Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a rewatch.
The Fairy Tale: The Christmas Setup
Of the surprising deluge of LGBTQ-themed holiday films this year, one title managed to met our icy hearts and warm us with a fantasy romance: Lifetime’s The Christmas Setup. The film stars real-life husbands Blake Lee and Ben Lewis as Patrick and Hugo, a pair of small-town former high school classmates whose paths cross years later during the holidays. Hugo, now a successful New York lawyer, comes back to suburban Milwaukee to spend Christmas with his mom Kate (Fran Drescher, irrepressible as ever) and best friend Madelyn (Ellen Wong). When he learns that his former high school crush Patrick has come out of the closet and become a successful landscaper, Hugo’s yule log enflames. Will the to find love together after all these years?
We’ll give you one guess. The Christmas Setup takes the usual holiday movie formula–beautiful winter vistas, careers vs. love, and fairy tale romance–and adds in a gay couple for good measure. It helps, of course, that Drescher gives an all-in, sincere performance as Hugo’s matchmaking mom. It helps too that the movie understands the changing views of gay people in pop culture: though the movie doesn’t dwell on Patrick & Hugo’s coming out stories, it does acknowledge them in a way a couple of small-town gay boys actually would (we speak from knowledge on that point). But we suspect the real magic of The Christmas Setup comes from the very real romantic sparks between Lee and Lewis. When the two boys look at one another, their eyes burn with love and attraction. It’s obvious they’re falling in love, and for that matter, so are we.
Not exactly earth-shattering in terms of diversity, The Christmas Setup nevertheless represents a new high watermark in terms of inclusion in the holiday genre. With a sequel reportedly already in the works–one which will push LGBTQ diversity even further–we suggest giving it a watch with a glass of mulled wine, and yes, even a kleenex, in hand.
Streams on Lifetime & Hulu.