Happiest Season is one of this year’s attempts to create a new seasonal classic, and for many this might be just that. Kristen Stewart plays Abby, who dislikes Christmas but is in a relationship she wants to take to the next level, so when Mackenzie Davis’ Harper asks her to come and spend Christmas with her family, she says yes. However, it turns out Harper has not yet come out to her parents who think Abby is her orphan roommate coming home with her because she has nowhere else to I go. As you can imagine, this has some interesting results.
Harpers family are really intense, they are all about perfect appearances. Harpers father Ted, played by Victor Garber, is running for mayor and he and his wife Tipper (is that a name?), played by Mary Steenburgen, are doing their utmost to impress. Harpers two sisters both fit into stereotypes, her older sister Sloane (Alison Brie; did I mention this was a great cast) was the perfect lawyer, along with her husband, until they threw their careers away to raise their twins and make gift baskets. If you think that makes her nice…it doesn’t. Her and Harper have a hilarious childish rivalry which climaxes in a brilliant physical display towards the end. Her other sister Jane (Mary Holland) is considered the strange one, who is sometimes humoured but her parents seem to keep her out the way most of the time with fixing things and telling her to be quiet or leave the room. Holland is perfectly cast and one of the clear highlights in the film.
I feel a little unsure quite how I feel about this one. For a Christmas film, I found a good 85% of this to be really negative. Abby is put in horrible, often mortifying situations, trying to just spend any time with Harper for Christmas, who when home falls back into her role in the family. Which in the eyes of her parents, is the perfect, and more importantly, straight child. They invite her ex-boyfriend to dinner, which is so embarrassing for Harper and Abby. Harper finds it hard to be with Abby the way she wants to be and be the person everyone in her home town thinks she is. She spends lots of time with her friends and increasingly more time with the ex-boyfriend, all of which pushes Abby further away. Now, I will be clear, I am absolutely not a fan of Kristen Stewart, to the point that I will actually avoid some movies with her in them. But she is treated so badly in this and her character is so genuine that I found myself actually feeling sorry for her, which I did not think was actually possible.
The best part of this movie, and the clear stand out, was by far Dan Levy of Schitt’s Creek fame as Abby’s gay best friend John. I have never seen Schitt’s Creek, but I was so impressed by Levy, who is genuinely hilarious, that I will definitely be seeking out the show. Another pleasant surprise is Aubrey Plaza’s Riley, who bonds with Abby as she can relate with her when it comes to Harper. This is a film with a mix of hilarious scenes and heartfelt drama, usually a winning combination. The ending certainly makes up for the outrageous behaviour of the parents for much of the movie and it is really quite moving.
I wouldn’t not watch this movie again because there is definitely enough in there to love, but ultimately I don’t think I’ll be adding it to the annual Christmas movie calendar because I really struggled with the negativity, the way the three daughters feel they have to live their lives a certain way, feeling forced to be and do certain things in their life just to fit into the image their parents think they should be. So yes, the ending was lovely but it was a little too late for me. But I would recommend this one, it is a refreshingly modern Christmas movie; Stewart is much more than her usual robot and there are some great laughs here to enjoy. Merry Christmas.
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