“They say that gay men choose their own families. That’s never more evident than during the holidays.” ~ Shared Rooms
The following reviews contain mild spoilers.
2009’s Make the Yuletide Gay follows a closeted college student who visits his goofy parents for Christmas. His judgey boyfriend and thirsty ex-girlfriend show up to make mischief. Keith Jordan’s sympathetic performance captures the stress and absurdity of life in the closet. He grounds the film and gives it stakes. Degrassi’s Adamo Ruggiero also lets us understand his boyfriends’ position. It’s unpleasant to be referred to as “the roommate,” even for a short time.
His parents could have been central casting conservatives. Instead Kelly Keaton and Derek Long play a pair of mildly unsettling eccentrics. Mom’s a home maker with boundary issues who giggles non-stop. Dad’s a blissed-out stoner who seems barely aware of his surroundings. Their late film behavior contradicts what came before but allows for an obligatory heartwarming finale.
Critics have compared Make the Yuletide Gay to a Hallmark movie. That’s not quite right. Hallmark’s Christmas films are focused on heterosexual romance between people of different classes. The uptight city lady meets a small town hunk. The prince of a fictional country meets a spunky American woman. Same sex couples are slowly sneaking into their programming but they’d never permit the double entendres the parents spout in Yuletide.
I thought the movie was pleasant enough. The jokes are corny and the pace drags but the leads are likeable and the premise relatable. I’d give it a C. It inspired me to look up other gay Christmas themed films. As it turns out, Make the Yuletide Gay is a high-water mark.
Terrible Gay Christmas Movies
Search for gay Christmas movies and you’ll find a mix divas, camp and porn. Nothing wrong with that. It took some digging to find Christmas films with gay protagonists. I’m ready to bury most of them again. These lumps of coal include abusive parents, addiction, a suicide attempt and some of the most self-loathing men since The Boys in the Band.
Goodwill (2017). 3 minute short about a gay man arguing with his mother on Christmas. He doesn’t want to go to church service with her. Competently made and the only film on this list to focus on the religious side of the holiday. C
Happy Holidays (2008). Sour Patrick ditches his successful boyfriend to spend Christmas Eve with his high school buddies. Neurotic Alden dropped his girlfriend after she proposed. Smug Kirby’s in town for his father’s funeral… and an extramarital affair. They spend the day swapping stories and insults as they gradually admit (surprise) they’re afraid of adult responsibilities. The stagey actors lack charm and are saddled with lines like “Sometimes the past is better left in the past.” It makes for a dull 103 minutes.
Weirdest moment: When Kirby insults his father’s wacky mistresses at the funeral. The scene feels like an outtake from a different film. D
Holiday Heart (2000). Tragic tale of a drag queen (Ving Rhames) trying to care for a drug addicted sex worker (Alfre Woodard) and her teenage daughter. The talented cast is tamped down by a relentlessly grim script. Tears, screaming matches, violent drug dealers and a particularly gruesome scene on Christmas Eve. The quippy teen can’t lessen the gloom. Title aside, I would not recommend this for holiday viewing.
Weirdest moment: A drag queen cry-singing “Baby Love” at a funeral while the homophobic attendees sneer. C-
The Houseboy (2007). Depressed houseboy gets dumped by his sugar daddies. He decides to kill himself on Christmas Eve if he can’t find a new boyfriend. He hooks up with a series of jerks before meeting a nice guy. Glacial sadness with a side of softcore porn. There’s a scene of animal abuse to add to the despair. The title character wants to be more than eye candy. The film hasn’t much else to offer.
Weirdest moment: Drug dealers dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. Not as funny as it sounds. D
Ornaments (2008). Lesbian couple hosts a Christmas dinner where a drunken gay brother insults all the guests. The “terrible people at a party” genre should always answer the question “why do they stay at the party?” It also helps if the characters are funny. Here the racial and homophobic slurs start about 30 minutes in but it’s not till the 70-minute mark that someone suggests leaving. We’re told that the brothers’ behavior is the result of a dead boyfriend but… really who cares? The writer/director/star was clearly working through something. Skip this movie.
