Single All The Way is Netflix’s first holiday LGBTQ+ rom-com. It was released on December 2nd and finally lets the queer community see itself in a silly, cliché story where the stakes are the lowest they’ve ever been.
Peter tries to avoid his family’s judgement about his hopeless love life by asking his best friend Nick to join him for the festivities and pretend to be his boyfriend. However, the game is quickly given away when Peter’s mother sets him up on a blind date with her trainer James. The two seem to hit it off, but unearthed feelings might be waiting just around the corner.
This is not about coming out
Yes, you read that right, this LGBTQ+ movie is not about coming out!
I want this to be the first thing you find out about the movie because it is also its main selling point. And by that, I don’t mean that this is a bad movie or that it’s not worth watching otherwise but it is kind of a first for the genre.
Last year, we got a big first for holiday romcoms in the much-awaited and definitely amazing Happiest Season, but there was a lot of disappointment in finding out that we couldn’t just have a happy story for once.
Holiday romcoms are about joy, and silliness, and clichés and the queer community was long overdue for some of that. I was so excited for Happiest Season, and don’t get me wrong, I loved it! But the truth of the matter is that it still dealt with a coming out story that was not the happiest at all. Does it end well? Sure, of course, but would I also like not to have to think about the constant coming out struggles that millions of queer people have to still live through every day? Also yes. We need hope, we need the conversation not to be about possible lack of acceptance for once, and Single All The Way has all of that. Finally!
Before we dive into the actual movie, let’s talk about casting.
If you’re familiar with the 2006 comedy hit Ugly Betty, you will be thrilled to find out that the protagonist of Single All The Way, Peter, is played by none other than Ugly Betty’s Marc St. James, Michael Urie.
I was personally very excited by this as I’ve low-key had a crush on him since Ugly Betty, which I should have probably taken as some kind of sign (just kidding! I already knew I was queer by then), but I guess Real does recognise Real. Either way, it made my willingness to watch this movie even stronger, not that I needed any convincing in the first place: as many queer people might tell you, the slightest whiff of queerness is enough to make us check out new media.
However, he is not the only familiar face of the film. You might also recognise Hocus Pocus’ Kathy Najimy, who used to play Mary Sanderson in the Halloween classic and is now in the role of Peter’s mom, and Barry Bostwick who is no stranger to Christmas romcoms but whose most well-known role was in another queer classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show, now playing Peter’s dad. And that is still not all! If like me, you have been binging as many Christmas romcoms as you can get your hands on for the last month and a half, you’ll definitely recognise another holiday rom-com alum, Luke Macfarlane in the role of Peter’s handsome blind date, James.
Now, last but most definitely not least, how could I not mention what might be the most well-known face in the entire movie, Madam Jennifer Coolidge herself? We have seen her play Cinderella’s evil stepmother, we’ve loved her self-assured journey in Legally Blonde, and we recently got to know her more dramatic side in this year’s The White Lotus. No romantic comedy is complete without her and Single All The Way (rightfully!) took this lesson to heart.
There’s something for literally everybody, and that’s without even mentioning some of the lesser-known performers of the film. A special mention here goes to Philemon Chambers in the role of Nick, who was quite simply my absolute favourite part of the movie.
So what does this film have, aside from the amazing cast, which is definitely important but very often not enough to make a good movie? And is Single All The Way even good to begin with?
Well, yes and more or less so.
Single All The Way is truly a Christmas rom-com and with that comes a series of challenges and obligations that do make the movie a little much. This type of romcom has a certain structure to follow, which Single All The Way does not skirt from. Overall, the movie tends to be just as cheesy and predictable as most others in the genre and I know I always judge Christmas romcoms for being bland and unoriginal but – and this is a big but – we also need to take into consideration that this is an LGBTQ+ holiday rom-com.
The queer community has only just started to get the types of films and stories that straight people have been seeing themselves in for ages. Before, it was always about the suffering of coming out, having to find love outside of unaccepting family, discrimination and historical struggle. I get it, these stories are important too in the way that facing reality is, but not every minute of every day has to be devoted to watching that. Queer people already know how bad it can be for them out there, sometimes we need to believe that things can be easy, and joyful, and that we’ll live clichés like the fairytale loves and the big gestures that only characters in movies get.
So yeah, we’re allowed to be corny and gross and cheesy because we haven’t been able to be before. I’d even go so far as saying that being corny and cliché is revolutionary for an LGBTQ+ movie. There, I said it and I’m not taking it back.
Now, with all that aside, Single All The Way’s story is a little slow-going. While the characters are interesting – Peter is a social media manager and Nick is a children’s book writer who is also a handyman? Whaaat? – I couldn’t quite tell that they like each other romantically for a good chunk of the movie. This slow-burn is definitely slow and the interest is much more obvious on Nick’s side than it is on Peter’s but from the moment it becomes clear they like each other, it definitely goes hard.
