This Queer short film review is part of my “Queer Christmas Shorts for 2020” post.
“Fruitcake” – both a derogatory slang nickname for gay guys, and also a traditional Christmas dessert. But only one is actually present in this Queer Christmas short – and it’s not the actual dessert! It’s one thing to bring someone along to the family Christmas Eve dinner to avoid the “why are you still single” talk, especially from an overly concerned and controlling mother. It’s also not too different when your “boyfriend” happens to be gay. What IS different, and the key reason why this short is quite comedic, is when your sister does the same thing – and the two guys hook up! Let’s dig into this treat and find out why mom is yelling at the end!
Synopsis of “Fruitcake”
A car pulls into the driveway – it’s Catherine (Georgia Jean) & Brent (Robert Borzych) arriving at her parent’s home for Christmas. While they unload the presents, a red sports car pulls into the drive beside them – it’s her sister, Susie (Hilary Schwartz), and her boyfriend Tony (Damian F. Sandolo). “Ho Ho Ho!” he yells out, already drinking. Susie chides hime, “Tony, stop calling my sister a hoe!” As they all gather and the two sisters prepare to deal with whatever is waiting them inside, they get to know each other. Brent is an intern studying law, he works with Catherine; Susie and Tony are both actors. But when they head to the door, Tony holds Susie back to go over their “story” of how they met. Hmm… Skip ahead, all the ladies are in the kitchen working to prepare the Christmas Eve dinner. While Mrs. Jenson (Rita Furlong) is directing everyone in what they’re doing, controlling even how they do it, Catherine starts nagging on Susie about how she needs to get a real job instead of her acting. To drive the point home, Mrs Jenson points out how “perfect” Lisa and Michael are in their family photo with their kids. Now Catherine and Susie start going after Lisa how she is the perfect, stay-at-home mother who looks great. Suddenly, Mrs Jenson decides they need to get gifts for the boys and they just must run to the mall. “Bring the kids, they can see Santa one last time”, she orders.
Meanwhile, the men are hanging in the lounge. Mr Jenson asks Brent about politics, but Brent subtly avoids that topic. Instead, Michael gets them all talking about law and Brent’s future plans of a private practice. Tony walks into the room, more beers in hand. Not to get all the attention, Brent inquires about Tony’s acting career. But Tony is an “actor of the waiting tables variety!” However, he talks about a commercial he did for deodorant, right as Susie walks in with the news that they’re all off to the mall. Oh boy! As they all get ready to pile out the door, Catherine asks Brent to stay behind and grab a shower. Suddenly Tony asks to stay as well, he has a special gift to wrap for Susie. “Keep an eye on the turkey, boys” Mrs Jenson tells them, proud that her girls finally found great guys.
Brent and Tony hang together, drinking more beers while they wait until Brent decides to finally go take a shower. But Tony knocks into him as he tries to leave. “Hey, watch it!” Brent cries. “What’re ya gonna do, mr pre-law tough guy?” Tony banters back. But Brent just walks away. Except Tony won’t leave Brent alone, playing with the faucet while Brent showers before finally flushing the toilet and bringing the scalding hot water. Brent tries to shave, wearing just a towel, but Brent continues to knock on the bathroom door. When Brent opens it, Tony sprays him with beer – Brent is pissed and chases Brent into the living room where they start to fight. But when Brent brings Tony to the floor and is holding him down, straddling him, Tony becomes a bit … flirtatious!? Brent quickly gets off Tony, but prepares to fight him further – until Tony grabs Brent and kisses him. Before you know it, they’re making out, falling over the sofa as the passion takes over them both. Brent’s towel is thrown aside, covering the baby Jesus statue under the tree!
