It’s a National Geographic rom-com. And I loved it.
Look, I know it’s only November, but the time has come: I’m fully ready to embrace holiday music, treats, decorations and of course, movies. No shame, I’m one of those people who jumps straight from Halloween to Christmas. Which is why when deciding on what movie to review for today, I gratefully declined watching The King (2019) and instead settled on the decidedly less grand Holiday in the Wild (2019). You guys, I can’t stress how thankful I am that I chose the latter. Come on what would you do? Two and a half hours of Timothée Chalamet moping around medieval England, or an hour and a half of Kristin Davis caring for elephants and falling in love with Rob Lowe? You bet your bottom I chose the elephants and Rob Lowe.
Holiday in the Wild follows Dr. Kate Conrad, a wealthy New Yorker and former veterinarian whose husband has unexpectedly decided to leave her. Following through on their plans for a second honeymoon, Kate travels to Zambia alone. There she finds herself working at an elephant sanctuary, finally discovering her true purpose in life.
Look, I’ve been burned by Netflix before. I’ve reviewed 12 of their original movies in the past and each time they’re either terrible or never able to reach their full potential. So when I settled down to watch Holiday in the Wild I thought, “this will probably be some pleasant holiday fluff that I’ll forget about in a week.” Talk about a full plot twist. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with light, fluffy movies. I’m totally here for them. But I’m going to say that Holiday in the Wild is marketed incorrectly. Is it a cinematic masterpiece that will live on forever? Not in the slightest. But there’s so much more depth and heart than what I was expecting. Most Netflix holiday movies give off a strong “made-for-TV” vibe but with a stronger script and a more talented lead, I could honestly see this as a real movie that people would pay money to see in theatres.
Which is not to say that Kristin Davis is a bad lead. As Kate, she possesses all the sweetness and vulnerability required for the lead in a cheesy holiday movie. Davis plays Kate with a surprising amount of grounded realism, and over the course of the movie it’s nothing short of a delight to watch her discover herself. Of course, the other delight comes from watching the plethora of adorable animals she encounters which, trust me, we’ll talk about! Rob Lowe stars opposite Davis as Derek, her love interest and a pilot at the elephant sanctuary. Lowe is charismatic as hell and has an easygoing chemistry with Davis that keeps the movie trekking along at a fast-pace. Although I’ve come to notice that most Netflix original movies keep an astoundingly steady pace. It took less than 10 minutes for Kate’s husband to decide he was leaving her (inexplicably and the SECOND that their only child left for college I might add) and for her to land in Zambia! The Devil works fast but Netflix holiday movies work faster.
Better written than most Netflix originals I’ve endured lately, Holiday in the Wild succeeds partially because of its simplicity. The movie is extremely low-stakes with practically zero plot but somehow, still manages to tug at your heartstrings with the emotional journey Kate goes through. At one point her husband (who sent her the divorce papers on CHRISTMAS DAY!) asks if she met someone in Africa. Kate simply replies, “yes I did. Me.” Holiday in the Wild is more than just another shoddily-made rom-com. It’s a moving story about self-discovery and working to find the thing in life that sparks your passion. Also, it’s far from shoddily-made. Clearly filmed on location, the shots of the African wilderness are breathtaking to watch and the few times the movie relies on CGI it’s surprisingly passable. I wasn’t expecting to have my heart broken over a fake dead elephant but damn, Holiday in the Wild goes there!
So, speaking of, let’s talk about the animals in this movie. The real flesh and blood animals that are wisely heavily featured throughout. You guys, I’m not joking when I say that I let out a shriek of uncontainable glee when I saw a horde of ADORABLE baby elephants show up! Sigh…Is there anything more beautiful or peaceful than animals in the wild? Holiday in the Wild gives viewers exactly what they want and doesn’t shy away from showcasing these gorgeous creatures in the cutest way possible. I also learned so much about elephants! Wow, what a surprising movie! I never would have expected it but soon enough I found myself falling in love with this delightful “elephant documentary / woman finds her purpose in life” holiday movie.
Bravo Netflix for crafting the first original movie since Wine Country (2019) that I’ve enjoyed. By the way, check out my review here. I’m certainly more hopeful than I was before for the platform’s future original content. A cute holiday pick-me-up to get you in the December mood, I actually strongly recommend watching Holiday in the Wild. Throw it on while you decorate the house. By the way, November is absolutely the perfect time to start, don’t listen to anyone else. Go ahead. You’ll have a wild time.
Will you watch Holiday in the Wild?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!