hold the town hostage.”

Dan: With all due respect, your honor, all three of those are ruining our town’s traditions that we’ve had over fifty years.

You’re ruining Christmas, Judge!  RUINING IT!

Oh, and it’s nice to see how well Kristin’s campaign is working on Dan, eh?

But the judge is apparently used to dealing with privileged blowhards.

Judge: Or you could look at it as creating a new tradition.  Moving the Christ child to another place of honor does no harm to his reputation.  Perhaps you are concerned more about yours?

OH.  SNAP.  Hot damn, I did not see that one coming!

(And no, Dan does not take this criticism in an open-minded spirit.  He looks away again, and opens his mouth with a “do you believe this?” look on his face.)

Also worth noting that Mitch and Willa thank the judge immediately, making eye contact, while Dan mutters his thanks while not even looking at her.

SO MATURE

Dan has pouty time at the empty platform (in the falling snow, mind you, so we know he’s really being persecuted).  He also sees that the bouncy, brown-nosing coach is wearing a Mitch-Bright-for-Mayor button.

SNAP SNAP

Later that evening, we get a shot of Mitch coming home to his big, gorgeous log home…only to see that he’s camping on a couch in the living room.  Weirdly, the set has been decorated with a roll of holiday wrapping paper.  Wouldn’t have thought a RTC movie would put that in an atheist’s room.

The music of sadness plays as we see the loneliness of an atheist’s life: reduced to eating pizza in front of a roaring fire.

Actually, that sounds kinda awesome.

Back at the mayoral homestead, Dan is still moping, and dude, it is way past time for you to get over this.  He is hunched over, head in his arms, while his wife and kids and Jesus play Monopoly.  I can’t even imagine how he would cope if something actually bad were to happen in his life.

Typically, Dan wants everyone else to attend his self-pity party, but Kristin and FTS are pretty zen about the whole thing, and Makayla is sympathetic to Mitch, saying she’d be upset, too, if she was living as he does, all alone on a couch.

Well.  If there’s one thing guaranteed to perk Dan right up, it’s the thought of Mitch being unhappy!

The family puts the pieces together: Makayla saw nothing in Mitch’s house other than a couch, so the U-Haul at the beginning of the movie must have been to cart things away from the house, to sell them!  (This doesn’t seem the kind of thing you could keep under wraps in a town as full of busybodies as Trapper Falls, but whatever.)

Dan and Jesus laugh as they discuss Mitch’s presumed fall from grace (and riches).  Their eyes light up.  They chuckle into their hands.  It’s pretty disgusting.

Kristin attempts to distract them for 2.3 whole seconds, reminding them that this is all none of their business.  But Dan and Jesus are not about to let the little woman dissuade them.  With a “terrorist fist jab,” they agree to a ROAD TRIP (by which they mean a plane trip) to check out Mitch’s old law firm.  Which means they are flying their little plane from Alaska to San Francisco in order to dig up dirt on Mitch.

Remember, Dan is the one who thinks Mitch has a vendetta against him.

Bump

(Kristin looks aggravated in the above pic, but she’s more good-naturedly moaning that “the Reed brothers are scheming again“!  Aww, those adorable scamps!  Trying to ruin a man’s life!)

At the law firm, good Christian Dan lies to a fresh-faced young attorney, telling him that they are there to see Mitch.  Dan continues to feign ignorance and asks for the name of the firm he went to after leaving this one, or a forwarding address, but FFYA is not down with that, as the firm is “protective” of former employees.

Sadly, FFYA is not so protective that he doesn’t reveal that Mitch made a bad investment and lost everything.

There is no possible way Jesus could be happier about this.  This is seriously the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Happy

LOOK AT HOW HAPPY HE IS

I don’t say this very often, but dude needs to get laid.  Maybe then his mind would be occupied by other things than reveling in the misfortune of others.

