Be careful when you watch this Christmas-themed movie. It could land you into a diabetic coma from its sweetness and cuteness. Please do not misunderstand me. It is not a bad movie; it just is not my cup of tea, so to speak. Sure, it may make you feel good and perhaps even smile, but its own reality is a true fantasy.
The story revolves around a 30-ish white guy living in Los Angeles wanting to go back for Christmas to his family living in New Hampshire (a very pretty state but incredibly cold in the winter). He lives with a black guy, also 30-ish. Both have been friends for a long time and are ‘besties’ if you will. Judging from their living situation, I am guessing they are doing fairly well in the City of Angels (I live near Los Angeles). Although they are not romantically involved with each other, they know each other better than most married couples know their own spouses. Peter, played by Michael Urie, has the typical problems of a white affluent individual living in LaLa Land. He is traumatized by having to yet again face another Christmas without a significant other to take back with him, while being constantly chided by his whole family for not having someone in his life. You see, he has THE most accepting family on planet Earth (dare I say Universe); his entire family accepts his gayness with open arms- complete and total acceptance. So much so that even his youngest nieces and nephews are ‘cool’ with who he is.
Therefore, in order to take some of the heat off him, he asks his roommate and best friend, Nick, played by Philemon Chambers (who is blisteringly good looking) to accompany him to help deflect the constant and unbearable ribbing he will receive from his family for not having someone in his life. So, Nick agrees to go with him (a pretty big clue, I am guessing) and thus the saga of Peter and Nick begins.
This family is something out of a mythical storybook fantasy. They are so cute, adorable, sweet, accepting, funny, loving, delightful, angelic and cherubical. They literally don’t have a single care in the world except to make Christmas the happiest time of the year. Peter’s mother, Carole, played by the effervescent Kathy Najimy (from, SISTER ACT fame) tries to match make Peter with her new-to-town gym instructor, James (Luke Macfarlane). (Apparently, everyone in this town is free and open to discuss their sexuality). While they make a cute couple and do go out on a few dates, it is not their destiny to be together, not that the script called for it (as it is obvious).
What made this rom com a bit more interesting is that the Father knew all along that Peter and Nick should be together and were meant to be. Additionally, Peter’s younger nieces also deduced what is obvious. (This I totally agree with. The younger people would and probably see, what perhaps those right in front cannot). To add to this mishmosh of characters is the favorite aunt. Aunt Sandy, played by the charismatic Jennifer Coolidge, literally ‘steals’ every scene she is in, with her bubbly personality and her efforts to try to get the young children to put on the Christmas play for the town. (There is a hysterical scene where she is reflecting on why she is such a gay icon; she simply cannot figure it out. In real life, she is a total gay icon). She is the ideal aunt you wish you had or wanted. (I did have an aunt that came close to her personality – with fond memories for sure).
There is indeed a Christmas miracle here, as in the end, Nick finally confesses his love to Peter (after much cajoling from Peter’s nieces). Peter shockingly feels the same way about him. Who would have guessed? I honestly did not see THAT coming! To add to this tale of Christmas miracles, Peter decides to move back to New Hampshire (dear God, why?), and Nick agrees to move with him. Tears, hugs, joy, and happiness everywhere!
I know I have been a bit irreverent in my review of this movie, but honestly, it is so light and predictable that one of Santa’s elves could have carried this story away. My point is this; while it is certainly aimed at families who might be struggling with acceptance of their loved one’s being gay, the movie does it with so much sweetness and cuteness, that it almost loses the message. It certainly is a ‘Feel Good’ movie, but it is unrealistic and idealized to an insufferable point. While I cannot say that with complete certainty, I can almost assure you that no family in the United States from parents to the youngest nieces and nephews, is, can be, or will be that accepting of anyone ‘different’. It is just too idealized. I get and appreciate that they wanted to present gayness as normalizing and accepting as picking out a Christmas tree, but please do not even for one split second think, hope, or believe that anywhere near even a minority of American families are like this. They are not. When Peter and Nick kissed at the end in front of their entire family in the living room, I can count on my one finger the number of families in the United States that would be tolerant of that or even accepting of their behavior, in addition to the obvious elephant in the room that Nick is also black. It just is not the case where full inclusion is the norm.
However, there were several characteristics I actually did like about this movie. One is that the Father does know best. It was Father (not Mother) who knew and accepted and saw that they were in love with each other for a long time. Two, it was the young people who truly accepted and also saw Peter and Nick’s connection and chemistry together and literally forced them to admit that to themselves. (For me, young people still represent hope for the future). Three, it was NOT the timidity of trying to decide whether they liked each other; as to why they did not admit their connection to each other earlier, waiting to kiss at the end, which is the pattern of most (especially Thai) BLs. They knew they loved each other (they really did). It was the overriding fear of losing the friendship they had, which caused the hesitancy. This makes the American BL’s a bit different. They are not fearful of accepting the connection but of losing the friendship. Ironically, it is easier to lose a love than a friend. Perhaps not logical, but it does not make it any less so. Lastly, a special kudo for that kiss between Peter and Nick. They really did KISS in front of everyone! THAT was nice! Not pretending to do so, or simply brushing lips, or forehead kissing, or a peck on the cheek. (They did it in front of the children too and not one of the kids was even surprised). We so need more of that everywhere!
This movie is entertaining for sure. It is fun and is amusing. Also watch it for Jennifer Coolrige as Aunt Sandy. She is simply delicious. But do not presume that American society is like this. It is not. And, on a personal note, no one moves from Los Angeles to a small town in New Hampshire to open a plant shop in the middle of winter. While the lure of a small-town with a Mayberry feel is appealing, it is not realistic. Again, it is yet another idealized version of what happiness should be or ought it to be. In reality, it is not.
But do not listen to me. Watch it. Perhaps, it will put a smile on your face. For me, it was just another romanticized fantasy of what gay life is in the United States could be. I wish it was so. There is an American expression that is so apt here – if you believe this, then I have a bridge to sell you. It is a very big, shiny, and pretty bridge!
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays! And may the New Year bring us ‘Single All The Way’ togetherness!
Rating: 2.856 out of 5