REVIEW: A man who proclaims to “love Christmas more than life itself”, Jeremy Morris has also made it his mission to share his “holiday spirit” with as many people as possible.
That’s why, in 2014, the North Idaho man decided to illuminate and festoon his home with as many lights and festive baubles as possible, hire a 35-voice choir and a camel and dIsh out hot chocolate and candy floss, donating any proceeds to charity.
The public came in droves, cars lining up for miles.
When pointed out that maybe he needed a permit from the city council, Morris responded by saying that what he was hosting “wasn’t an event, but a Christmas miracle”.
* The Lost Symbol: It’s Elementary, Neon’s formulaic Young Robert Langdon series
* The Protege: Keaton steals the show in Kiwi director’s Amazon return to action
* The Teacher: Even Sheridan Smith can’t save TVNZ’s latest British thriller
* Joe Bell: Mark Wahlberg’s anti-bullying Oscars bid soured by flawed storytelling
Either angered by potential future regulation, or buoyed by his project’s success, Morris persuaded wife Kristy that they should move to a bigger house – just outside the city limits.
West Hayden Estates, with its wide, open streets and large sections seemed like the perfect place, with lawyer Morris convinced there wouldn’t be any issue in complying with the local home owners’ association’s imposing tome of covenants, conditions and restrictions.
But what followed was ill-judged correspondence, claims of religious persecution, covert surveillance, right-wing group-backed security, allegations of terrorism, threats both legal and physical, and increasing animosity that threatened to tear a once quiet community apart.
Director Becky Read’s (a producer on the equally astounding true-life tale Three Identical Strangers) head-shaking, rage-inducing documentary ‘Twas the Fight Before Xmas (now streaming on Apple TV+) details the whole sorry saga, as Morris decided to go to war against his neighbours, a fight that still continues to this day and one that he may yet take all the way to the Supreme Court.
While not all of it works – there are too many “dramatic recreations” used to illustrate what went down – like the best/worst reality television, it’s the schadenfreude that really draws you in. No one comes out of this looking great (although you really feel for Morris’ long-suffering wife), but Read’s skill is in subtly – and not-so subtly – shifting our sympathies and allegiances.
At first, you’ll think Morris is simply a sensitive guy who wants to do good in the world. Then, gradually, it becomes clear that he’ll childishly do whatever it takes to get his way.
In a way, this is a microcosm of all that is wrong with modern day America – as evidenced by its most recent Commander in Chief – individual freedoms are seen by many as Trumping any other laws.
Morris’ behaviour also makes a mockery of the US legal system. Because he is a lawyer, he can be litigious as he likes, while incurring few costs (especially compared to those in opposition). He was even allowed to depose his neighbours, footage showing how he tried to turn those sessions into vindictive interrogations.
Then there was the initial trial, where a jury awarded him US$75,000, only for it to be overturned by a judge who considered their verdict unsafe and Morris’ behaviour “aggressively confrontational’ and his testimony “riddled with inconsistencies”.
His response? Very 44th Presidential, declaring America to now be “a banana republic”, having earlier stated, categorically, that “there isn’t two sides to every story”.
‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas is now streaming on Apple TV+.