New in Town (2009) is a Christmas film, best enjoyed with a slab of stilton and a glass of port from a bottle that will probably still be around in a cupboard somewhere this time next year. New in Town is cheesy, schmaltzy, and entirely formulaic — and that’s why I like it. We all need some ‘crap entertainment’ to cheer us up, especially in 2020.
The story manages to pack in every rom-com cliché and include all the Christmas film topes possible. She’s a city girl (Renee Zellweger), an arrogant, impatient, selfish, self-obsessed, image conscious, judgemental, and ambitious executive who’s desperate to climb the corporate ladder. He’s (Harry Connick Jr) a laid back, chilled out, easy going, union leader, country boy, who is always ready to help others.
She’s come to shut down the local factory where he’s the union boss and, of course, they immediately hate one another, and then, of course, when they’re forced to spend time together they slowly realise the better qualities of one another… and they become attracted to one another.
These rom-com-holiday films often have a city versus country (or small town) conflict. It’s exactly the same kind of thing that features in films lik, Groundhog Day, and Doc Hollywood).
The selfish, hard edged city character slowly begins to adapt to the slower small town lifestyle, and begins to realise that there’s more to life than greed and selfishness. The locals, initially seen as backward, country bumpkins, are revealed to be kind and generous and have something that the city character lacks — belonging to a community.
They get together in the end, of course. And the city character discovers that he or she wants to stay in the small town and make it their home… of course.
The spirit of the Christmas film is about going through an experience that provides a revelatory new way of seeing the world. The Scrooge-like city character embraces change and learns to be a less selfish, kinder, and a more generous person.