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Normally Christmas movies are Scotchnaut’s beat, but I stumbled upon a seemingly unheard of gem on the NFL Network over the weekend and I wanted to spread its holiday cheer with the fine folks here.
Sara Rue – who you might remember as “Earth Girl” from the nineties teen comedy Can’t Hardly Wait – plays spunky San Francisco single mom Audrey Mullins, doing her best to raise her autistic son Austin with a limited support system of friends and supportive coworkers.
Tom Cable plays gruff, no-nonsense MTA supervisor Tom.
Audrey first encounters Tom when – after a complicated mixup involving several bags full of Christmas presents – she gets stopped by a transit cop for fare-jumping on a cable car. Tom sees her at her worst – overwhelmed by the holiday season’s demands – and he mistakes her frustration for the signs of a kindred soul. You see, after a scorched-earth divorce from his second wife, Tom hates everything and everyone in the world around him and longs for his misremembered younger days when the world wasn’t overrun by “pussies and deadbeats”.
Due to her limited finances, Audrey is completely dependent on public transportation so having her transit privileges revoked would be a disaster. As a supervisor, Tom uses his clout to ensure that Audrey is released with only a warning. As the Christmas season moves forward and Audrey tries to juggle her job, Austin’s hectic schedule, and everything else, she keeps running into Tom. Eventually, when a homeless derelict knocks Audrey’s coffee into her lap, she accepts Tom’s offer to purchase her a new cup.
Tom is an irreparable misanthrope who channels his rage and frustration with the world into terrifying outbursts of violence against his coworkers and former loved ones. Audrey is correspondingly terrified by this and pulls away emotionally. Wisely listening to the advice of her friends and family, Audrey attempts to eliminate Tom from her life entirely. Tom tries various grand romantic gestures – like savagely beating the derelict who spilled coffee on Audrey, or violently assaulting Audrey’s stockbroker ex-husband after he’s late to pick up young Austin from school, but these actions only seem to drive Audrey further away.
After Austin’s class puts on an adorable performance of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas – which Audrey misses because her boss forces her to work triple overtime – Austin is nowhere to be found. Tear-stricken Audrey surmises he might have gotten confused and tried to ride the cable car system home, since it has become so familiar and comforting to him over the holiday season. She runs out of the school and coming towards them is a cable car decked out with Christmas decorations. Tom is at the wheel and an unconcerned Austin is riding happily next to him. The film ends with Audrey riding alongside Tom on the cable car, clutching her son’s arm tightly and wearing a forced smile on her face.