By Hans Pedersen, Dec. 4, 2014.
If the holidays are feeling too gentrified and not inclusive enough, be of good cheer! A little extra fabulousness can help the Christmas season feel more merry and gay.
Check out these holiday-themed films and TV movies with LGBT characters to help you and your loved ones get into the spirit of the season.
The 2005 big-screen adaption of the smash Tony Award-winning play gives us a glimpse of the grittier side of Christmas. Gay, straight and bi characters all tackle the challenges of romance, living with HIV and making the season feel festive when the power is shut off. Though the song ”Christmas Bells Are Ringing” doesn’t make the cut in this movie adaptation, and a bit of the ineffable magic of the stage production is absent, the film captures the essence of the show, serving as an inspirational reminder of the impermanence of life. Returning to their original Broadway roles are Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Taye Diggs, and Wilson Heredia as Angel, who dons her divine trademark Santa suit.
Scrooge & Marley
If we can have The Muppet Christmas Carol and a Melrose Place revision of the classic tale, then it’s about time we got our very own gay-themed version. In this 2012 film, available for rental on Amazon, Scrooge is gay, so is his assistant, Bob Crachit, while his niece, Freda, and her partner, Mary, are expecting their first child. In this retelling of the story, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visit Ben Scrooge and give him the chance to reconnect with his lost love. Longtime LGBT supporter Judith Light also narrates the film.
Home for the Holidays
Yes, it’s technically set during Thanksgiving, but the sentiments are part of the same season. In this 2005 comedy, directed by Jodie Foster, Claudia (Holly Hunter) is newly unemployed and dreading spending the holidays with her family. Robert Downey Jr. plays her rambunctious gay brother, Tommy, who brings a friend home. Foster’s second film seems to develop new shades of meaning, given her acknowledgment last year that she came out long ago. Already a seasonal classic, the movie features memorable performances by the late Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning as the daffy parents.
Who knew Marcellus Wallace could take a walk on the wild side? Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) earned praise for his performance as a female impersonator named Holiday Heart in this Golden Globe-nominated TV movie. Holiday befriends a woman named Wanda (Alfre Woodard), who’s hooked on crack, selling herself for cash, and struggling to raise a little girl. In the ultimate Christmas gesture, Holiday invites them into his home to try to help them get a new start.
This high-octane indie set on Christmas Eve centers around supermarket workers, focusing on Ronna (Sarah Polley) who’s looking to make cash on a drug deal. Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf play Adam and Zack, two lovers embroiled in a plot that could get Ronna busted. They’re just a couple of the colorful characters dwelling in this eerie holiday netherworld beyond the reach of Rudolph, where hotel rooms can go up in flames, drug dealers don Santa hats and psychedelic raves stretch into Christmas morn.
Tales of the City
Armistead Maupin’s Dickensian saga, set in San Francisco, weaves a magical spell in this adaptation; it first aired as a PBS mini-series, but still exudes a cinematic quality. The gay and straight residents of 28 Barbary Lane shop for trees together and decorate at home alone, ‘til the twisting, careening plot lines culminate with a decadent Christmas Eve party. If you already know Michael, Mary Ann, Brian and Mrs. Madrigal, you can just move ahead to part three to enjoy the festivities. If somehow you’ve missed Tales of the City, you’ll simply have to start with part one, dear, and work your way up to the finale of this LGBT classic.
Holiday in Handcuffs
No, it’s not about what you’re thinking. But leave it to Netflix to preserve this 2007 cheeseball charmer in their streaming collection. In this TV movie, crazyartist Trudie (Melissa Joan Hart) kidnaps a hunky stranger, David (Mario Lopez) and brings him to an isolated cabin for Christmas with her family, claiming he’s her boyfriend. Of course, it’s the perfect time for brother Jim to come out at the dinner table. While it’s a small subplot that comes late in this goofy story, the family gets to meet Jim’s love interest in the end. Not a bad option for viewing with the extended family.
The Family Stone
This is a “home for the holidays” scenario taken up a couple notches: no coming-out at the dinner table here. Thad and Patrick (Ty Giordano and Brian White) are an interracial gay couple planning to adopt. Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson are the ultra-cool parents, but sparks fly when brother Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings home his uptight, conservative girlfriend (Sarah Jessica Parker). This engaging comedy is also a calculated tearjerker that’s most effective when it cuts to Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis.” But overall this movie’s predictable, like homemade eggnog: it only comes out decent, as much as you want to love it. Toss in performances by Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes, stir well, and serve with nutmeg.
Make the Yuletide Gay
In this 2009 low-budget comedy, college student Nathan gets abandoned by his parents during the holidays, so he heads to Wisconsin to surprise his boyfriend, Gunn. But Nathan has no idea Gunn has not come out to his mother, who’s a Christmas-decorating fiend, or told to the truth to his spaced-out Scandinavian dad. Full of heavy-handed double entendres, this comedy’s only as appealing as a cocktail sausage. Featuring cameos by Alison Arngrim (Nellie from Little House on the Prairie) and Gates McFadden (Star Trek: TNG), miracle of miracles, this one’s streaming free online at LogoTV.com.