A Holiday in Harlem Plot Summary
After her grandmother, Mama Belle, turns away her usual gift delivery, expecting “presence over presents,” successful executive Jazmin heads uptown to Harlem for a quick visit. However, when Mama Belle is injured, Jazmin agrees to stay in the neighborhood and take over co-chairing their block’s annual Christmas Jamboree with her old best friend Caleb. A successful corporate fixer, Jazmin expects the job to be easy but quickly finds that she has a lot to learn about the community and her heart.
Starring: Olivia Washington, Will Adams, and Tina Lifford
Image: Crown Media
Olivia Washington Is Not Leading Lady Material
Denzel Washington is show biz royalty! He’s handsome, uber talented, successful, respected, and not one of those stars who has allowed stardom to go to his head. He’s sensible and down-to-earth.
As an aspiring actress, Denzel’s daughter Olivia must feel the pressure of her dad’s shadow. It’s not fair to expect her to fill his shoes–she has her own path to forge.
Still, fans couldn’t help but hope the proverbial apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. As it turns out, Olivia isn’t even in the same orchard.
Despite rooting for her and desperately wanting to like her as a Hallmark leading lady in A Holiday in Harlem, her performance bombed.
Denzel’s quiet reserve is charming, but with Olivia, it’s a flatliner. She has no finesse or grace, she’s not attractive enough for Hallmark, and she’s such a large person that her co-star, Will Adams, looks like a small rag doll when she’s next to him. It could also explain the total lack of chemistry between the two–he’s probably afraid she’ll hurt him.
Image: Crown Media
It’s ironic that Jazmin falls on Mama Belle because that sums up Olivia’s on-screen presence. She always seems winded and out-of-shape as she ponderously lumbers through each scene. If I want to see a rear end that big, I can go to Walmart. In Hallmark’s lust for diversity, casting fat women must be part of their inclusion plan. No matter what our culture says about weight being “just a number” or how much it scolds people for “fat-shaming,” the truth is obesity is not healthy or attractive, and when it comes to escapism entertainment, heavy women aren’t designed for leading roles in romance movies.
Who Wants to Live in Harlem?
Despite Hallmark’s unrealistic romanticization of Harlem, it’s a ghetto, and kudos to Jazmin for escaping the clutches of poverty and crime. I want to return to Harlem said no person EVER, yet Jazmin takes a job that will bring her back to the hood.
Did Hallmark do any research before it decided to portray Harlem as a happy community filled with kind, upstanding, supportive neighbors? Harlem is actually one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City, though it falls behind worse areas like Midtown, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Soho, Tribeca, and the Village. Despite the gentrification of the area, violent crimes in Harlem are 168% higher than the national average, and you have a 1 in 31 chance of becoming a victim of crime there.
A Holiday in Harlem Has a Few Redeeming Qualities
Mama Belle is quite a character, and her antics keep things lively.
Viewers are treated to non-traditional holiday activities we don’t typically see in Hallmark movies. There is Yuletide Yoga, a Snow Jam basketball competition, a fashion bash, poetry writing opportunity, and a block party. All these festivities are welcome substitutes for the standard tropes, but they aren’t enough to save this movie from being a dismal failure and one of the worst Hallmark Christmas movies of 2021.
Image: Crown Media
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