Every year in December I lament the fact that there aren’t any fun romantic Christmas movies that star two women as the leads. I like watching the cheesy predictable Hallmark Christmas movies (especially the ones with extremely far-fetched royalty-themed plots). I would love for there to be a movie about a woman who goes home for Christmas to a family who is way too invested in her love life and who decides to put an ad out for someone to play her fake girlfriend but then they end up falling in love for real. (Credit to Hallmark’s A Holiday Engagement.) But until just this past Christmas season all the leads were only white, straight, and heterosexual. In 2018 there were several films whose leads were not white, and reportedly Hallmark will be making Hanukkah movies for next winter. Progress! There are still no queer lead characters (or any queer characters) in sight, however. In a few of the non-Hallmark Christmas movies (like the Netflix hit A Christmas Prince) queer characters are mostly relegated to the sidelines. The closest film I can think of that breaks the mould is Carol , which is an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt. It’s different than the psychological thrillers she is known for. It’s not cheesy, but it is a romance between women that ends happily and takes place during Christmas. It’s gratifying to see that Highsmith’s novel has become increasingly relevant to queer women today with the release of Carol.
Other media I’ve encountered recently has also been heavily influenced by Patricia Highsmith. The film A Simple Favor came out last year, based on the book by first time novelist Darcey Bell. The novel is more of a straightforward thriller than the film (which has a lot more darkly comedic elements to it) but both offer a critical look at so-called “mommy bloggers” and the edited views of their lives they present to their readers. Widowed young mom Stephanie is the “mommy blogger” main character whose best friend Emily appears to have gone missing. What starts off as a missing persons case turns into a mystery about a complicated woman that Stephanie realises she didn’t really know at all. There are similarities with Gone Girl but Emily’s motivations are very different, and the author uses tropes in a fresh and fascinating way. Stephanie mentions Emily’s love of Patricia Highsmith’s novels and she references Strangers on a Train on multiple occasions, including a pivotal moment when she reveals a big secret to Emily. Emily also leaves behind a bookmarked copy of Highsmith’s novel Those Who Walk Away which Stephanie notices and starts to suspect it might lead to clues about Emily’s disappearance.
Genuine Fraud is a YA novel by e. lockhart which was marketed as being inspired by The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, which is the first in a series about a man who spends his life impersonating people and lying to everyone around him. Imogen is a girl who has spent her life trying to be someone else, and plans to continue to do so at any cost. There is a lot of action and the story isn’t boring, but I found this novel suffered from similar qualities as lockhart’s previous novel, We Were Liars . The strength in her previous books (such as the Ruby Oliver series and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks ) lay in the humour and heart of her characters who have plenty of flaws but are essentially good. In these two latest books she has written main characters who are not what you’d call “good people” and while I absolutely enjoy books with these kinds of characters, I don’t think she succeeds in creating them. At the end of both I was left feeling unsatisfied. Genuine Fraud seems more of a retelling rather than just being “inspired” by The Talented Mr. Ripley. (In my opinion a far more successful retelling of a classic novel is Catherine by April Lindner, a modern YA version of Wuthering Heights.)