FFYA is yet another of our movie’s heroes, though.  Naively taking Dan and Jesus’s word that they are friends of Mitch, FFYA gives them a wad of cash for him.  Turns out Mitch was a total mensch, and gave FFYA a great start at the firm, letting him help with big cases, and getting him onto a rock star track.

FFYA: Just tell him it’s from an old friend or do it anonymously.  I know it’ll be hard for him to take it, but he needs it.  He really helped me out a lot back then.  I just want to help him.

That is so sweet and so sensitive and so classy that I don’t even have words.

Now, all FFYA needs to learn is not to trust every neck-bearded, smirking asshole who walks in the door.

Back at the homestead, Dan and Kristin discuss how Mitch “lied” to everyone.  Which is pretty hilarious coming from the guy who just flew some 3,000 miles to lie to the face of Mitch’s old friend.

And was Mitch supposed to call a town meeting and tell everyone he’s broke?  Weird town.

Dan: Maybe people will forgive him when they find out the truth.  Or we could just run him outta here on a rail.

Kristin: Oh yeah!  That’d show him the real spirit of Christmas!

Dan: It’d sure feel good.

Kristin: Yeah.

You monsters.  You are both fucking monsters.  I mean, Dan is a full-blown sociopath, but Kristin is enabling him, so she has definitely lost the Christmas-with-a-Capital-C high ground.

Also, it is implied that Mitch inherited his house and owns it outright, so how he could be run out of town is best left to Dan’s sick fantasies.

***

Teenage flirting.  The big race.  Girl wins.  All pretty pointless except for the fact that Mitch is a no-show, along with the cruise ship business folks that he promised would be there.

***

Mitch shamefacedly shows up at the Reeds’ boat later that day, upset because the cruise guy cancelled and everyone must be disappointed.

Oh, did I mention that it’s Christmas Eve?  Why did anybody, including Mitch, expect some big deal to go down today?

Then Mitch reveals that growing up, he was always jealous of Dan and Jesus.  I like to think of this as Mitch’s crafty way to weasel into their good graces.  Maybe one showing of humility will be enough to get them off his back, so he can do what needs doing, yanno?

I mean, probably not, since now that Dan and Jesus have laughed at Mitch for days, they can also pity him, as good Christians should.

BUT I CAN DREAM

Mitch wanders off and Jesus says to Dan:

“You gotta give him that money.”

Wait.

Wait just one goddamn second.  You weren’t going to give him the money, Dan?  That money is Mitch’s.  It is a gift from his friend.  It is not now, and never was, your money, Dan.

Holy shit.  Monsters.  They are monsters.

***

Christmas pageant time, and as Josie comes to sit with Jesus and his family…

…Mitch is cold in his empty house.  Like an evil atheist would be.

(By the way, not to be hard on a kid or anything, but Makayla’s pageant performance sucks on toast.  She has, what two lines and she can’t remember them?)

And then Dan leaves, in the middle of his daughter’s performance, mind you (though she’s fine with it), and heads out to his truck.  There, he contemplates the money and how many Bibles he could buy with it…

But the spirit of giving (people what is theirs) is in his heart, and he drives off with a purpose.

Mitch is busy getting all snuggly in front of his fire, but Dan, as usual, will not take no (answer at the door) for an answer, and eventually gets his way.  Then he gives Mitch the cash and this weird exchange takes place:

Dan: It’s from an old friend.  He asked me not to tell you who.

Actually, FFYA asked no such thing.  He said Dan didn’t have to say who it was from.  He also said Dan could do it anonymously, which probably would have been the kindest thing, as FFYA knew.

Mitch: How did he know where to find me?

Dan: You know who it’s from?

Mitch: Yeah, it’s the exact amount of money I lent him two years ago.  He was working as a clerk and he and his wife were having a baby.

Wow.  Color me naïve on the scale of FFYA, but that story sounds quite plausible.  I know, we’re supposed to interpret it as Mitch just trying to save face, but Not Alec Baldwin delivers the line in a way that does not bespeak lying.

Oh well.

Makayla and Kristin have followed Dan, post-pageant, and are now outside Mitch’s house with a poinsettia.