From that point on, the movie does a truly good job at making comparisons between the way Peter is interested in James and the way he feels at home and heart-shakingly attracted to Nick. It just makes sense.
Single All The Way is amazing at building up momentum and gives us some top-notch mutual pining deliciousness.
As I said in the previous section, Single All The Way’s characters are very well-constructed. Peter is fun and lovable, James is handsome and gentle, but Nick? Oh, Nick is the very definition of a dreamboat.
He is incredibly handsome, he’s soft-spoken and kind-mannered, he’s great with kids and super talented at fixing and making things while also being an amazing writer (who writes about his cute, big dog!!! Where can I get a Nick?!)! He is the literal man who can do both. He very quickly builds an exceptional relationship with Peter’s family and his nieces and nephews in particular, and he is the sweetest dog-daddy the world has ever seen.
Peter, on the other hand, is kind of a catch-all, and I don’t mean that negatively. He has the hopelessly single reputation all rom-com protagonists have, he doesn’t love his job which he would gladly exchange for his more artistic plant-care hobby, and he’s torn between two handsome men who simply can’t wait for him to choose. Personality-wise he doesn’t have the hugest development, but that’s because we’re supposed to see ourselves in rom-com protagonists, which means they need to have just enough personality so we can fill the blanks for ourselves. It’s okay, Michael Urie still does a great job being a lovable protagonist we can root for.
Then there’s James, he’s the gym trainer Peter’s mom sets him up on a blind date with. It’s really – and I mean REALLY – hard to root against him. He’s perfectly charming and a total sweetheart. James is not any better or worse than Nick, just worse for Peter because of compatibility, but he’s nice and he’s handsome, sweet and understanding. It almost makes you feel bad that you have to root for one or the other. Nick won my heart right from the start, but if there’s ever a sequel for this movie, I demand that James also get his happy ending.
Now that the compliments are out of the way, I have to mention that Single All The Way does lean into stereotypes a bit, but I want to frame it in a way that you might not have thought of.
It’s a good thing.
Queer individuals have very often been told that they should fit into the idea of the good queer to be accepted, but just like literally every other person on the planet, we are full of personality, we can be different, we can sometimes be stereotypical and it is time we get to be all of that. Queer people shouldn’t have to fit themselves into a little box to be accepted, we can and should be into society’s face as much as we can and I can think of no better way to start doing that than through the amazing medium of romantic comedies.
The surprise of love
I’m going to discuss some specific spoilers here. It’s not a huge thing, and if you’ve seen literally any Christmas rom-com at all in your life, you might have already guessed how the movie ends just by looking at the poster, but this is your official warning.
Single All The Way is pretty typical for a Christmas rom-com and by that, I mean visually too. It has the mild aesthetic and glinting fun any other movie of the same genre does, not much really jumps out for most of it. It’s a movie you can watch while scrolling through social media on your phone, it’s all cool and dandy.
There is, however, one scene that surprised me.
I’m just as guilty of watching movies distractedly as any other person in the world, especially ones I’m not particularly interested in, but I did try to keep my attention focused on most of the movies in this Christmas rom-com reviews collection and that goes for Single All The Way too. That’s how, when getting to the big confession scene, I was incredibly surprised by the sudden switch in visuals the movie did.
The confession scene is astounding. From the way Peter and Nick kiss, right down to the very colouring of the scene itself. The actors do a terrific job to show how much the characters truly like each other: their big last kiss is meaningful, tender, it is embracing and starry-eyed and the scene around them is completely visually different from any other in the movie. I was taken aback by how romantic their embrace is, but I was completely struck by how beautifully pleasing the environment around them is. I can’t quite describe it, because the set itself isn’t particularly detailed in that specific scene, but the harmonious colouration of the room perfectly complements their romantic moment and it surprised me enough that I made a specific note to mention it.
Now, for the big question of the review: should you watch this movie? Yes, absolutely.
I am thrilled to say that if there is one movie you should watch of all the ones I’ve mentioned this far, this is it. You’ve followed me in this grumpy journey through the Christmas rom-com genre and, one way or another, I have trashed most of the movies I’ve talked about so I am happy to be able to end this little collection with some positive feelings.
Single All The Way was a great, cute time. It’s sweet, doesn’t require any particular effort to watch, and is definitely above average in the quality department. Sure, I might be biased, but gosh darn it, do I love joyful celebrations of queer love! I’m officially making my Christmas wish for a Nick prequel and a James sequel. Come on, Netflix, WHERE ARE THEY?!
Did you watch this movie, did you like it? Let me know what you thought in the comments and make sure to follow Vampire’s Tears’ updates on all our social media channels. Finally, stay tuned for one last Christmas surprise from yours truly! One last Christmas review that doubles as a present for any fans of a certain TV show and for myself too, because this year, I’ve been (mostly) good!