There’s just something about the holiday season that gives many of us a rush of dopamine that makes us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, and There are studies that prove that. This is why Christmas movies are so popular this time of year — even the cheesiest seem worth watching. But until recently, it was difficult to find Christmas movies that resembled what Christmas is like for Latinx families. While we might love to watch movies like “A Christmas Story” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it would certainly be nice to see a movie that at least acknowledges how Latinxs across the States celebrate the holiday and what we actually care about Noche Buena (Christmas Eve), not on Christmas Day. After all, according to a, we make up 19 percent of the US population 2021 study by the Pew Research Center. Director Gabriela Tagliavini has made it her mission to finally make 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 quickly finds herself becoming irrelevant. She has a tight deadline to write a Christmas song that her record label is urging her to release, 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 on Instagram of herself singing one of Angelina’s famous singles. She gets stuck in Cristina’s town during a snowstorm and is forced to have dinner with Cristina and her music teacher father, played by Freddie Prinze Jr. Not only does this film feature a major comeback from Prinze, who plays Miguel, who many forget is of Puerto Rican descent, but it’s also one of the few, if not the first, times that we’ve actually seen him play the role of a Latinx character.
“I’ve actually had a lot of conversations with Freddie about it. He’s really excited to play a Latino. He loves his culture.”
“I’ve actually had a lot of conversations with Freddie about it. He’s really 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 that actors had to be called for roles. He said a lot of people criticized him for his skin… But Latinos have all kinds of skin tones and hair and we’re mixed and that’s beautiful. He’s definitely Latino. He’s very proud of his Latinidad and he’s very proud to do this film.
To say that there had never been a Christmas movie with a Latinx cast before Christmas With You would be inaccurate. We’ve had a few movies here and there, like 2008’s Nothing Like the Holidays with John Leguizamo and Lifetime’s 2020’s Feliz NaviDAD with Mario Lopez. But the options were few and far between. More than ever, Tagliavini felt it was time to make a vacation movie with a strong Latinx cast that will bring pride and joy to Latinx families.
“I don’t want to do films with Latinos who are narcos or maids. This is about a powerful Latina pop star who is successful and owns a penthouse in Manhattan. That’s what we want Latinas to see. To see that it is possible.”
“I don’t want to do films with Latinos who are narcos or maids. This is about a powerful Latina pop star who is successful and owns a penthouse in Manhattan. That’s what we want Latinas to see. To see that it’s possible,” Tagliavini says. “Freddie plays a music teacher, a really nice, honest guy, and his daughter has a quinceañera in the film. The Tías are funny and the grandmother is Latina too. So we have all kinds of very colorful Latino characters, but they’re all real people — they’re not clichés.”
While the film doesn’t specifically go into the backgrounds of the characters, the food that Miguel cooks says everything between his famous posole and his tamale-making skills. “We didn’t want to get specific because if you get specific — I don’t know — there’s a lot of criticism out there that would say, ‘Wait a minute. You are Mexican?’ But Freddie is of Puerto Rican descent and Aimee is of Mexican descent. So we didn’t mention it, but obviously the food they eat is very Mexican,” says Tagliavini.
Angelina needs a Christmas carol and Miguel already has one he’s working on so she suggests the idea that they work on it together. Through the process, Angelina begins to bond with Cristina as they share the pain of losing a mother. Angelina also becomes close to Miguel. But their love story, which is a bit reminiscent of the 1999 sitcom Notting Hill, in which the protagonist is too famous to be comfortable and her love interest is a nice guy enjoying a “normal life,” gets complicated .
How it ends is for viewers to find out, but one thing’s for sure: if you’re watching a Christmas movie that focuses on Latinx people, whether you’re a fan of cheesy Christmas rom-coms or not, it’s going to be different. It normalizes our stories and our realities, even if it’s in the context of a fictional film. It allows us to reintroduce ourselves in a variety of ways, including as a successful pop star who keeps 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 film, while having a Latin flavor, is universal and will appeal to the world. And that’s why Netflix releases it in 190 countries,” she says. “I think a Korean family can look at 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 received tons of training to play the role and performed it so seamlessly that Netflix released a Christmas With You soundtrack. And as Prinze told us in a previous interview: “They only do it if it’s good!”
“I feel like people want to see these films to feel good, especially at the end of the year, especially around Christmas. And Christmas movies are meant to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling; this is no exception and I think we nailed it,” says Tagliavini. “The film has a lot of messages. Family is important. Follow your dreams. Open your heart. I know it sounds cliche, but I think that are universal things that we all need to work on to be better people. It’s really about that love, it’s a family love, it’s a relationship love, it’s a father-daughter love. It’s love all round.”