Makayla: Can we come in?

Okay, Makayla, you’re a kid, so I’ll play ball: it is generally considered poor form to just show up at someone’s house at night and expect to be let in.  Especially when it is immediately apparent that the homeowner has already turned in for the night.  (And it is–Mitch has been snuggled on the couch for at least an hour now, and it shows.)

Your parents should be the ones to school you in such things, as they’re standing right there and all, but apparently they have no interest in doing so.  But you can do better, Makayla—

Oh, hey!  Looks like your mommy has invited the whole town over, too, because here they come with house-warming gifts.

Well, Makayla, your lessons in manners are screwed.  As is Mitch.

I just…

Yanno, this would be quite sweet if they weren’t springing it on Mitch in the middle of the night.  Guy was settled on his couch and has an empty house and…damn, it just seems so purposefully humiliating to do this all on their schedule.

HI MITCH!  HOST OUR CHRISTMAS EVE PARTY IN YOUR EMPTY HOUSE!  LEMME JUST SHOVE THIS USED PIZZA BOX OUTTA THE WAY AND WE’LL BE ALL SET.

I’m not sure this tops squatters buying a whole town’s worth of Christmas lights and stringing them on Main Street in secret, but it’s definitely in the same ballpark.

btw, Josie’s housewarming gift is awesome: it’s a tea kettle.  I am going to forget that she sat with the Reeds, and hope that she and Mitch still end up together.  She deserves so much better than that smirking troll.

Okay, I’m trying to be nice about this: at least Mitch can easily explain away the unfurnished house.  Hell, the last time I moved, I was sleeping on an air mattress for 21 days, waiting for my furniture, and I wasn’t moving anywhere so remote as Bedford Trapper Falls, Alaska.

Then again, I’m sure Dan and Kristin and Jesus have told everyone everything.  And will never let anyone, least of all Mitch, forget.

Dan gives Mitch a condescending pat on the back as they head into the house.

But Mitch proves himself a much better human being than any Reed by being a total gentleman to the invaders of his home.

Mantle

The most interesting shot of the whole “party”: Willa takes it upon herself to decorate Mitch’s lovely mantle with white holiday lights and…a “Mitch Bright for Mayor” poster.

Hmmm…

***

A day or two later (or more, because who the hell knows with this film), all conflicts get resolved.  Dan and Jesus have purchased the decorations and are putting them up on public property (I have no idea where—the shots are too tight to tell).  Mitch drives up and it is clear that the impromptu party and the revelation of Mitch’s poverty and the spirit of Christmas have not affected Jesus one iota:

Jesus: I’m not ashamed of Jesus, Mitch.  Never gonna be.

Jesus, for the last time.  Nobody cares.  Nobody likes you.  Shut the frak up.

Mitch, as usual, takes the high road and refuses to be drawn into Jesus’s petty, ranting squabbling:

Mitch: Freedom of religion.  It’s what makes America great, right?

Damn, two Wintermases in a row: Jordan Scoville and Mitch Bright—two atheists who are far, far too good for their tiny, oppressive, busybody, hateful towns.

Mitch has come by to show the heroes assholes two things.  The first is his motion to drop the complaint.  Which is sweet of Mitch and all, but it’s a moot point since the evil, monster brothers actually went with the judge’s Option 2.

I admit I’m surprised that the nativity set never ended up back at city hall.  Then again, when the next evil atheist moved to town, the issue would just arise again, and I think it is pretty clear that Mitch was proved to be Right All Along—many of the townsfolk were sick of the whole thing, but cowed into submission by the monster, ranting Reed brothers.

Oh, and the second thing?  An e-mail from the cruise line guy that Mitch knows.  The guy missed his plane and wants to have a big meeting in January with Mitch and other cruise people to bring more business into town.

Holy shit.  Are we sure this wasn’t made by atheists as a Trojan Horse on film?

