Starting this film off, I had to google to check whether it was, in fact, queer. Fortunately, after an appearingly heterosexual opening, the lesbianism arrives ー slowly, and then all at once. Just to reassure you: the titular New York Christmas Wedding does end up being a New York Christmas Lesbian Wedding. More accurately, a A New York Christmas Surprise Lesbian Catholic Wedding. But we’ll get to that…
Top Tip: Don’t fear! Although it doesn’t seem so at first, there are in fact a lot of lesbians in this film
A New York Christmas Wedding (Otoja Abit, 2020) tells the story of Jennifer. The film begins with Jennifer having doubts about an approaching marriage with her partner David, spurred on by flashbacks from an almost-relationship with (now dead) childhood best friend Gabrielle. Out on a run to clear her head, she saves a passerby, Azreal Gabison, from a potential road accident.
Biggest Gay Mood: Texting and cycling, and then lying about it
Azreal turns out to be her queer guardian angel. That evening, he takes Jennifer back in time to show her what could have been if she and Gabrielle had reached the point of confessing their feelings to one another. And here, finally, we meet the alternate reality lesbians.
In this alternate reality, we discover that, not only is Gabby still alive, but so is Jennifer’s father; the power of lesbian love has already saved two lives. Though we do get a fair bit of (understandable for the character but badly acted) outrage and wtf-ing from Jennifer, she settles quickly into this new reality and new (for her) romantic relationship with a girl she hasn’t seen for 20 years. Within 24 hours, she doesn’t want to leave. Though they still have their issues like all couples, Gabby listens to her, and their mutual affection seems genuine. They rub each other’s arms in bed; this, I’m told, is a lesbian thing.
Tragically for Gabby, but perhaps less so for Jennifer, Gabby’s family never appear: inevitably for a queer holiday movie, they’re homophobic Catholics. Thus, unlike with David’s overbearing, holier and richer than thou, “I know your family’s gone [dead] but we own a Fortune 500 company” mother (who we meet early on in the actual reality), there are no dodgy in-laws to contend with.
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the incredible clothes Jennifer gets in this alternate reality. Forget the back-from-the-dead father, look at this coat…
…look at this dress!
These have got to be hard to say goodbye to. After only 48 hours. Heartbreaking.
Let that be enough to demonstrate that, in the A New York Christmas Wedding Cinematic Universe(s), Sapphic power reigns supreme.
Jennifer’s guardian angel, Azreal, is played by the twinkish, curly-haired Cooper Koch. As hard as I try, I am not in a position to judge his acting; being so hideously attracted to him (which his potentially evil angel character only enhances), my judgement is somewhat clouded. But what I can say is that, as a narrator to our festive tale, his character is a highlight. Using every gay stereotype under the sun, he guides Jennifer somewhat maliciously through her past, revealing her deepest memories and desires both back to her and to us as an audience. A gay best friend to a female lead? Hardly groundbreaking. A gay guardian angel / narrator / antagonist ? Instantly iconic. And what we eventually learn to be his true identity (pay attention to his full name for a clue) only adds even more of those chaotic layers.
Lingering throughout the film, once you realise its true trajectory, is the realisation that the only canonically queer storyline ー disregarding Azreal saying “gurl” at the end of every sentence ー is within a (maybe imagined?) alternate reality. I will let the viewer discover whether this turns out to be true by the end, but the following is worth pointing out: if it turns out that we only see Jennifer act on Sapphic desires in an imagined universe, then that in itself is pretty damn queer.
Look, the acting isn’t great. The writing is adequate, at best. We power through dozens of outdated queer movie tropes: from Gabby saying sleeping with a man made her realise she was gay, to two femme-presenting lesbian leads, to Azreal’s black-women-appropriated vernacular and even that age-old Catholic homophobic guilt. And, quite honestly, there were a lot of plot holes, especially when it came to moving between alternate reality timelines.
One bad choice can ruin a film. But this many bad choices, and done with such gusto, can make a film. All I can say is: I was engrossed the whole time, and I had a good time. Is that not enough?