The holiday season is typically big for both Hollywood studios and local theaters, but just as audiences have turned to stream entertainment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, so has the industry.
Three new holiday releases from the three leading services will particularly appeal to LGBT audiences:
Amazon Prime’s “Uncle Frank” will resonate strongly with gay men of a certain generation. Set in the early 1970s, the film chronicles a New York City college professor’s road trip with his young niece back to their small Southern hometown to attend the family patriarch’s funeral. Frank (Paul Bettany) must leave the relative safety of the big city gayborhood to finally confront the demons of his youth and his father’s shame after a teenage romance is discovered.
Bettany gives a wrenching performance as a man teetering on emotional collapse and alcoholism to cope, supported by the appealing Sophia Lillis (niece Beth) and uplifting Peter Macdissi as Walid (“Wally”), Frank’s supportive Muslim partner who is also living in his own self-imposed and absolutely necessary closet.
Meanwhile, Hulu’s “Happiest Season” is Director and Co-writer Clea DuVall’s queer take on the stereotypical Christmas rom-com. Abby (Kristen Stewart) has big plans to propose to partner Harper (Mackenzie Davis) while spending the holidays with her family. While on the way, Harper confesses she has never come out to her conservative family, forcing out and proud lesbian Abby back in the closet.
DuVall aspires for that dry “Schitt’s Creek” dynamic and even tosses in Dan Levy as Abby’s quirky gay BFF, but never quite succeeds. Parents Ted and Tipper (Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen) are odd ducks, indeed, but no Johnnie and Moira Rose. Co-writer Mary Holland takes a tasty turn on screen as sister Jane, the one character you might actually encounter at Café Tropical.
Nearly every plot twist at the family Christmas party is predictable, but don’t forget this film in many ways is a trailblazer for mainstream media and can still be enjoyed with a bottle of your favorite adult beverage. And for our lesbian friends, there’s always Kristen Stewart’s plucky persona for dessert.
Ryan Murphy’s latest contribution to the ever-growing Netflix oeuvre is “The Prom,” a star-studded, glitzy adaptation of the 2018 Broadway hit: A group of down-on-their-luck, self-obsessed Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells) shake up a small Indiana town as they rally behind a teen (Jo Ellen Pellman) who just wants to attend prom with her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose), who is still closeted and whose mom (Kerry Washington) is the traditional values-spouting president of the PTA.
This is film is signature Murphy with over-the-top musical numbers (choreographed by Broadway powerhouse Casey Nicholaw) reminiscent of “Glee,” aided by a peppy and clever score and book by Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin. Murphy never loses the spirit of the Broadway show, and that’s what makes it work (no matter how much other critics will hate on Corden and Streep’s performance). The only real loser is Indiana’s reputation and there wasn’t much Murphy could do there.
Watch “Uncle Frank” at Amazon.com, “Happiest Season” at Hulu.com, and “The Prom” on Netflix.com.