Well this is awkward… when I created the initial draft for my review of “I Hate New Year’s”, the film had an IMDb rating of 5.1. – it’s now 4.3. Oops! However, the drop is a tad understandable because while there are some good moments of this new queer film – overall, it’s not that great. Sure, we have a lesbian holiday romance to watch this year, and it IS a rather cute story. But even though it was released online and on VOD purely because of the pandemic this year, I feel like it would’ve gone straight to video instead of a huge theatrical release. Let’s break down why this cute lesbian romance didn’t truly come out.
Synopsis of “I Hate New Year’s”
Kicking off the film while giving a concert performance of her latest hit, Layne (Dia Frampton) is the breakout new artist this year. But now that her first album dropped, she’s ran into a writer’s block lyrically. She decides to escape L.A. and head back home to Nashville over New Year’s to get her creative mojo back alongside her best friend, Cassie (Ashley Argota). Her agent, Toni (Tamiko Robinson Steele) is hopefully that the trip will bring about new music, but begs Layne to stay at home so no one know’s she’s in town. Before Layne’s trip though, Toni convinces her to visit a psychic. But Evette is out sick so Zelena (Candis Cayne) steps in – even though Layne isn’t a believer. Zelena reveals that Layne needs to go back to the state of being she was before, learn to love again, and her writing will return. Oh, and it all hinges around someone with the letter “C”. Meanwhile back in Nashville, Cassie is excited that Layne is returning home – so much that she reveals to their best friend Freddy (Andrew Brennen) that she’s finally going to tell Layne that she is in love with her! But when Layne finally arrives, after being picked up by Cassie’s very familiar looking driver, Marley (also Candis Cayne), all of Cassie’s subtle hints and stabs at flirting are ignored.
After Layne plays Cassie the song melody she’s struggling to write lyrics for, Layne drops the bombshell – she feels like she needs to reconnect with her ex, Caroline; that the answer to all her current problems are there. But Caroline blocked Layne so it won’t be easy. However, Cassie pushes her own feelings aside and mentions that Freddy might know where Caroline is at; perhaps they should go talk to him? But Freddy is working at a club tonight and Layne promised her agent that she’ll stay at home. But with coaxing from Cassie and a “clever disguise” (sunglasses!) they decide to risk it if it’s that important to Layne. And the hunt for Caroline begins! The first head to see Freddy, who doesn’t know where Caroline is at (and equally surprised that Cassie hasn’t told Layne she’s in love with her!) Before they leave, Freddy puts on Layne’s hit song for them to sing. At first, it’s just Cassie onstage but before long, Layne is up there singing with her – and the crowd starts to wonder if it’s Layne. Freddy cuts the song off while they skip away, laughing. But Toni isn’t happy! After all, they were supposed to stay home and keep discreet.
But the search for Caroline isn’t over. They head over to another bar Freddy thought she might stop at tonight – except it’s also where Layne’s old Nashville band is performing. Though hesitant to see her bandmates again, Cassie talks her into going. In the end, they’re thrilled to see Layne and admit that while it wasn’t easy, they’ve accepted that Layne went off and became a star. Happy at hearing this, Layne want’s to jam and create music, but the band has another idea: they throw her onstage and sing an old song of theirs! This time though, Cassie streams a video and the audience realises it’s actually Layne. They both barely escape the fans, resulting in a very intimate moment. Unsurprisingly, Toni calls again – but she’s thrilled because Layne is trending! They think she’s in town to debut a new album – and her fans are wondering if Layne and Cassie are an item. Layne initially dismisses the idea, but they share a heartfelt talk and very nearly kiss before they’re interrupted. Freddy finally messaged that Caroline is at the park, so they continue onward along with some not-so-subtle prompting from Marley.
At a park bench, Cassie remarks how that was where Caroline entered the picture (and pushed Cassie away). Cassie walks away to give Layne some privacy to talk to Caroline, who ends up walking past and is quite surprised to see Layne. Caroline (Kelly Lynn Reiter) is happy now and admits she’s moved on; she even congratulates Layne for falling for Cassie, encouraging her to tell Cassie how she truly feels. But when they hug as friends, Cassie watches it from afar and ends up leaving the park upset. Upon hearing that Cassie went home, Layne decides to do something drastic: she live-streams and confesses her feelings for Cassie to everyone, promising them a brand new song just before midnight tonight. She ropes in Freddy and Marley to help, while the lyrics practically write themselves. Just before midnight, Layne goes live and performs a beautiful love song meant for Cassie – but Cassie doesn’t show. While everyone kisses and welcomes in the new year, Layne looks around, dejected. Suddenly, Cassie walks up behind Layne, turns her around, and they share a romantic kiss before professing their love for each other.
