“Ex-mas” Should Be About The Chaotic Lesbian Sister But Instead It’s About Straight People 😔

The Freevee/Prime Video Christmas movie Ex-Mas rumbled into existence this past month and I had no intention of watching it until a reader tipped us off that there was a lesbian in the movie. It is my duty to watch every Christmas movie that even considers the existence of lesbians (even though I am Jewish) and I will always do my duty! This particular call to duty wasn’t a terrible one — it’s a mediocre script that could’ve been stronger with maybe ten more rounds of edits, but who has time for that in this economy? Its overall tone straddles the line between “edgy adult Christmas” and “wholesome family Christmas,” to varying levels of success. The central heterosexual couple is insufferable but they can work that out in therapy.

If you plan to watch this piece of cinema, you should be warned that I am about to spoil the entire movie for you, except for one joke at the very end that was actually a pretty good joke so I’m gonna keep that a surprise.

exmas promo poster

So: Ali (Leighton Meester) has bangs and usually a goblet of wine in one hand and she has always dreamed of driving a little pastry truck all over Los Angeles, selling frosted sugar cookies. Meanwhile, Graham Stroop (Robbie Arnell) is a dude and his job is Computer Games. The fact that his name is “Graham” and not “Joe” is the most interesting thing about him, because I really thought his name would be Joe. He is forgettable in general and you can kind of imagine him sitting in a sports bar in a midwestern college town forever.

Graham’s parents are a little wacky. You know this because they wear really bright colors and look like real people.

mom on the phone saying she got the ham from anthony's

tfw you got the ham from anthony’s

Ali and Graham were engaged, but they broke up six months ago, and Ali never gave Graham one reason about why they broke up. I think it might be because they simply do not have any chemistry at all whatsoever!

Anyhow, Ali is still besties with Graham’s family, and so after he cancels Christmas due to a demanding work schedule, they go ahead and invite Ali. Then SURPRISE, Graham shows up! And Ali is there wearing overalls over a turtleneck cable knit sweater. The most important thing about this film is that everybody has a chance to wear a turtleneck.

Speaking of turtlenecks, Graham has a sister named Mindy who is a lesbian and she’s wearing a mock turtleneck.

lesbian in chirstmas sweater asking "what is that?"

me to this movie

Mindy’s girlfriend, Heather, is not at the Christmas celebration, much to Mom’s chagrin — but we learn immediately that Heather has a podcast about polyamory.  “Polyamory? Didn’t they play Coachella?” asks Mom. Ha ha ha!!!!!!!

Everybody in this film is trying really hard to do something but I’m not sure what it is. Sometimes there is a sort of indie hand-held camera vibe and people are telling jokes. Then sometimes there is a musical “game night” montage where everybody laughs like they’re posing for one of those pictures that comes with the picture frame.

Mom says she got veggie bacon for Heather and is still so upset that Heather isn’t at Christmas. This exchange is when it becomes clear to the audience that Heather and Mindy definitely broke up but the movie is going to take its time to hard launch this breakup.

Ali does a prank on Graham so the toilet bowl overflows and she fixes it with a toilet plunger that for some reason was not stored in the same room as the toilet (the bathroom). Someone steals the Baby Jesus from Mom’s nativity scene so Ali and Graham go to the store together to find a replacement Baby Jesus while Ali is still in her pajamas.

Ali and Graham in the store

[Riese sighs]

“You were dismissive of your family, and you were dismissive of me, and my feelings,” Ali says to Graham in the store. We are 29 minutes in. I wish Heather was coming to Christmas!

There’s a party at Dad’s car dealership but Ali hates goats and there are goats at the party. It’s okay though ’cause then Ali meets used car salesman Brady, a beautiful man wearing two shirts.  He loses his train of thought talking to Ali. It’s love! Graham also meets a new girlfriend at the car dealership party. Her name is Jess. It’s a great place for singles.

WHat's wrong with goats?

