Film/TV Review Corner: Lifetime’s A Sugar & Spice Holiday
Welcome back to the review corner – long time no see! I’m Kate Anderson-Song, head interviewer and outreach team member here at Overachiever Magazine, bringing you some of my thoughts and recommendations on what to watch! If you missed my past recommendations, here are some of my other reviews!
December is upon us and that means it is time for one of my favorite traditions: a steady stream of holiday romance TV movies! Now, for most of the year, I can easily take or leave these cheesy flicks. But there is something about the holiday season that makes these films hit the spot – even if most feel like they are made from exactly the same cookie cutter. Enter: A Sugar & Spice Holiday,Lifetime’s first Christmas romance centered around a Chinese-American family.
Lead by an Asian-female creative team (directed by Jennifer Liao, written by Eirene Donohue & casted by Judy Lee), this film centers on Suzie, an architect in LA with perfectionist tendencies (played with warmth and poise by Jacky Lai), who returns home to her family in Maine for the holidays after the passing of her beloved grandmother.
Suzie’s friend from high school, Billy (played with a great balance of goof and charm by Tony Giroux), quickly ropes her into entering the local gingerbread baking competition (of which her grandmother happened to be the reigning champion), in hopes of winning money to save their community center. With a huge work deadline looming, the baking competition, spending time with her family, and rekindling her relationship with Billy – Suzie faces a whirlwind holiday season at home. While the film gets a little busy, and pulls you in all these many directions with Suzie, it never loses its cheerful and cozy holiday mood.
However, what really made A Sugar & Spice Holiday stand out is the constant presence of Suzie’s supportive family, who spend the film reminding Suzie that they are proud of her and just want her to be happy (a nice departure from the many depictions of stereotypically strict and cold Asian parents) – all while casually and authentically weaving in the traditions and cultural differences that come with being a Chinese-American family home for the holidays.
From the cozy opening baking scene and heartfelt imagined conversations that keep the grandmother’s presence alive throughout, to Suzie’s brother and his wife and children wreaking just enough mischief and concern to be a constant reminder of home-for-the-holiday craziness, to every blunt but loving one-liner and delicious-looking meal made by her mother (played by Lillian Lim, who steals every moment she’s in), to a final supportive heart-to-heart with her father (played by Tzi Ma of The Farewell and Mulan) – this family is unmistakably close, Chinese, and not once does this feel forced or thrown in for show. It is woven in at every turn as the heart and truth of the story.
As an Asian-Amerian woman (who also knows this genre like the back of her hand), it was really exciting to see the family’s Asian identity represented yet fully meshed with the classic cheesy Christmas romance movie. It never feels like it is a story about Suzie’s Chinese-American identity, yet her Chinese-American identity is undeniable and authentically seen throughout – essentially the goal of good representation! For the production of the film, along with the Asian-led creative team and cast, Lifetime announced they were working with CAPE (the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) to accurately share the Chinese-American traditions, food, & culture in this story. Like another of their 2020 telefilms, The Christmas Setup, which centers on an LGBTQ+ romance and was worked on in collaboration with GLAD, A Sugar & Spice Holiday represents Lifetime’s new goal to diversify their slate of holiday movies in front of and behind the camera.
If you aren’t into the classic Hallmark/Lifetime/Netflix holiday cheesiness, skip this – but if any part of you wants that sort of winter-time sweetness, with the twist of a warm and truthful Chinese-American family (and a story where romance isn’t a woman’s only problem), definitely catch A Sugar & Spice Holiday – and maybe decorate some gingerbread houses while watching!
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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