Global pandemic, climate change, and political instability aside, we are truly living in a renaissance…for made-for-TV romantic Christmas romps. Though like most things streaming, we’re overwhelmed with options, this is also my favorite thing about the rise and rise of Christmas movies. This week’s pick is our 2nd LGBTQ pick of the month…which I don’t think would have even been possible 5 years ago.
A woman invites her girlfriend home for the holidays to meet her family…neglecting to tell anyone that her partner is anything more than a roommate.
Since her parents died when she was just 19, Abby hasn’t been big on Christmas. She’s perfectly content staying at home to earn that sweet petsitting cash from all of the suckers who will be traveling for the holidays. However, when her girlfriend Harper impulsively invites Abby home to meet the family, she agrees, hoping to make better Christmas memories by proposing(!).
Though Abby has managed to convince her literary agent friend John to care for all of the pets while the couple is away, Harper suddenly reverses course the next day. She finally reveals on the drive to her parents’ home that the reason for her agitation is that she’s never come out to her family and is planning to introduce Abby as her roommate, not girlfriend. It will make things easier over the holidays with Harper’s high-strung family as they navigate her father’s mayoral campaign. Apparently.
The plan is complicated by Abby’s character flaw of being a terrible liar, though Harper’s family is so painfully heteronormative that the possibility of either woman being a lesbian never occurs to a single person. Harper’s parents even invite her ex and childhood friend Connor out for dinner with the family that Abby attends.
In addition to contending with perfectionist parents who have made Harper the favorite, her sister Sloane is fiercely competitive. Seeming to have the perfect family that will look great for campaign photos, Sloane is proud and eager to prove she’s just as accomplished as Harper. Meanwhile, sister Jane plays the role of awkward weirdo, recapping the fantasy novel she’s writing to anyone who will listen, and not quite fitting in with the image-obsessed family.
While making her way around the small town and getting ditched by Harper at parties, Abby meets another of her girlfriend’s exes, Riley. Riley provides a calm & collected sounding board for Abby, who could use a break from Harper’s family…especially after a prank gone awry leads everyone of influence in town to believe Abby is a shoplifter.
Effectively ostracized from the family during their parties and campaign events, Abby begins to question how real her relationship with Harper can be, particularly since there seem to be two completely different sides to her girlfriend. At a certain point, the people-pleasing Harper will have to make a choice between her status as golden child and being true to herself…but will it be too late for her to find happiness?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said before about this film, but Harper puts some unbelievably toxic behaviors on display, especially for a Christmas movie where we’re supposed to root for her relationship to work. I say this not only as a major fan of Aubrey Plaza, but as a proponent of functional relationships: Abby deserved better and probably should have ended up with Riley. The chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Aubrey feels more believable, and the character of Riley is way less awful than Harper.
Because the character of Harper dances right up to the edge of ruining this film, we should spend some time dissecting her as a person. Since the POV is mostly Abby’s, Harper comes across as an absolute disaster. We don’t get enough interiority to understand her awful behavior–not that there’s necessarily enough explanation in the world to justify how she acts. The way Harper’s family treats Abby is one thing (and is extremely poor, btw), but the way Harper interacts with her own girlfriend is truly terrible.
Even though I’ve done nothing but complain in this review, I do give the film credit because it is actually well-cast and well-acted for the most part, and the writing for the supporting characters is great. Dan Levy of course steals every scene he’s in, and Mary Holland’s misfit Jane is a character I relate to so much. The saving grace of this film is that it’s surprisingly easy to ignore Harper for the most part since she’s off ditching her girlfriend and sucking up to political influencers. Kristen Stewart and the supporting cast really shine in this one and make it worth the watch.