And the hits just keep coming: Mitch suggests that he head the Chamber of Commerce and go for a city council seat, in preparation for all the changes that are surely coming.  He adds that he will be so busy that he’ll need to “set aside” his campaign for mayor.

Holy holy shit.

Mitch is playing the Long Game.  HE IS PLAYING THE LONG GAME!!!!

Damn, but it is all so clear now.  Mitch uses the revelation of his temporarily-poverty-stricken status to fool the Reeds into thinking he doesn’t have this all in hand.  It’s like a Not So Weak come I Am Not Left-Handed.

Mitch will be running this town within three years, mark my words.  “Set aside” my ass.  Set aside for about 18 months, I figure.  Until he has singlehandedly brought this town mad bank.

And in furtherance of his Long Game, Mitch wishes the monster brothers a MERRY CHRISTMAS and helps them set up the nativity scene.

Oh, I am on to your brilliant plan, Mitch Bright.  Yes, I am.

He will frakking buy and sell your ass, Jesus.  Best be ready.

***

Well, this movie turned out WAY better than expected.

I hereby nominate Mitch Bright for King of Everything.

What a glorious start to the Wintermas season.  Next: on to Wintermas romance!

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Posted on December 3, 2013, in Christmas with a Capital C, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. …Are…Are you certain that this is supposed to have Mitch as the villain? ‘Cause, uh, he literally does nothing wrong, not once, while the protagonists are jerks of the first order.

    I’m also gobsmacked that there wasn’t some ridiculous “everyone in town arranges a conspiracy to put the nativity back” plot, thus causing the judge to give up, or something, plot.

  2. I’m unsure how to feel. I’ve been reading through your archives for a few weeks now — just reached the end of “Escape from Hell” — so I was totally expecting a last-minute conversion by Mitch. This is…kinda nice. My head’s spinning.

    I’d like to think the movie was meant to appeal to a wider audience than the usual fare you review, but I can’t judge how well this would fly with the RTC crowd. My guess is they would also like the story because, from their perspective, Mitch gets taken down a peg, has his holiday saved by the generous small-town Christians despite being such a manipulative pain in the ass to them, and he finally manages to say “Merry Christmas” without swallowing his tongue, showing he’s well on his way to being won over to Christ.

  3. I share your bafflement Ruby and GDwarf. It’s the Christians who are acting like douchbags, and it’s the Christians who change the most to make the happy ending possible. After all Dan and Jesus’ hypocrisy (did Mitch ever actually lie? Did he ever claim that he was still a rich lawyer? Even if he did, Dan and Jesus told worse lies, and then considered keeping the money) and demands of Christian privilige, we end them adoppting a live-and-let-live attitude.

    Not since Apocalypse have I seen a better ending to an otherwise terrible Christian movie.

  4. By the way, throwing the surprise party in the middle of the night is one thing. Worse is that they do organize it at his house… right after they figure out that he’s broke and had to sell all of his furniture. Which the rest of the town doesn’t know yet. But they will, after our protagonists decide to bring the whole town to check out his house. That’s the part that I consider purposefully humiliating.

    But hey, that’s not how they play it in the ending, so let’s show some Wintermass spirit and not hold it too much against the movie.

  5. I second your nomination of Mitch Bright as King of Everything. There’s nothing that makes him the bad guy, except, I guess, having the audacity of being an atheist in a Christmas movie. But Mitch isn’t even like what you’d expect an atheist in an RTC Christmas movie to be like. He’s not full of himself, he doesn’t shove it in other people’s faces, and “hocus pocus Christianity” crack in the first part of the movie aside, he’s been pretty respectful. It’s been Mayor Dan and his brother, the Low-Rent Geico Caveman, who have been giant, thundering assholes for most of the movie.

    Like Ivan said, this is an oddly good ending for a Christian-aimed Christmas movie.

