There’s just something about the Christmas holiday season that gives many of us a dopamine kick that has us feeling warm and fuzzy inside, and there’s research to back it up. It’s for this reason that Christmas movies tend to be so popular this time of year — even the corniest ones seem worth watching. But until recently, it was hard to find Christmas movies that resembled what Christmas looks like for Latinx families. While we could enjoy rewatching films like “A Christmas Story” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it would certainly be nice to see a film that at least acknowledges how Latinxs in the States celebrate the holiday and how the major emphasis for us is actually on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), not Christmas Day. After all, we do make up 19 percent of the US population, according to a 2021 study from the Pew Research Center. Director Gabriela Tagliavini took on the task of finally making that happen for us in her new Netflix rom-com “Christmas With You.”
The film stars Aimee Garcia as pop superstar Angelina, who has had hits throughout her musical career but is quickly finding herself becoming irrelevant. She’s on a tight deadline to write a Christmas song that her record label is pushing her to put out, but the last thing on her mind is Christmas. A love story begins to brew when Angelina decides to pay a personal visit to a teenage fan named Cristina (played by Deja Monique Cruz), who posted a video of herself on Instagram singing one of Angelina’s famous singles. She gets stuck in Cristina’s town during a snow blizzard and is forced to have dinner with Cristina and her music teacher father, played by Freddie Prinze Jr. Not only does this film include a major comeback from Prinze, who plays Miguel and who many forget is of Puerto Rican descent, but it’s also one of the few times, if not the first time, we see him actually playing the role of a Latinx character.
“I’ve actually had a lot of conversations with Freddie about this. He’s actually excited to play a Latino. He loves his culture.”
“I’ve actually had a lot of conversations with Freddie about this. He’s actually excited to play a Latino. He loves his culture,” Tagliavini tells POPSUGAR. “He was really excited that we cast him as Latino because he said people don’t really give him the opportunity. Remember, actors had to be called for roles. He said a lot of people criticized him because of his skin . . . But Latinos have all kinds of skin tones and hair and we are mixed and that’s beautiful. He’s definitely Latino. He’s very proud of his Latinidad, and he’s very proud of making this movie.”
To say that Christmas movies with Latinx casts have never existed before “Christmas With You” would be inaccurate. We’ve had a few films here and there, like “Nothing Like the Holidays” in 2008, starring John Leguizamo, and Lifetime’s “Feliz NaviDAD” in 2020, starring Mario Lopez. But the options have been few and far in between. Tagliavini felt more than ever that it was time to create a holiday film with a strong Latinx cast that will bring Latinx families pride and joy.
“I don’t want to make movies with Latinos that are narcos or maids. This is about a powerful popstar Latina who is successful and owns a penthouse in Manhattan. That’s what I want Latinas to see. To see that it’s possible.”
“I don’t want to make movies with Latinos that are narcos or maids. This is about a powerful popstar Latina who is successful and owns a penthouse in Manhattan. That’s what I want Latinas to see. To see that it’s possible,” Tagliavini says. “Freddie plays a music teacher, a really kind, honest guy, and his daughter has a quinceañera in the movie. The tías are funny, and the grandmother is also Latina. So, we have all kinds of very colorful Latino characters, but they are all real people — they are not clichés.”
While the film doesn’t get specific about the characters’ backgrounds, the food Miguel cooks says it all between his famous posole and his tamale-making skills. “We didn’t want to be specific because when you get specific — I don’t know — there’s a lot of critiques out there that would go, ‘Wait a minute. They’re Mexican?’ But Freddie has Puerto Rican descent and Aimee has Mexican descent. So we didn’t mention it, but obviously the food they eat is very Mexican,” Tagliavini says.
Angelina needs a Christmas song and Miguel already has one he’s working on, so she proposes the idea that they collaborate on it. Through the process, Angelina begins to bond with Cristina, as they share the pain of losing a mom. Angelina also gets close to Miguel. But their love story, a bit reminiscent of the 1999 sitcom “Notting Hill,” where the protagonist is too famous for comfort and her love interest is a nice guy who enjoys a “normal life,” gets complicated.
How it ends is for viewers to find out, but one thing is for sure: watching a Christmas movie that centers Latinx folks, whether you’re a fan of cheesy Christmas rom-coms or not, hits different. It normalizes our stories and our realities even if it’s in the context of a fictional film. It allows us to reimagine ourselves in different ways, including as a successful pop star who has her happily ever after. And Tagliavini believes it’s the kind of film that will resonate with many — not just Latinx audiences.
“We believe this movie, even though it has a Latino flavor, is universal and will appeal to the world. And that’s why Netflix is releasing it in 190 countries,” she says. “I feel a Korean family can watch this and love it because it’s about food and it’s about love and music.”
Speaking of music, while Garcia isn’t a professional dancer or singer, she did gets tons of training to play this role and executed it so seamlessly, Netflix released a “Christmas With You” soundtrack. And like Prinze told us in a previous interview, “They don’t do that unless it’s good!”
“I feel like people want to watch these films to make themselves feel good, especially at the end of the year, especially around Christmas. And Christmas movies are supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy; this is no exception and I think we achieved that,” Tagliavini says. “The film has many messages. Family is important. Follow your dreams. Open your heart. I know this seems cliché but I think these are universal things that we all have to work on to be better people. It’s really about this love that is a family love, it’s a relationship love, it’s a father-daughter love. It’s love all around.”