The excitement for Netflix’s first gay holiday-themed romantic comedy was largely centered on its radical delight.
“Single All the Way” is a queer fantasy in crucial ways, one in which gay men feel empowered to explore and act on their desires. Their lives are not marked by homophobia or missed opportunities.
As the film charts the romantic life of Peter (Michael Urie), it invigoratingly portrays a story of gay love that contains no misery, but rather things like a charming dance sequence at Britney Spears’ Christmas party “My Only Wish (This years)”.
But on my second viewing, I noticed other things. The story is Blissfully hermetic, its characters sip peppermint lattes in a winter wonderland devoid of anti-gay bigotry. Still, there are occasional memories of the social challenges — navigating the unease of the closet, struggling with the isolation of small venues — that have long hovered over queer people. These different layers together make “Single All the Way” an emotionally rich film.
The plot goes like this. Peter, an overworked social media professional in Los Angeles, is determined to avoid his family’s judgment about his singleness. How does he plan to do that? By making his best friend pretend to be his boyfriend. Nick (Philemon Chambers), a children’s author, reluctantly agrees to the plan, and the two fly to snowy Bridgewater, New Hampshire, to spend the vacation with Peter’s family.
Then a turn. Peter’s mother, Carole (Kathy Najimy), arranges for her son to go on a blind date with James (Luke Macfarlane), a hot-he-hurts-your-feeling trainer at her gym. The rest of the enchanting film explores the usual rom-com preoccupations, as viewers wonder: Will Peter end up with James? Or discover that his feelings for Nick are not platonic?
That plot is refreshing. When movies, including rom-coms, have queer characters, they tend to focus on the pain that can come with that identity. There is a place for these films, many of which give the necessary dimension to the fear of navigating a homophobic society. Still, it’s nice to have a gay love story (one of which is black) that isn’t fraught with suffering.
By the time the camera rolls, Peter is already out to his parents and siblings, who just want him to fall in love with the man of his dreams. (Carole, a well-meaning heterosexual ally, reads a book about “LGBT,” as she erroneously and hilariously puts it, so she can support her son.) Absent is a storyline that fathoms the closet’s concerns.
“I’m excited to bring to life this funny, touching and — unusual for a holiday movie — gay romantic comedy because the message of love and family is universal,” said Michael Mayer, director, of the frothy atmosphere of the film. the film. . “It’s also very satisfying to tell a story that happens AFTER it comes out!”
The Complexity of Locked Up Lives
But as heartwarming as ‘Single All the Way’ is, the film is brimming with meaningful memories of the disturbing world Peter and Nick left behind.
Take a break that arrives early in the movie. Nick, who is funding his burgeoning writing career with work as a handyman for TaskRabbit, installs Christmas lights in a client’s home when he discovers that client, a woman, is married – to Peter’s boyfriend, Tim.
“You are a liar and an impostor!” Peter explodes after learning about Tim’s deception. “You’ve been lying to me and to your wife for almost four months, how many years and to yourself – no, you know what? I’m not going to judge whatever journey you take. It’s just not what I’m looking for, and I hope you never do it to anyone else.”
The exchange lasts every 15 seconds. But it settled in my brain. I’m not going to judge whatever journey you take: Without apologizing for Tim’s behavior towards his wife or himself, Peter nods to the fact that while he feels encouraged to be his full, unfettered self — a plant gay whose job is to gather sexy Santas for a photo shoot — other gay men don’t. t. The scene is a succinct yet touching acknowledgment of the locked up lives many gay men lead in response to a world that has stigmatized them to silence.
A little later in the film comes a similarly poignant scene. Peter and James have their first date when the former asks the latter, “Why do you live in this town?” It may seem like a throwaway question, something anyone would ask to have a casual conversation. But I suspect the question has a clear resonance with queer viewers.
Peter doesn’t ask, “Oh, what brings you here?” Really, he wants to know, “How are you? possible for you to live here” — in an isolated city that doesn’t have, to use Nick’s words, “a huge buffet of single gay men”? Peter’s articulates something that has been dissecting queer people for decades: the allure of urban environments, which tend to provide queer people with the kind of fun (and safety) that’s hard to find in small places.
Even James admits this reality when he tells Peter that the beam from the gay dating app in Bridgewater is “a bit of a joke”.
The power of dueling with meanings
I’m not saying the aforementioned moments rob “Single All the Way” of its warmth. They roam the periphery of the story and can be easily overlooked. But upon noticing them, I found that they only heighten the emotional sophistication of the film, making “Single All the Way” stand out among a slew of holiday movies and specials centered on LGBTQ experiences.
Perhaps no other part of “Single All the Way” better illustrates the film’s ability to work in multiple registers than a dark comedic scene where Aunt Sandy (played brilliantly by Jennifer Coolidge) agrees to let Peter and Nick let her. help with the Christmas contest she is directing .
“It’s not because the gays know theatre. It’s because the gays just know how to do things,” says Aunt Sandy, with the authority of a diva. Then, presumably reflecting on history, she adds, “I mean, they’re survivors.”