Michael Urie drags his roommate, Philemon Chambers, from L.A. to New Hampshire for the holidays. Urie’s insufferable family wants them coupled. They will play dirty tricks to ensure it. Single All the Way shows the limits of shoehorning LGBTQ+ folks into the Hallmark/Lifetime formula. Some tonal confusion nudges the film towards Get Out levels of horror.
The standard romcom tropes are present. A sad sack lead (Urie’s drained of all charm), false love interest (a pleasant Luke Macfarlane), the comic relief guest star (a surly Jennifer Coolidge) and a friends-to-lovers romance. But today’s holiday romcoms have an agenda of their own. They offer parents the fantasy that their kids will give up their big city careers and move back home. New Hampshire has a population that is currently 93% white, houses multiple hate groups, and didn’t ban conversion therapy on minors till 2019. And yet Urie’s oblivious family (led by an uncomfortable Kathy Najimy) insist Urie and Chambers should relocate there. (They might do better in Montreal, where the picture was filmed).
Nearly everyone comes across badly. Mopey Urie claims that he never saw Chambers as a viable love interest. There are unfortunate implications here that the film ignores. Urie’s privileged nieces strand Chambers on a rooftop till he “admits” he loves Urie. It’s a surprisingly ugly scene. Later Urie’s sister (Jennifer Robertson of Schitt’s Creek) spills food on Macfarlane to sabotage his date. I’d hoped this was an excuse to get his shirt off. Alas, it’s just another scene of abuse. All we learn about Chambers is that he likes dogs, he’s younger than Urie and he works for TaskRabbit. This allows him to run errands for the Stepford families of New Hampshire.
Queer holiday romcoms remain a work in progress. Some are set in worlds without prejudice. Others revel in queer trauma. Single All the Way chooses the former but denies its gay men agency. They are reduced to paper dolls for the straight white women to play with.