This is a solid movie to watch when you’re actually snowed in (or there’s a heat advisory, depending on your part of the world), or home sick, or in some other state of being during which you want to yell at Netflix: “Entertain me with something that will make me feel warm feelings, and will explain things more than is necessary, so that I do not have to think at all, but can just bask in the glory of a predictable, but still satisfyingly-amusing-and-sweet movie.”
Let It Snow begins with a voice over by Joan Cusack (!) explaining that, although “snow can sometimes really kick you in the ass,” it can also “change the way you look at the world” and “has the power to bring us together.” I mean, this seems like a lot of work to get us into a rom-com about what happens to a bunch of teens one Christmas Eve when it snows a lot in their town, and they (please preemptively pardon what I am about to say) end slipping and sliding into various romantical, life-changing entanglements. But I’ll allow it because a.) it’s Joan Cusack telling me this, and b.) apparently snow makes me feel generous. (It could also be that I’m not being asked to think at all.)
There are a lot of threads in this movie, so let’s get started. (Wait. Did that make it sound complicated? It’s not. There are just a lot of people.) Tobin (Mitchell Hope, standing in for every kind, awkward-but-cute romantic lead ever cast in a rom-com) has a crush on his best friend Duke (Kiernan Shipka, standing in for every quirky, tomboy, knowledgeable about cool music romantic lead ever cast in a rom-com). She is clueless about his feelings. We have no idea what her feelings for him are. He is too shy to tell her. We first see them in a record store (where else could they possibly be?). He holds up Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” album. Then she holds up the Beastie Boys’ “Check Your Head” album. He takes it as a sign. I remind you, as I will many times, that I did promise you wouldn’t have to think during this movie.
We find out that he likes Duke as he’s talking to his friend Keon (Jacob Batalon) aka DJ K*POW$. (It’s pronounced K-Star-Pow-Money, which he patiently explains to Tobin, thus ensuring your brain cells can recline as languidly as the rest of your body during the viewing of this movie.) Keon is planning an epic (do the youngs say epic anymore?) party at his house until the snow cancels his parents’ plans, and he gets called into work at the Waffle Town—where eventually all the stories come together into one sweet mass of a conclusion. I will say here that Keon’s character—heavyset, Asian, always ready with just the right advice, and the only teen to not have a romantic storyline—did raise some concerns for me. Not because his character wasn’t extremely likeable (he was) but because of the stereotypes that it, intentionally or not, plays on. (The cast is very diverse, and couples are not coupled based on race, which, along with it’s very pointed refusal to be a true Christmas movie, probably explains why it has, at the time of writing, a 5.8 on IMDB as opposed to the 6.SomethingOrOther that I bet it would have if the cast were majority white.) Sorry, sorry I know I’ve repeatedly promised you no thinking during this movie.
Addie (Odeya Rush) and Dorrie (Liv Hewson) are best friends who we learn are obsessed with pigs. (It’s important later on, but I can’t explain how without giving away spoilers.) Addie is also obsessed with why her boyfriend has started liking another girl’s pictures on Instagram. It’s all she can talk about. While Dorrie and Addie are discussing said boyfriend and driving toward Waffle Town, where Dorrie also works, we get to see Joan Cusack in the flesh! (Well, in the tin foil because she plays a character who everyone calls Tin Foil Woman.) You’re going to be shocked to learn that Tin Foil Woman is odd, but true to herself, delivers timely advice, and serves as a mirror—OH MY GOD, HOW DID I NOT SEE THE DEEP SYMBOLISM OF ALUMINUM FOIL AND MIRRORS UNTIL NOW?!?—in which characters see and explore their own situations and emotions. In this case, Dorrie uses her to try to point out that Addie should care less about what some dumb boy (who has, gasp, never liked one of her pictures on Instagram) thinks and more about what people who care about her think! Addie doesn’t really get it. There is DRAMA! No, but seriously, you know I always like a movie that prioritizes female friendships, so I appreciate their story getting screen time. Anyway, Dorrie is also pining for a girl with whom she spent a magical night, but now can’t get up the nerve to text. This will soon be Very Important Information. It’s, like, foreshadowing. And fucking kudos to this movie that explains every-fucking-thing for NOT offering any justification or explanation for its lesbian storyline.
