The most wonderful time of the year…usually comes with a catch…
While it’s formulaic as all hell, Happiest Season is a delightful holiday comedy that hits all the right notes and says something important without being heavy handed or condescending allowing for some breezy laughs during a time when we most certainly could use them.
Meeting your girlfriend’s family for the first time can be tough. Planning to propose at her family’s annual Christmas dinner – until you realize that they don’t even know she’s gay – is even harder. When Abby (Kristen Stewart) learns that Harper (Mackenzie Davis) has kept their relationship a secret from her family, she begins to question the girlfriend she thought she knew.
Actor turned Writer/Director Clea DuVall follows up from her debut feature here pretty strongly as Happiest Season while hitting so many of the expected buttons that you see in a comedy like this one manages to capture a light, sweet and realistic air to the pain of dealing with family at the holidays, particularly when you can’t share the important aspects of your life with them.
DuVall is really hitting her stride as a story teller and here with co-writer Mary Holland (who also co-stars) we get something that really moves and feels honest and funny without trying to hammer the larger issues of coming out to your family over the head. DuVall has a strong sense for ensemble comedy and really does a very good job at keeping it all moving at a brisk pace from the opening minutes.
There’s a reason it’s called a ‘formula’ because it usually works and while she’d never be accused of reinventing the holiday comedy sub-genre there’s enough talented people in this film who know exactly what they are doing to make it feel honest and earned.
Kirsten Stewart and Mackenzie Davis are note perfect here as our couple Abby and Harper and while we can argue representation until we are blue in the face…honestly who cares? A couple spending their first holidays together is just about as stressful as it bloody well gets and they capture the awkward tone of the moment to perfection and are simply glowing on screen together. Stewart’s Abby is doing her best to go along with it all while Davis’ Harper is forced to come to grips with old fears being back in her home town around her family.
The dynamic of family issues is universal in this film which makes every crisis that these characters face all the more relatable. Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen were great as the high strung parents, Mary Holland is a quiet marvel as one of Harper’s sisters and the likes of Dan Levy and Aubrey Plaza get sprinkled in with some really excellent effect. Only Alison Brie gets wasted as the high strung sister Sloane in the unspoken competition for their parent’s affection, but the ensemble is otherwise exceptionally well balanced from top to bottom.
When all is said and done, Happiest Season is kind of the perfect comedy right now as it takes in and gives respect to some serious issues that many a family have to go through while having some light hearted laughs along the way. It’s a very “nice” movie…and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
Happiest Season is on VOD Platforms now…it also hits Amazon Prime on Dec. 9th