The Year of Jennifer Coolidge Continues with Netflix's 'Single All The Way'
Specifically a scene in which she recites a prayer Madonna once said before a concert.
Netflix has spent the past few years challenging Hallmark and Lifetime for holiday-movie supremacy, but Single All the Way is the first of its cheesy Yuletide confections to feature a gay romance. Is it a good film? Not unless you relish the heavily sweatered meet-cutes and small-town melodrama about meddlesome relatives that tend to populate this particular made-for-TV genre. In Single All the Way, perpetual Los Angeles bachelor Peter (Michael Urie) asks his roommate Nick (Philemon Chambers) to pose as his boyfriend during a trip home, only to discover that his busybody mother (Kathy Najimy) has set him up on a blind date with a sexy spin instructor (Luke Macfarlane). But wait. Did Peter actually love Nick the whole time??? Tune in to find out.
Amid this chemistry-strained Christmas courtship, there’s at least one thing worth celebrating: Jennifer Coolidge, specifically a scene where she recites a prayer Madonna once said for her dancers and backup singers before a concert.
Why does Jennifer Coolidge do this, aside from the fact that it feels like a very Jennifer Coolidge thing to do? Because she plays the director of a local nativity pageant who takes her job quite seriously. Coolidge is Sandy, Peter's flamboyant aunt. When we first meet Sandy, she is scatting “Joy to the World” (Whitney Houston’s version, of course) and apologizing for arriving late to a family dinner. Later in the movie, after Peter and Nick (who loves handyman projects) have helped construct sets far too lavish for New Hampshire kids’ theater, Sandy prepares for the big show with a backstage invocation.
Gathering the literal children she has routinely scolded for not knowing their lines or emoting the way professionals might, Sandy launches into a prayer. “I just want us all to go out there and take the people in the audience to another place and inspire them to be better versions of the people that they are already,” she says, reading from a sheet of paper. “I thank you all, each and every one of you, for being part of this experience with me. I feel so grateful. I feel so excited. I feel so honored. Let’s go out there and have the best time ever tonight. Be safe, and let’s shine like the brightest lights. Amen.”
During these last few sentences, Peter opens his eyes and shows a sign of recognition. He turns to Nick, who is standing beside him in the circle, and says, “Word for word Madonna’s pre-show prayer from Truth or Dare.” And then the scene moves on, with Sandy’s production going off without a hitch.
Here, we must pause for a quick fact-check. With all due respect to Single All the Way, which was written by Chad Hodge (Good Behavior) and directed by Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World), that is not a quote from Truth or Dare, the seminal 1991 documentary chronicling Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour. Madonna does lead multiple prayers before various concerts in Truth or Dare, including one in which she excoriates the "fascist state of Toronto" for threatening to arrest her for simulating masturbation during "Like a Virgin." But this particular prayer actually comes from I’m Going to Tell You a Secret, the less-famous MTV documentary she made during the 2004 tour supporting her album American Life. (Shout-out to fellow Madonna scholar Sydney Urbanek for helping me get to the bottom of this.)
There's no official explanation for the false attribution, but one can assume it's because Truth or Dare carries the sort of name recognition that I'm Going to Tell You a Secret lacks. Regardless, the script’s mix-up does not negate the joy of knowing that Jennifer Coolidge is passionately performing a prayer originated by the world’s most accomplished living pop star. Sandy doesn’t acknowledge that the words are not hers; she would pilfer some random spiel she saw in a celebrity documentary, deeming it one more step in her quest for theatrical renown. When Sandy enters a room, you immediately know she wants to be a star—perfect fodder for Coolidge’s brand of offbeat whimsy.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that 2021 has been the year of Coolidge. It began with Promising Young Woman’s many Oscar nominations, continued with the Udo Kier indie Swan Song, reached new heights with HBO’s summer smash The White Lotus (a career milestone sure to put her in next year’s Emmy race), and continued with the animated series The Fungies and Ten Year Old Tom. Now Single All the Way rounds out her slate, letting Coolidge steal the entire movie with a deep-throated over-the-topness that is basically the exact opposite of White Lotus’ insecure Tanya McQuoid.
Madonna is currently developing a biopic based on her own life, which she will also direct. Maybe there’s a role for Coolidge? She could just stand on the sidelines and mouth along as the actress portraying Madonna prays for her dancers. Whatever. We’d watch her do anything and eat it up. You could even say Coolidge's career renaissance is like a prayer.