Anyway, if you can believe it, there is still one more couple!! Stuart Bayle (Shameik Moore) is an adorable and lonely pop singer. Side note: He’s far too young for me to find attractive, but he is absolutely adorable, and I kind of want to pinch his cheeks, which I realize should make me feel old, but I’m quite happy to not have any interest in twenty-four-year olds. Anyway, Stuart is overwhelmed by his newfound stardom, and is searching for some deeper meaning in his life. (Side-side note: D’arcy Carden (Janet from The Good Place!) shows up, but don’t get excited like I immediately did because she only has a very small part.) Julie (Isabela Merced) has recently been accepted to Columbia School of Journalism, but cares so deeply for her sick mother that she has secretly decided not to attend. (John Green is one of the authors of the book from which this movie was adapted, so you knew somebody had to be very, very sick.) Julie and Stuart meet on a train—he’s on the train to “feel real” for a few hours and I have zero clue why she’s on the train—when she picks up his dropped phone. He thinks she’s a groupie, and she (of course) is totally unimpressed by his celebrity. There is much tension. They bicker and banter. (Though, contrary to the usual rom-com norms, she is the one who is more Emotionally Unavailable ™.) When their train conveniently gets stuck in the snow, they both independently get off and start to walk to—you guessed it—Waffle Town! (Here is where Julie points out to Stuart that the W has burned out, making the sign read Affle Town—the characters make sure you know it’s pronounced AWFUL town—and it did make me snort, because as a teenager I would have loved such a blatantly obvious sign that adequately expressed my displeasure with small town life, and also because THEY USED A GIANT LIGHT UP SIGN TO LET US KNOW THAT JULIE ISN’T THRILLED WITH HER SMALL TOWN LIFE!! Please allow your brain to swing freely in a hammock as it sips margaritas and listens to Jimmy Buffet while you watch this movie, because you will not need any of your analytical thinking capabilities. I do not mean this as an insult to the movie.
So, Keon decides to have his bomb ass party at the (W)Affle Town (I don’t think the youngs say bomb ass, and I can’t decide if it should be one word or two or hyphenated) , and the girl that Dorrie likes shows up at said (W)Affle town with her dance team (but she rebuffs Dorrie because it turns out she’s not out). The scenes where the dance team members are all murmuring and talking at once, like a flock of track-suit wearing, carb-obsessed starlings, is kind of like something out of a Christopher Guest movie or maybe a Shakespearean chorus, and I’m here for it.
Addie gets more upset about her boyfriend who is kind of a total tool, argues more with Dorrie, and has some near-revelatory moments with Joan Cusack. Tobin and Duke (you didn’t forget about them did you?) go out with an older guy that Duke seems to like, they get chased by bad dudes, the car gets stuck in the snow bank, Tobin has a moment with Joan Cusack, and they also end up at the (W)Affle House. Are you sensing a pattern?
Stuart and Julie—can you tell yet that they are my preferred characters? And they’re not even that snarky!—share waffles and emotions. They then go sledding and, when Julie is suddenly hesitant at the top of the hill, Stuart says, “Anything can happen. Good. Bad. Anything.” It’s like a metaphor, but not one that requires any work on your part to understand, and it’s actually kind of sweet. I’ll allow it without giving it too hard a time. They proceed to sled down what appears to be THE LONGEST HILL EVER. The scene shows lots of kids sledding, but most kids I know would make it through two runs max before tapping out for hot cocoa and marshmallows, and no, that is not some commentary on “kids these days.” I grew up in the motherfucking woods and our giant sledding hill was a fraction of that hill. Anyway, the point of the hill, like the point of endless elevator rides in movies, is to Bring Them Together, which it does.
Soon enough they meet Julie’s mom, who tells Stuart, “You know, you look like that singer. He smiles like he’s holding in a fart.” I LOVE Julie’s mom. This is also when we get to see the best non-Christmas, Christmas pageant ever. It includes Jesus (both baby Jesus and man Jesus), Lakshmi, a Chinese New Year dragon, a rabbi, a pagan, and a Game of Thrones reference. Whoever made sure this brief (a throwaway scene in terms of plot) scene did not end up on the cutting room floor, I salute you!
Anyway, things go exactly the way you would expect them to—except that there are no montages at all that I can remember—minor disagreements are had, minor villains (which are all pretty toothless as far as villains go) are conquered, there’s an intergenerational dance off, people have the right kind of realizations, friendships are restored, people are accepted for who they are, no extremely expository heartfelt speech is left unsaid, the right people kiss, and Joan Cusack delightfully dishes out prickly, sage, and cliched (but comforting) advice from the cab of her tow truck while dressed in tin foil.
Look, is this movie going to change your life? I mean, I don’t really know for sure, but I’m guessing probably not. Will the gentle adventures in teenage love at the very least mildly entertain you in a way that’s satisfying and reassuring? I think so! So, go ahead and let your brain relax into this balmy bath of holiday-related charms.