Review: ‘A Holiday Chance,’ starring Nafessa Williams, Sharon Leal, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Richard Lawson, Amin Joseph and Tobias Truvillion

December 22, 2021

by Carla Hay

Richard Lawson, Sharon Leal and Nafessa Williams in “A Holiday Chance” (Photo courtesy of Faith Media Distribution)

“A Holiday Chance”

Directed by Jamal Hill

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the comedy/drama “A Holiday Chance” features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two sisters, who have opposite personalities, are forced to work together when they inherit the family’s movie production/distribution company.

Culture Audience: “A Holiday Chance” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of family-oriented dramedies that stick to a predictable formula but have realistic characters and entertaining screenplays.

Sharon Leal, Amin Joseph, Richard Lawson, Vanessa Bell Calloway and Nafessa Williams in “A Holiday Chance” (Photo courtesy of Faith Media Distribution)

“A Holiday Chance” has almost no surprises, but this likable comedy/drama has appealing cast members that enliven this story about a family learning to resolve conflicts in business and in their personal lives. It’s mostly lightweight entertainment, but there are some serious issues about grief and forgiveness that add emotional gravitas to make the story more meaningful. If you enjoy stories about families during the end-of-year holiday season, then “A Holiday Chance” might be worth watching if you want a movie that’s the equivalent of familiar comfort food.

Directed by Jamal Hill and written by Curtis Bryant, “A Holiday Chance” is about a upper-middle-class clan whose family business is an independent film production/distribution company called Chance Vision. The company was founded by patriarch Garvin Chance (played by Richard Lawson), whose devotion to the business has often come at a cost to spending personal time with his family. Chance Vision has been financially struggling in recent years, which is a secret that Garvin has kept from most of the family until it can no longer be kept a secret.

Garvin and his loyal wife Sheryl (played by Vanessa Bell Calloway) have two daughters together: Noel (played by Nafessa Williams) and Naomi (played by Sharon Leal), who have very different personalities and are leading very different lives. Noel, who is very practical, is a 32-year-old never-married bachelorette who works with her father in Chance Media as a supervising manager. Naomi, who is very flaky, is a 36-year-old housewife and mother. Naomi’s husband Marcus (played by Amin Joseph) is an attorney; they have a daughter together named Ryan (played by Gabriela Merid), who’s about 7 or 8 years old.

For as long as they can remember, Noel and Naomi have been bickering sisters. Even though Naomi is the older sister, Noel is the more responsible sibling. For example, when Noel finds out that Naomi hasn’t paid her taxes in years, Noel writes a check to pay the taxes and make the problem go away. It’s also revealed in the story that Naomi has tried to start multiple businesses, which have all failed because she gave up too easily when she thought things got too hard.

Chance Vision is also headed for a possible business failure. The company has generated millions in revenue, but has fallen behind when adapting to technological changes in the marketplace. In a meeting between Noel and her father Garvin, Noel advise him to invest more in streaming and digital because they are growth areas for movie production and distribution. He says he’ll think about taking her advice.

When the movie begins, it’s around the Christmas holidays, and the family has gathered with other relatives for a traditional holiday dinner. Sheryl’s sister Joanne, nicknamed Jo (played by Pamela Shaddock), and Joanne’s daughter Terri (played by Chasity Saunders) are also part of this tight-knit clan. It also happens to be a dinner celebration for Noel’s birthday.

Someone who has stopped by the Chance family home but who isn’t staying for dinner is a movie producer named Keith Austin (played by Tobias Truvillion), who is a good-looking and charismatic available bachelor. Keith has stopped by for a private meeting with Garvin, to get some business advice. Before Keith leaves, he’s introduced to Noel, thereby making it obvious that maybe some family matchmaking might be at play.

Something happens during the dinner that changes the family’s lives forever. Without giving away too much information, it’s enough to say that Noel and Naomi end up being forced to run the business together, under Garvin’s orders. It’s not as phony as it sounds, because it’s a scenario that could happen in real life.

Predictably, Noel thinks that Naomi is ill-equipped to be a business person, while Naomi thinks that Noel is unfairly dismissive of Naomi’s ideas. Naomi wants to spend big money, while Noel is more frugal and cautious, considering that Chance Vision is losing so much money, it could be headed for bankruptcy. The sisters even clash over the Christmas decorations that Naomi has bought for the office. Naomi thinks that the decorations are festive, while Noel thinks the decorations are gaudy.

Noel thinks Chance Vision should expand its business to doing more TV programs. Noel is eyeing a possible merger with a TV studio owned by an entrepreneur named Samantha West (played by Christina Chauncey). And then another TV company called GTI Studios enters the mix with another potential offer.

During all of this drama with the Chance family and their business, Keith shows an interest in dating Noel, but she’s a commitment-phobe with trust issues. Meanwhile, Naomi and Marcus are having marital problems because of her spending, which has caused a strain on their marriage. Marcus gets promoted to partner of his law firm and ends up working closely with a newly hired associated named Meagan Wright (played by Crystal-Lee Naomi), who is smart and physically attractive. And you know what that means: Naomi gets jealous.

“A Holiday Chance” can get a little rough around the edges with the movie’s screenplay and editing, which could have improved in some areas where transitions between scenes are a little awkward. And some of the supporting cast members are on the mediocre side when it comes to their acting. However, the main characters handle their roles well, even if sometimes the dialogue and scenarios veer into sitcom-ish or melodrama territory.

Overall, “A Holiday Chance” is exactly like what it appears to be in the movie’s trailers, which thankfully do not give away too much of the movie’s plot developments. Even though you know how the movie is probably going to end, “A Holiday Chance” has enough amusing and heartfelt moments to make the movie enjoyable to a lot of viewers. There’s realistic chemistry between the actors depicting the family members that make this story relatable without being insincere or emotionally exhausting.

Faith Media Distribution released “A Holiday Chance” in select U.S. cinemas on November 24, 2021. The movie was released on digital and VOD on December 17, 2021.

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