The life of suburban realtor Suzanne Barrington (Anna Margaret Hollyman), with her demure pearl necklace and her doting TV-weatherman husband (Nathan Williams), is established with sufficient smugness at the outset of Zach Clark’s attempt at a nouveau holiday cult flick; the caption “24 Days Until Christmas” lands with an impact similar to The Shining's contextual disclaimer “Friday.” Sure enough, the tinsel-wrapped hammer falls: Just after her hubby gets a new gig in Hawaii, Suzanne comes home to find him with his brains blown out by a nervous burglar. Then a distraught friend tells her that her dead spouse was having an affair with a stripper (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough). Several thousand dollars’ worth of retail therapy later, the widow starts hanging out with the woman in question. Because nothing heals the pain of loss like cheap irony.
There’s a sorrowful grace to Hollyman’s performance, one that White Reindeer is far more interested in besmirching than honoring. The central joke, if you can call it that, is that outwardly perfect people have dark secrets—bland neighbors who favor bulky Christmas sweaters but turn out to be polyamorous, har dee har har—and vice versa (a coke-snorting stripper turns out to be a sympathetic single mom). Everything is tainted by a sneering sense of superiority. It’s like washing down Christmas dinner with rancid eggnog.
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