Later at the dinner table, the talk is rather light and full of banter back and forth. “I hope you two weren’t too bored”, Mrs Jenson says to Brent and Tony. “Hardly”, Tony smirks back! Brent gets caught up in a fantasy as he envisions Tony taking off his shirt and dancing evocatively while everyone just sits there! “Brent, did you want the gravy”, Christina asks him, bringing him out of his daydream. After dinner, everyone is hanging around the Christmas tree in the living room while Mrs Jenson is in the kitchen preparing her special dessert. Tony is waiting in the other room, grabs Brent aside when he comes out carrying the egg nog. “Hey homo, want a rematch?” he asks Brent, before realising they’re standing under mistletoe. “Hey, someone’s going to see…” Brent starts to say, but Tony quiets him with a kiss. “No one’s around.” Except right at that moment, Mrs Jenson comes around the corner and spies the two boys kissing! Uh oh! As the boys carry the egg nog into the living room, Mrs Jenson returns back to the kitchen and pours herself a glass of wine. Brianna starts to sing “Away in a Manger” for everyone, but Brent’s fantasy kicks back in. Tony grabs the mic and starts singing directly to Brent. Meanwhile Mrs Jenson is cramming the mistletoe down the garbage disposal. She takes a big swig of wine, plants both hands down on the counter, and screams: “GIRLS!!!” They ALL hear her yelling, as panic crosses everyone’s faces and even the house shakes. The End.
There are plenty of hidden gems in “Fruitcake”. First up, we are treated with a comical story full of situational humour and quite witted remarks. As I noted at the start, having two gay guys pretending to be the boyfriends of the two sisters is comical enough. But when Tony starts to flirt and seduce Brent, it becomes hysterically funny! (And creates a fascinating backdrop for even more situational comedy). Chock full of snappy remarks, especially between Tony and Brent, we get lovely gems like “A lot of accidents happen in the shower!” and plenty more. But it’s not just the boys who get all the fun – Mrs Jenson is QUITE a character herself! As the controlling matriarch of the family, she wants to control everyone – under the guise of wanting what’s best for her children. She is always ready with a snarky remark, and unfortunately Catherine and Susie are usually her targets. (No wonder they don’t want to go home alone this year).
But great characters and comedic writing isn’t enough, it needs brought to life by a great cast of actors. “Fruitcake” just happens to have that prefect blend. Oddly enough though, most of the cast aren’t that well known. But Rita Furlong is just hysterical to watch as Mrs. Jenson! Between the silent wide-mouth gaping when she spies the boys kissing to the house-rattling shriek at the end of the short, she’s a hoot! Heck, even when she’s the controlling mother in the kitchen, her character is quite laughable! Everyone else has their own unique charm and quirkiness that they bring to life in their characters; overall, it’s a great blend.
I only have three slight issues… As much as I enjoy the acting and casting, there are times when it feels a bit forced – false even. Additionally, the cinematographic elements are a bit shoddy. But I have to wonder if this is partly because of the third issue – “Fruitcake”, like its namesake is often mistaken as well, is rather dated. While the short was released in 2003 (and I realise that that is nearly twenty years ago!), it has a vibe that better aligns with the style and look of 90’s films. Thus, I actually think that this skews our perception of the film when watching it today. Even if that’s not the case, I felt the need to knock off half a rating for the cinematography; but I opted to keep a full rating for the casting. Do you agree?
Full of little surprises, “Fruitcake” is a great Queer Christmas short film. Although a bit dated and perhaps not the greatest production values, there is plenty of quirky charm and flirting to bring plenty of laughs. And what an ending – I just wish we got to see the aftermath! But we’re given something better, we’re left to create our own ending of happiness and joy. Find yourself a copy of this whimsical short and give it a watch. I hope you enjoy it as much as I!
Queer Relevance of “Fruitcake”
Both Brent and Tony are gay, but pretending to be straight – AND the boyfriends of the two sisters. While they aren’t really closeted (it appears both Catherine and Susie know the real truth about their respective “boyfriends”), “Fruitcake” gives us a bit of a glimpse into the many queer folks who are not out to their family and have to play straight at holiday gatherings. It’s definitely a queer short film, and a rather cute one at that!