Weirdest moment: When they ask the mean brother to give everyone offensive T-shirts as a “party game.” Then they’re offended when the T-shirts turn out to be… offensive. D-
Shared Rooms (2016). We alternate between three male couples on Christmas. The married couple discusses adoption, the hook up couple discusses art and the longtime friends consider making things physical. This sounds good on paper. A gay Love Actually. Sadly, the hallmarks of bad gay films are here: bad jokes, overwrought monologues, an intrusive soundtrack and performers cast more for their nude scenes than their acting skills. Writer/director Rob Williams also wrote and directed Make the Yuletide Gay. His films are amateurish but they’re the happiest ones on this list. I bumped the grade up a notch after watching the others.
Weirdest moment: A late plot twist that pushes things from mundane territory to high camp. D+
Visions of Sugarplums (2001). Now we’re in Ed Wood land. Camp leading man goes into the closet when his conservative parents pay a Christmas visit. There’s a noisy drag queen for “comedy” and a hunky boyfriend for eye candy. The director/star filmed this with a digital camera and a dream. The trashy poster suggests John Waters grunge but the picture takes itself seriously. Earnest dialogue is muffled by a cheap mike and a blaring soundtrack. You’d need MST3K or RiffTrax to enjoy this one.
Favorite moment: Possibly the canned applause when the drag queen performs in a clearly empty nightclub. F
The straight leads’ gay friend or relative gets something to do. These films are generally higher quality than the ones in the previous section.
- The Family Stone (2005). Diane Keatons’ deaf gay son and his partner plan to adopt.
- Go (1999). Hunky couple, Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr, aid a sting operation on Christmas Eve.
- Holiday in Handcuffs (2007). Melissa Joan Hart needs a Christmas date… so she kidnaps Mario Lopez at gunpoint. Zany? Meanwhile her brother (Kyle Howard) comes out.
- Home for the Holidays (1995). Robert Downey Jr. plays Holly Hunter’s snarky gay brother. He clashes with a conservative relative at an unpleasant holiday dinner.
- Love Is All (2007) (aka Alles Is Liefde). Four Amsterdam couples celebrating Sinterklaas. The gay couple is having pre-wedding jitters.
- Love the Coopers (2015).Marisa Tomei’s shoplifter is arrested by Anthony Mackie’s closeted cop on Christmas Eve. They swap backstories in a squad car.
- Road to Christmas (2018). The leading lady helps the leading man reconcile with his estranged brothers, one of whom happens to be gay. One of the few Hallmark films with a gay character. They even include him on the poster! Be sure to check out Afropig’s series of Hallmark film recaps!
- Too Cool for Christmas (2004). George Hamilton’s Santa teaches a spoiled teen to appreciate her parents. In Canada she had two dads. The American broadcast, re-titled A Very Cool Christmas, re-filmed those scenes with heterosexual parents. Both versions are terrible.
- What’s Cooking? (2000). Four awkward family Thanksgivings. The lesbian couple (Kyra Sedgwick and Julianna Margulies) announce they’re about to have a child. Their parents freak out.
Haven’t tracked down copies of these yet.
- 24 Nights (1999). Stoner asks Santa for a boyfriend. Whimsical or creepy? Who’s to say? He ends up in a love triangle with a flaky guy and a “serious” guy who are both out of his league.
- Happiest Season (pending). Variety reports that Clea DuVall and Mary Holland have co-written a lesbian Christmas romcom.
- Red Lodge (2013). A man tries to convince his reluctant boyfriend to marry him before Christmas.
- Scrooge & Marley (2012). David Pevsner’s modern day Scrooge runs a gay club he bought out from Bruce Vilanch’s Fezziwig. Now he’s mean, three spirits arrive, you know the drill.
- Walk a Mile in my Pradas (2011). A magic Christmas ornament turns a homophobe gay. Offensive hijinks ensue. The Bad Gay Movies podcast reviewed it in October.
And to all a good night!
In 2014 Rob Williams launched a crowd funding campaign for Make the Yuletide Gay 2. The film has yet to surface but if it does I’ll watch it. The genre needs more comedy.
Have you seen any of the films in this article? Who have I missed?