Lifetime debuted, as it does during the holiday season, a new Christmas movie, but with a bit of a twist for the standard. The Christmas Setup is the first LGBT movie to debut on the network, which may have been influenced by the Hallmark Channels debut of The Christmas House. I have already reviewed that feature and have linked it here if you want to check it out. I will say I really liked The Christmas Setup, keeping in mind this is a Christmas comfort watch, and thought I would give some of my thoughts on this feature as well.
If you haven’t heard of this movie or are not big into made for tv Christmas movies, the plot of The Christmas Setup is that Hugo, a high level lawyer in his firm, is coming home for Christmas after giving his boss an ultimatum. If they don’t make him a partner then he will go find another job. That stress is weighing on him for most of the movie and while with his best friend Maddy they decide she should come home with him too. The fact that Hugo is gay is not really highlighted, he does mention Maddy is single and that they should focus on her and later in the movie he does say he is gay, but only after he and Maddy are mistaken for a married couple. Hugo is played by Ben Lewis and Maddy is played by Ellen Wong, but the biggest surprise name to me was Fran Drescher. I had no idea she was in this movie and she plays Hugo’s mom. She is constantly overbooked for the holidays and because Maddy and Hugo are there she had pulled them into her very busy schedule. During this scheduling she has ensured that Hugo will cross paths with Patrick, played by Blake Lee, who we learn was out in high school, while Hugo came out a bit later.
This is not a coming out story, but rather focused on these two men building a relationship. Now Maddy does also get hew own love connection when Hugo’s brother Aiden comes home for Christmas, but they are set as the secondary plot. When Hugo learns he will get the promotion, but that it involves moving to London he tries to keep this quiet, but Maddy accidentally spills the beans. At this point he and Patrick had really been hitting it off, there have been romantic dates with Norther Lights, Christmas Tree Lot meals, and almost kisses, but Patrick ultimately doesn’t think long distance will work. Now for a Christmas movie this one has a few more plots than I expected with another plot being added involving Hugo trying to save a local train station where a Christmas Eve event always takes place. While Patrick is helping him they realize that the man who built the station was secretly in a relationship with a man. There are photos and there is pinky touching!! This is very important if you’ve seen basically any queer movie. Now I will say the ending is a bit ambiguous, my wife and I think Hugo stayed in Milwaukee and that he probably focused on the legal battle for the train station and possibly started woodworking, which he is very good at. Krista did point out to me that the reciprocity that his mother mentions is far more complicated than the movie said it would be. Hugo would not just suddenly be able to practice law so maybe that is why he has to stay to get that all worked out. As a lawyer, Krista is very insistent that movies should get lawyer consultants, especially because New York, where Hugo is licensed, has reciprocity with almost every state and the process to waive in is difficult to say the least.
Now I will begin with the first complaint that I always have about made for tv Christmas movies and that I often have for Christmas movies in general, this is a very white cast. Almost everyone is white and the only people of color are non-speaking extras. Now Lifetime has more diverse casting in other films and by comparison to Hallmark they are working to create movies for everyone, that is their tag line. There are movies with more diversity so my guess is that since this is there first LGBT film they wanted to go with casting that is more traditional. This I think is also the case for Happiest Season and for The Christmas House, it appears to be a trade off in terms of inclusion to slowly add to what has been considered the norm for so long.
The Christmas Setup gives the two men the priority in this movie and the plot really does revolve around whether they will get together. They are the focus and Lifetime has worked to make them that perfect Christmas movie couple. There is tension, cute clumsy moments, and the drama of the possible break up before the movie ends, which feels just so perfectly trope-y. This is truly a made for tv Christmas movie with a gay main couple. I also really liked that this wasn’t a coming out story. The two men have been out for some time and Kate, Hugo’s mom, seems to know that her son had a crush on Patrick because she is very dedicated to this setup plan. I just enjoyed that the two men were already out and I loved that they went to a party at a gay pop-up event in the town. I also want to shout out the fact that Hugo and Patrick are played by a real life couple, yes Ben Lewis and Blake Lee are a real life couple and as a tie in to Happiest Season they met through an Aubrey Plaza connection.
This is the sort of casual watch movie you can throw on while you are just doing things around the house or you can cuddle up and watch it on the couch with a warm beverage. I had a fun time with this movie and it was just light and easy. I could assume the two men got together because that is the comfort of a made for tv holiday movie. I really hope that next year Lifetime will make something a bit more diverse and hopefully with some queer female couples in the plot. I would love a light and fluffy two women fall in love holiday movie. I really enjoyed Happiest Season and if you are looking for a well acted and more complex story then you can find that on Hulu. I have some thoughts on this one too and while I loved it I do have some thoughts. I have linked to The Christmas Setup page on Lifetime, which will hopefully have ways you can watch.