  6. So Mitch gets the one thing he demands coming into the story, gets the townspeople affirming they do like him and welcome him back, is building up the town economy, and the big break he gets is because of his own personal previous act of charity coming back around rather than some thinly-veiled act of divine providence – or even as an act of Christian charity! He doesn’t even concede anything, because he wasn’t trying to destroy Christmas or something – he basically issued a polite challenge to the town government endorsing religion to help prevent a more serious challenge down the road!

    Congratulations to our secret protagonist Mitch.

  7. So it all ends in peaceful compromise? Didn’t see that one coming.

    Ruby, check your DVD menu, maybe there’s an Easter egg alternate ending where the Christian townsfolk arise in righteous wrath to reassert their traditions. They descend upon City Hall as a one-minded mob, cover every inch of the building in Jesus paraphernalia, and install the Ten Commandments in front for good measure. “Next stop, WASHINGTON D.C.!!!” Jesus roars to the crowd, brandishing Mitch’s severed head.

    I can’t shake the feeling that that was the ending a lot of folks wanted, but reason/good sense/executive meddling prevailed somehow and forced a last-minute change to something actually reasonable.

    It seems like the IMDB reviewers are equally split. You have atheists who loved it and Christians who hated it, and vice versa.

  8. Wow wait what

    Mitch gets a happy ending without converting to Christianity?

    Mind=blown

  9. …Well, this was a plot twist I did NOT expect. Maybe RTCs (or some of them) are starting to grow up a bit and realize that the world doesn’t and shouldn’t necessarily bend to accommodate them in each and every way and that non-RTCs aren’t necessarily horrible people. Who knows, if this trend actually continues we could see some decent Christian fiction in a few years.

  10. I wonder whether this actually IS an RTC-written story, come to think of it. This looks more like a deconstruction of the kind of conceits you have in “Christmas Town”, with the actual hero dyad being Mitch and Makayla. I’d guess it’s Makayla, akin to the Good Samaritan, who should be deemed to be the trigger for the town populace actually deciding to be Christ-like, and thus ACTUALLY giving a capital C (or, if you prefer, capital Chi) to Christmas. Where before, they were praying in the streets to be seen, but were more like whited sepulchres (q.v. how Dan and Greg ORIGINALLY acted).

  11. “By the way, throwing the surprise party in the middle of the night is one thing. Worse is that they do organize it at his house… right after they figure out that he’s broke and had to sell all of his furniture. Which the rest of the town doesn’t know yet. But they will, after our protagonists decide to bring the whole town to check out his house. That’s the part that I consider purposefully humiliating.

    But hey, that’s not how they play it in the ending, so let’s show some Wintermass spirit and not hold it too much against the movie.”

    That *could* have been part of the Long Game: Make sure the town finds out you’ve lost all your money and come home to recover, so that they they are less likely to resent you for having “out of town money” and “coming in and buying the town”.

    So in a couple of years, when Mitch has made mad bank, organized the city council, taken over as mayor, and become unofficial King of the town, folks can tell themselves that Mitch is *theirs* – that he “made good” because of them and their town.

  12. Okay, checking the IMDB site, the writer is Andrea Gyertson Nasfell, and the other screenplays she wrote are “Flying Changes”, “What If…”, “This Is Our Time”, and “Silver Bells”. Any bells ringing? (No, that’s not a pun.)

  13. Well, that was certainly not the ending I was expecting. Mitch doesn’t convert to Christianity, he gets the nativity scene moved, the townspeople accept him, and he’s still helping the local economy! Were the writers of this movie secretly atheists or something?

    And yes, Mitch is definitely playing the Long Game.

  14. Just stumbled across your site here and I’m glad I did. I also have a website where I review Christian movies from an atheist perspective (although not exclusively). I’ve seen 75 titles so far, so if you need suggestions on where to go next, I can definitely help you out – my three personal favorites are “Facing the Giants”, “C Me Dance”, and “Suing the Devil”. You should definitely check them out. Here’s my review for this movie, just for your own enjoyment (http://glasgowtothemovies.com/2011/christmas-with-a-capital-c). I subscribed to your email list. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 7th, 2013 | The Slacktiverse

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