Let’s get into the bad parts right away, shall we? First of all, there are some major writing issues paired with some bad acting or poor direction. “I Hate New Year’s” is supposed to be a RomCom – yet, after watching it twice, I still can’t find the comedy! Unfortunately you can tell what lines should evoke laughter, which makes it more disappointing because they don’t. Most are actually delivered by Marley, aka Cassie’s driver, but they’re delivered with a deadpan face that just doesn’t come across the way they’re intended. And there’s the entire Zelena, the psychic, vs Marley, the driver, duality. Are they supposed to be the same person or not? When Freddy calls her Zelena at the end, it doesn’t resolve the problem but makes it even more confusing. Her role as a meddler isn’t even anything new. With the occasional winks at the camera that break the fourth wall, I was reminded of another film that uses the same trope, “eCupid“. (And they did it better, sorry!)
Another element that really bugged me was the onscreen attention to social media. Sure, I can understand that the tweets and comments are flying around like crazy – but if you’re going to put words up on the screen, give me time to read them! By the third or fourth barrage, it felt a bit overused even though it does advance the story. Overall, the script by itself is just that great. Nor is it entirely believable because it hinges entirely on Layne’s blind ignorance to all of the clues Cassie is giving her. It’s so blatantly obvious that Cassie is in love with Layne that what should be a cute comical romance ends up being pathetically boring. To miss a couple obvious hints and clues is one thing, but no one is that ignorant! As a result, the comedy is lost and the film’s cuteness gets muddled for a majority of the film.
While Dia Frampton and Ashley Argota are rather enjoyable to watch together, the rest of the cast in “I Hate New Year’s” comes across as rather flat. I’ve already talked about the confusion of Zelena/Marley, but Candice Cayne’s portrayal of both roles is a bit bland: Zelena is stereotypical for a psychic and Marley is so emotionless I can’t tell if she had botox before they filmed her scenes, or worse she was directed to act flat and boring. (Neither one is good!) Additionally, Freddy is rather stereotypical and flamboyant, a bit cliché, and doesn’t really add much to the overall story – another GBF trope. And shall we talk about the crowds at the performances? There’s practically no one around. Did they spend all their money on the production and couldn’t afford to hire enough extras to create a realistic audience for a Nashville club on New Year’s Eve? Because that’s what it seems, and that’s not a good thing.
Now for all the harsh words I had to saw about “I Hate New Year’s”, I oddly enjoyed it overall. Or rather I’m a sucker for cute romances and happy endings and this film’s final scene is quite cute! With such a heartfelt and beautiful love song, Layne wins Cassie back and professes her love live in front of a livestream audience – and it works! It’s such a great ending that I can almost overlook the film’s flaws. Visually, it’s stunning. Hitting us with bursts of colour, the staged performances are perhaps the films better moments, even utilising unique camera angles to try and hide the fact that they didn’t have a huge crowd in the bar/club scenes.
Equally there is a great chemistry between Frampton and Argota; we can feel the pangs of love as Cassie repeatedly tries to profess and show her love for Layne, and the sparks fly as Layne gradually realises she’s equally in love with Cassie. And they both can sing! Given that Frampton was a well-performing contestant on “The Voice”, we can’t be too shocked. She’s joined in the cast by another former “The Voice” contestant, Kristen Merlin, and let’s not ignore that Argota herself is well known as quite the vocalist. But one of the best parts of the film are the incredible songs; they’re quite captivating lyrically and the performances are stellar. In some ways, this film should be classified as a musical, because nearly all of the songs are either relevant to the story or propel the storyline forward.
“I Hate New Year’s” was not the best queer film this holiday season; it got overshadowed by better queer films with larger audiences. Yet despite the film’s flaws and rather harsh reviews from critics, I still really enjoyed it – mostly because of the cute romantic ending. What can I say, I’m a sucker for endings where our leads end up together in that fairy tale happy ending! Aren’t you? If you are, or if you simply want to watch a great film with two talented lesbian singers at the forefront, go check out “I Hate New Year’s”. And given that there aren’t too many films centred on New Year’s Eve, it’s a great choice if you aren’t able to attend a NYE party!
[You can find out how & where to view “I Hate New Year’s” HERE.]
Queer Relevance of “I Hate New Year’s”
While Tello is still an independent studio, it’s great to see another Holiday Queer romance that features a lesbian love story front and centre. With that representation alone, “I Hate New Year’s” is certainly queer! But it also goes a step further with queer representation because it also stars Candis Cayne, who is a well known trans actress (although the two roles she portrays are not specifically transgendered). Lastly, during Layne’s love song for Cassie and throughout the film’s credits, we get glimpes of women and lesbian couples watching and being romantic together. While a tad out of place, it just helps to add to the overall abundance of queer representation.