Review: 'Single All the Way' Serves Up Feel-Good Holiday Cheer

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday December 2, 2021

Philemon Chambers and Michael Urie in 'Single All the Way'
Philemon Chambers and Michael Urie in 'Single All the Way'  (Source:Netflix)

After last year's Hallmark Channel and Lifetime forays into holiday rom-coms with an LGBTQ+ twist, do we really need Netflix to jump into the act?

Of course we do!

With "Single All the Way," the streamer delivers an early present that's heartfelt and just a little bit different from all the other Christmas cookie-cutter movies out there. Peter (Michael Urie) coaxes is best friend, Nick (Philemon Chambers) to pretend that the two of them — best friends and roommates for years — have crossed the line into romance, if for no other reason than to get his family to quit acting like he's the sad-sack, perpetually single charity case they all need to worry about.

Right away, however, Peer's mom, Carole (Kathy Najimy) — who goes by the moniker Christmas Carole during the month of December — renders the scheme moot by setting Peter up with her handsome, hot, and openly gay trainer, James (Luke Macfarlane).

We all know how these "Gay son/daughter heads home for the holidays with true love in tow" movies go, and they inevitably follow one of two paths: Either the true love is already a life partner, and the person heading back to Ruralsville, USA, has never come out to Mom and Dad; or else the single central character has a supportive family looking to set them up with someone special, with the ironic twist being that the ideal person is already the protagonist's best friend, only it takes a timely nudge from well-meaning busybodies to make that clear.

In this case, the formula is slightly different. Yes, Carole has set Peer up with James — who is admittedly hot, but who both he and Peter soon realize is not Mr. Right for Peter — but literally everyone else in this large, oddball family can see that James and Nick are not only perfect for each other, they are already in love. They just don't realize it yet.

Fittingly, it's the younger set, in the form of nieces Daniella (Madison Brydges) and Sophia (Alexandra Beaton), who cop to this first and are the most exasperated by Peter and Nick's apparent cluelessness. But Peter's father, Harold (Barry Bostwick), sees it too, and has long known that Nick is the perfect fit for his son. Before long, the entire clan has come around to the idea that setting Peter up with James is a horrible mistake, and they must do everything in their power to discourage any hint of romance between the two of them, and foster a romantic spark between Peter and Nick. What could possibly go wrong?

But the obstacles seem insurmountable: Peter has grown weary of his high-pressure career in Los Angeles, and yearns to move back to New Hampshire and devote his life to plants, while Nick — an up-and-coming writer who makes his living doing TaskRabbit gigs — seems to have little interest in leaving the big city. Then there's James, who's good looking and sweet natured, which makes up for a lot... maybe even for the total lack of chemistry between he and Peter. Who knows but that Peter might decide to settle for less than swooning passion, give up on true love, go with handsome and hunky, and hope for the best? Most daunting is Peter's terror that if he and Nick ever try on the boyfriend experience, it will drive them apart. He'd rather go on enjoying a celibate friendship with the dubious benefits of unfulfilled longing than risk what he's already got, and who can blame him?

The film builds in a subplot about Aunt Sandy directing a Christmas Pageant, her artistic vision being left unfulfilled by her cast of half-hearted actors (all of whom are drawn from Peter's family. That's okay, despite the subplot's disposable nature; it might be padding, but it gives Jennifer Coolidge a role in this movie, and that in itself is justification enough. As Aunt Sandy purrs, drink in hand, gay men "for some reason [are] always obsessed with me.... I like it."

It's a meta moment, perfectly placed and perfectly true. It's also the icing on what turns out to be a tasty sugar cookie of a movie. If Netflix can serve up a few similar holiday treats each year, it will give those other purveyors of holiday rom-coms a run for their money.

"Single All the Way" premieres on Netflix Dec. 2

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.