Everything What’s Wrong Of Goats: It’s All Of Them

goat climbs onto the bed and ali screams


After being attacked by a goat, everybody goes to the bar, where Ali tells Jess that Graham has erectile dysfunction. Also, Graham and Mindy have an adopted brother named Elliot but he doesn’t get a love interest or very many lines.

Somehow, Mindy meets a lesbian at this half-vacant bar but Graham breaks up their improbably outdoor makeout session with accusations that Mindy is cheating on Heather. Thus the lesbian must reveal that she and Heather have broken up and Ali holds Mindy in her arms.

"I don't wanna stroop down to your level"


Everyone goes home from the bar and the lesbian is trashed and barfs in the sink. Graham has a flashback where Graham and Ali are fighting in a meadow during a windstorm. Ali has a flashback where Graham is wearing a suit on a dock and he proposes to her. Tonally this movie is all over the place but none of those places are very good.

Everybody decides to go ice fishing. It’s cold and some of the jokes are good. This reminds me of last week when I was going to the thrift store with my girlfriend, and then I got a smoothie, and after I drank the smoothie, I felt really cold and wished I’d brought a hoodie. But the jokes were good.

"It's warm. It's nice. Job's really good."

Me talking about the Old Testament

Mom says that Ali is a big deal in Los Angeles! Mom read an article which claimed that all the Angelenos are wondering what Ali will do next now that she’s hit the big time selling pastries on “the westside.” She’s literally just making sugar cookies but okay. (If you want to succeed in indie cookie-selling in Los Angeles your cookies should look like muffin tops, I think.)

Graham tries to sabotage Ali’s baking by putting something bad into the batter when she’s not looking. Therefore Ali has to make a new batch of cookies! But she’s out of butter!!!! She has to go to the GARAGE FRIDGE (I love garage fridge representation) where she finds a giant tub of butter.

Brady and Jess somehow had no Christmas plans, so they’re joining the Stroop family for Christmas Eve dinner. Everybody eats the cookies while there is still meat and potatoes on the table, and now everyone is high! Except for Graham and Jess, because Graham didn’t eat the cookies because he is protesting Ali’s existence. Then Graham gets mad that his Mom isn’t mad about the weed cookies.

"Well I just — whoops"

"You gotta be kidding me. You hate weed!"

So now we have “people getting high on accident” and also “exes trying to make each other look bad through petty insults and bizarre competitions” so idk, let’s just kill a lesbian and congratulate ourselves on hitting so many Tropes in one day!

Mindy says her parents are perfect couple atop a wedding cake, and Graham says that Mindy’s not gonna be getting married any time soon. It’s a stretch, but it does the trick: Mindy is forced to reveal to all that Heather moved out last week. Also, Mindy misses Heather and would like to call her. On Christmas Eve! But she’s high. 😞

Mindy wants to call Heather and is asking her parents if they can type it in

So then Graham and Jess go to a RAGING NIGHTCLUB on Christmas Eve, where she introduces him to her “roommate and special friend” because she wants them to have a threesome later. Bisexual visibility!

The girl touches Graham on the mouth and says "I'm still trying to find our if you're a little fruity"

Because if so then we could have some fruitcake later, it’s Christmas!

Meanwhile, it turns out that Brady just wants to sell Ali a car. I wonder what’s happening with Mindy???? Graham and Ali both come home from their dates, sad that their dates didn’t really love them for who they were, but instead for the possibility that they might have a threesome or buy a car. This is relatable.

Ali and Graham have sex. He says he hates her bangs. Did Mindy call Heather, do you think?

The next morning, it’s Christmas Day and Graham and his Mom have a talk. Then we have to go to church. This was a big budget moment for the film because of all the extras.

at church they are singing a psalm

This is my favorite Britney Spears song

Back at the Stroop Family Home, everybody opens presents and Dad is wearing a turtleneck. Brady shows up with Graham’s lost bag because he works for the Knights of Columbus, a group of men who return lost luggage from the airport to their owners on Christmas Day. Where is Brady’s family? Everybody decides to go to the local hockey rink and play hockey so that Graham and Brady can be competitive. Once again the lesbian is LITERALLY on the sidelines of this story.

two men play hockey while "competitive music plays"

Mindy, Ali and Elliot yelling from the sidelines


But then Dad has a heart attack. Luckily, Graham knows CPR and he saves his Dad’s life and they give him pills so everything will be okay.

