‘The Christmas Setup’: Lifetime's first LGBTQ+ film champions inclusivity in the warmest manner
One has to credit director Pat Mills for not making it as a cliche non-binary relationship and deploying motifs of love that convey sexuality, openness and intimacy
Spoilers for ‘The Christmas Setup’
Movies are a key part of popular discourse that encapsulates our socio-cultural milieu. And when they select eccentric and realistic themes that reflect the lives of ordinary folks, then they become all the more admirable. In the case of Lifetime, the channel has been championing the idea of gender diversity with its film ‘The Christmas Setup’.What’s fascinating is that the film projects the idea of inclusiveness in such a manner that it refuses to come across as just a gay holiday movie. This embrace of love as a universal emotion makes it very much a classic romance.
The movie has a captivating storyline featuring a same-sex couple Hugo (Ben Lewis) and Patrick (Blake Lee) who are also a married couple in real life. No wonder, their chemistry on screen adds to the love story. Hugo is a New York corporate lawyer, who along with his best friend Madelyn (Ellen Wong), heads to Milwaukee to spend the holidays with his mom Kate (Fran Drescher).
Kate with all her jolly good and warm persona is in charge of the local Christmas celebrations. However, what brings the twist is that Kate arranges for Hugo to run into Patrick who is Hugo’s high school friend and secret crush. Patrick, who has recently returned after a successful stint in Silicon Valley, enjoys the local holiday festivities with Hugo and other common friends. The duo instantly share a warm romance that is so endearing to watch! On the other front, the movie fares adorably well with Kate’s well-intentioned Santa-style matchmaking for her other son and Madelyn. While everything is moving like a dream, the hiccups come as Hugo receives word of a big promotion requiring a move to London. Will he leave his new-found love and end the romance?
The film has many aspects that deem it a true festive classic. One is its witty dialogues coming from the script written by Michael J Murray. The dialogues form an intrinsic part of Patrick and Hugo’s titillating romance as they try to flirt with one another overcoming their shyness. For instance, at the beginning of their bonding, Hugo says to “straight” up the Christmas tree. To this Patrick replies asking “what, excuse me?” alluding to the fact that maybe Hugo is asking about his sexuality. In another incident where the duo gears up to prepare for Christmas decorations, Patrick asks, “So where do we start?” to which Hugo points to Christmas balls and says “Could you grab those balls off the shelf” bringing in the allegory of sexuality that is implicit in the film. Besides, some tittering dialogues, the film has some cheesy yet lovable one-liners. “Sometimes it's good to see yourself through someone else’s eyes”! Indeed Murray deserves the claps for these.
The film is woven with festive cheer that fosters an alluring romance. From heartwarming charity events, starry lights, upbeat and melodious music, Christmas shopping, carols and games the film is truly a souvenir of love and all things Christmassey.
Coming to how it works as a “gay movie”, one has to credit director Pat Mills for not making it as a cliche non-binary relationship and deploying motifs of love that convey sexuality, openness and intimacy. For instance, that unforgettable passionate kiss between Hugo and Patrick under the bewitching Northern lights is beautifully filmed as it depicts all are equal under the sky. Moreover, the movie explores intimacy by alluding to another gay relationship. It shows a revered late neighbor named Carol who built a beautiful Christmas tradition that is now under threat because of bureaucracy. When Hugo and Patrick visit his chamber and search for his stuff, Mills's camera details on Carol’s chamber and items-- his specs, hat, a diary that documents his expeditions with his beau, typewriter, chair, and desk convey that there’s a need to revive his spirit by saving the tradition with compassion. Another motif of love and sexuality surfaces as the gay couple head to a party that has a gorgeous trans woman as a singer.
All this, complemented with the raw chemistry of Ben Lewis and Blake Lee make it more than a cheeky holiday romance. The movie is a reverie that shall remind one of their loved ones irrespective of their sexual choices. Indeed a must-watch while you imagine snuggling with your beloveds.
'The Christmas Setup' premieres on Saturday, December 12 at 8 pm ET/PT on Lifetime.