GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
Make the Yuletide Gay
Unrated, 89 minutes
For The Holidays
Director Rob Williams (3 Day Weekend) has given me an early holiday present; a Christmas movie that is blissfully free of crass commercialism, funny, and heartfelt without being sickeningly sweet. The film is called Make The Yuletide Gay and it is a charmer.
|It's the most wonderful time of the year. Olaf 'Gunn' Gunnunderson (Keith Jordan) and Nathan Stanford (Adamo Ruggiero) are two cute young college students in love. Both are about to go home for the holidays. Gunn heads home to his loving Swedish parents in Wisconsin just as Nathan discovers that his rich parents are going on a cruise instead of spending Christmas with him. (His parents are cut from the same mold as the cold, self-centered mother in Hal Ashby's 1971 Harold and Maude.) Hurt and lonely, Nathan decides to travel to Wisconsin and surprise his beloved.|
And so the comedy of errors begins. Gunn is out with a passion at college (he is wearing a Human Rights Commission shirt in the first scene) but he isn't out to his parents. Nathan finds this inexplicable but he agrees to go along with the charade even as it annoys him when Gunn's parents, Sven and Anya, keep pushing their son together with Abby, the girl next door (whom he briefly dated in high school). Oblivious to the truth, Gunn's parents welcome Nathan with open arms and the poor kid endures one unintended double entrendre after another - like Mother noting that Gunn likes to be on top when she shows them the bunk beds where they'll be sleeping.
|Nathan had assumed that Gunn was out to his parents but Gunn is experiencing the fear common to a lot of young gay men and women. "Working on the LGBT Student Council," Gunn says, "I have met kids whose red state religious parents welcomed them with open arms and kids whose liberal parents cut them off completely. They stopped speaking to them. Or worse. Much worse." Nathan, understanding, remarks that even Cher didn't know what to do when Chastity came out and "Come on, she's Cher!" Gunn is scared and says that he couldn't take it if his parents stopped loving him. He will have a moment of panic later when his father refers to Nathan as "that type." Gunn is relieved when Dad explains "You know... those over-priveleged East Coast types." And then adds, "But if you like him, I like him."|
|Williams is one of my favorite modern gay filmmakers. He has already proved in his previous films (Long-Term Relationship, Back Soon and 3 Day Weekend) that he is capable of writing sharp and realistic characters and dialogue. He also has a great sense of humor and can mix comedy with heartfelt drama in the same film. There is a heartbreaking scene between our young lovers at the film's midpoint that almost had me reaching for the kleenex box. It is, of course, a given that everything will work out and there is a great, quirky and unexpected twist that saves the ending from becoming maudlin.|
|The opening scenes are a bit on the broad side but the film hits and then settles into its stride when Gunn arrives home. Mother (Kelly Keaton) seems a little over the top at first but her bubbly personality soon grows on you. The film really came to life - for me at least - when Derek Long (Socket, 3 Day Weekend) entered the picture as Gunn's perpetually stoned father who grows pot in the basement. He is a college professor who once fell asleep while giving a lecture. Long doesn't overdo the stoner routine and he is deliciously deadpan and lovable in the role. (I liked when he mistook a Sudoko puzzle for a Crossword and asked "What's a nine letter word that ends with 4?") In one of my favorite scenes, he is naked under his robe, which is flapping wide open, as he answers the front door when a wide-eyed Nathan unexpectedly arrives. Talk about meeting the in-laws!|
|Some of the comedy is predictable but it's still funny. When Gunn and Nathan start to make out in the bedroom, you know that Mother is going to walk in and there she is, on schedule, bearing laundry. Her feud with Abby's mother is a bit forced but there is a great reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy in one of their catfights. There are many flashes of deadpan off-the-wall humor comparable to another of my queer favorites, Dorian Blues. For example, Gunn tells his parents and Abby that he aced his Philosophy final. "All we had to do was answer one question," he says, proud of himself. "What was the question?" Abby asks. He replies: "Why?" and she says, "Just curious." And he says "No, that was the question." His hilarious, longwinded answer, by the way, would make a great monologue in a Beckett play.|
|I had thought that Abby's character would be annoying but then she turned out to be interesting when she sees her high school sweatheart with Nathan and immediately realizes that they are boyfriends. She becomes a good confidante for Nathan later, and I loved when they both embarrassed Gunn by agreeing that his father is so hot! One thing that kept amusing me was how Nathan, and later Abby, would mock the unstylish and "straight" way that Gunn was dressing and wearing his hair so that his parents wouldn't figure out that he was gay. (Sometimes I wonder if I am really queer because I thought he looked better that way than when he was dressing fabulous.) I loved the early scene where he sheds his gay identity and dresses "straight" in a highway rest stop while getting cruised by a passing trucker. (Nathan gets cruised by the same trucker in the same restroom a few scenes later.)|
|I can't help it, but I love gay comedies where the humor tackles other subjects besides divas, clothes and showtunes. At one point the father is watching an unseen Christmas cartoon on his computer (the music will be instantly recognizable) and calls this the best thing about the holidays. He then cracks up laughing and says, "Look, the kid with the blanket just got all self righteous about the meaning of Christmas and made all the other kids feel like crap!" and "The bald kid is pouting, I love it!"|
|Make The Yuletide Gay is well directed and moves at a good clip. The music is well chosen (I especially liked a slow, minor key jazz improv of "We Wish You A Very Christmas") and the few transitional songs are not intrusive. The acting throughout, for the most part, is very good. I found Nathan's parents to be a bit stiff but they were supposed to be that way. It was great seeing Gates McFadden (Star Trek: The Next Generation's Dr. Crusher) channel Desperate Housewives' Bree Van de Kamp as Nathan's Mom, however briefy. Leave the end credits on for a bit or you'll miss one last scene where they listen to the message Nathan left on their answering machine. Our two young lovers are sweet together and make a great couple. Younger viewers than me will know that Adamo Ruggiero (Nathan) played a gay teenager in Degrassi: The Next Generation. Usually young love stories make me roll my eyes but not this one. I really liked these two guys and the two actors have great chemistry together. Watch your heart melt when they hold hands under a pillow at a neighbor's Christmas party.|
Make The Yuletide Gay might not be White Christmas or It's A Wonderful Life, but it's worthy holiday faire that is certainly lightyears better than the three queer Christmas movies I've reviewed in the past. It's a great popcorn movie to curl up on the coach with next to your lover. Better yet, make it eggnog and some chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
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