Graham quits his job because he spent too much time making a living and not enough time being nice to his Dad. Ali’s Mom is dead. Ali decides to go back to Los Angeles and everybody is really sad about it, so the entire Stroop family decides to go to the airport so Graham can try to win Ali back!!!!!

"Yeah. We're ready. To the Datsun!"

It’s chaos and everybody is really giving the most, but the car won’t start. Luckily, airport extras were not in the budget so Ali doesn’t go to the airport after all, meaning that now Graham can give his speech about how much he loves her without having to spend any money on gas. He says he’s an idiot and he had the worst priorities ever!

We know that things are different now because in this scene nobody is wearing a turtleneck. They are revealing their necks because they are open to love!

the whole family

Anyhow then we do a big time jump to one year later, when the Stroop family has come to Los Angeles, where Graham and Ali have somehow purchased a home that costs at least six million dollars, even though they both “work for themselves” now. Also, somehow Mindy is dating the lesbian from the bar!?? Mindy and her new girlfriend have aged backwards, they are three years younger in this scene than they were in the rest of the film.

Well, it’s a Christmas miracle!

the stroop family on the doorstep


I know what you are wondering: how many turtlenecks were in the movie in total? Okay I’ll tell you!!! It’s 22 turtlenecks:

a collage of characters in Exmas wearing turtlenecks

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3213 articles for us.


  1. I’m sure I’ll still watch, now there’s a lesbian character.

    I have to say, it seems like we’re on the back burner in recent years with only a handful of offerings, which is less than what we’d just started to see. And while I’m all for the stories that celebrate all of us – I miss my lesbian romances. Walk With Me in 2021 was amazing, honestly such a simple but beautiful love story that I’ve watched several times over already, but it feels like one of the last grown up lesbian films that I can recall – here’s hoping I get some recommendations thrown at me!

    • definitely in the category of christmas movies there hasn’t been an uptick at all, we’re still on the backburner. which is frustrating to me! we are still stuck at one lesbian-focused mainstream (not produced by tello or otherwise a web-first lesbian company) Christmas movie per year.

      drew’s working on her list of the best lesbian cinema of the year so i hope there’ll be some good ones on there for you and me and for all of us. i really enjoyed Bottoms and Nyad this year, but of course those weren’t romances.

  2. There was a potential sequel stinger!!!! There’s a “three years later” bit where Mindy answers a yuletide knock at her brothers door to find Heather standing there, (who is left off screen so casting is wide open)

    • Lol. LOL. Yes, I looked this movie up around 28 min in to figure out why I was watching (and thank goodness for that because I might have missed the wind storm break-up or the mild wind storm proposal scene… Phew. Saved.)
      Although I feel like I was forewarned, 22 turtlenecks later, I finished this dribble only to realize I will never get those moments of my life back and that the past 90 min were as stale as that super weird shared piece of bubblegum.

  3. I definitely enjoyed how much you disliked this movie.

    One question – you wrote “their improbably outdoor makeout session”

    Is it an improbable makeout session? Or was it improbable that it would be outdoors?

    • improbable that it would be outdoors! i’ve spent the vast majority of holiday seasons in either michigan or ohio, it is my understanding that minnesota is actually often even colder than michigan or ohio, and we are not kissing outdoors on december 25th in michigan or ohio!!! especially when we are gay and the bathroom is right there!

  4. Emotionally this movie made no sense. There was a seed of something interesting here (how do you navigate these family relationships you’ve had for a long time now that you’re broken up?) but none of these people acted remotely human?? Why was their first response to jump right to petty sabotage? Why would someone be like “well you don’t like your family so I get them”? Truly nonsensical.

    That said, we need more lesbians in Christmas movies so if they make a sequel I will be watching

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