The more time passes (particularly in our current pandemic existence), the less inclined I feel to embrace my inner Grinch around the holidays. And while I certainly don’t recommend pasting on a smile when you’re really not feeling it, sometimes the horrendous advice “fake it ’til you make it” does help me experience a bit of Christmas cheer even when I could stand to hibernate for the next 7 years at least.
Btw, fake it ’til you make it (and I really should emphasize again that I hate this expression) is advice that probably shouldn’t apply to relationships. But in the gumdrop fantasy Christmas land of feel-good holiday movies, that is the only appropriate approach to romance that lasts all season long.
Single All the Way
At home for the holidays, single Peter agrees to a blind date setup while wondering if his roommate/bff could be the man he’s loved all along.
After close to a decade living together in Los Angeles, bffs Peter and Nick have clearly iterated and reiterated that they absolutely 1000% have no romantic interest in each other. They have supported each other through Peter’s dissatisfaction with his vague, soulless social media advertising job, Nick’s writer’s block after writing a children’s bestseller, and countless breakups and disappointments. But there’s no way Peter and Nick would ever date, a statement that will definitely hold up well if we follow the conventions of similar gentle holiday-themed rom-coms.
This holiday season promises radical change for Peter: instead of being the–horror of horrors–lone sadsack single in a family where everyone is coupled up, Peter is planning to bring home his boyfriend, a gorgeous cardiologist. Too bad the new boyfriend turns out to be shady AF, and meeting the family is quickly ruled out…but not before Peter has strongly implied he plans to bring home a major surprise for Christmas.
Good thing roommate and bff Nick is always there for Peter, and the inevitable fake boyfriend at Christmas scheme is hatched. However, immediately upon arriving in Peter’s small New Hampshire hometown, his mother reveals schemes of her own, namely a blind date with her spin instructor James. Relieved to dodge the fake relationship trope altogether, Nick is all too eager for Peter to go on the date…or is he?
Nick won’t have much time to think about it as Peter’s family keeps him busy, taking advantage of his many DIY skills to complete long-needed maintenance and make the family home look appropriately festive. I would venture the family, including Peter’s mom–who is so into the spirit of the season that she demands everyone in the family refer to her as “Christmas Carole”–quickly crosses the line into straight-up expecting their house guest to complete all of their minor household repairs in a way that feels underhanded even as Nick claims he loves doing this kind of work. I really hope no international viewers (including lovely Christa) think having hosts majorly exploit your labor is a normal expectation for Christmas visitors in the States.
Meanwhile, Peter is swanning around town with James, obliviously breaking Nick’s heart. Making matters worse, James is a conventionally attractive, kind-hearted athletic type regularly dishing out sage advice. Conveniently, James has moved to Peter’s hometown for ski season, just as our leading man is considering returning to the area for good and pursuing his dream of opening a small plant store. Not the kind as nightmare-inducing as in J-horror Pulse, ideally.
As members of Peter’s family scheme to set him up with Nick and James respectively, his former actor aunt Sandy is putting the final touches on the local Nativity play, a production she has personally scripted entitled “Jesus H. Christ.” With the rehearsals going less than well with Sandy’s exacting directorial style, Peter’s nieces put forward a win-win solution: have Peter and Nick assist with the play, thereby saving the day while spending precious holiday time together. Which, as I’ve underlined in several other rom-com reviews, feels like a better way to get stressed-out people to scream at each other rather than fall in love.
Throughout the proceedings, we check off a number of additional tropes, including Peter and Nick having to do a last-minute, dramatically important photo shoot, sharing a bed for pretty flimsy reasons, and doing silly choreographed dance moves. Is it enough for them to realize their long-simmering romantic feelings for each other?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was never going to get a 5-star rating from me. I will say the story is quite sweet, and it’s such a relief to have more LGBTQ+ stories regularly make their way into the Hallmark-type holiday rotation. Visually, our film looks so cozy and festive that it would be ideal for Netflix to provide a dusting of snow and a mug of hot cocoa for all viewers.
Beyond this, our film is so full of cliches and jam-packed with way more characters than necessary. Jennifer Coolidge is of course excellent as self-absorbed Hollywood stereotype Aunt Sandy and plays my favorite character by far. And not only because she manages to pull off an unexplained Glinda costume in the Nativity play. Many of the other supporting characters feel bland in comparison to be honest, and just kind of take up space.
I also happen to despise the “overbearing family believes your being single is the saddest story to be told while playing the world’s tiniest violin” trope that is this genre’s bread and butter. It comes across about as well as it does in any other of these holiday films, i.e. really manipulative and condescending AF. I’m glad that Peter’s sexuality is fully accepted by his family, but it’s slightly irritating that they can’t also accept his singledom.
Our leads are perfectly charming, though the annoying love triangle setup means Peter and Nick don’t actually get as much screen time together as you might expect…so I wasn’t overly invested in their relationship. That being said, I was definitely rooting for them, as James is one step away from being a walking Ken doll and is the type of blandly perfect man who usually turns out to be a murderer in Lifetime movies.
Despite the tone of this overly critical review, I did mostly enjoy this one, but not enough that I anticipate remembering much about it past this week.