Screen and Film School Brighton’s student blogger Lauren Louise reviews the new Christmas film on the block: Happiest Season.
Happiest Season is the first studio backed queer Christmas movie and it’s 2020…What?! And I would totally be outraged if Kristen Stewart wasn’t the face of this Queer Christmas Rom-Com – as if seeing a tiny gay-stew wasn’t all everyone needed this Christmas.
Kristen Stewart plays the role of Abby, our lovable orphan, who plans to propose to her girlfriend Harper, played by Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror: San Junipero) while at her family’s annual holiday party. A spanner is thrown in the works when on the drive there Abby discovers Harper hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents. Happiest Season seems to be doing really well with both the critics and audience response, despite having been released on Hulu. It’s such a shame that it wasn’t given the cinema release that it had planned but nevertheless people are still watching, and that in itself is amazing.
Despite not being out yet to her parents, Harper makes a deal with Abby to come out after Christmas so she doesn’t ruin her father’s upcoming local election for mayor. Keeping their relationship a secret unfortunately, forces the out and proud Abby back into the closet. This provides a hilarious moment within the script when Abby is quite literally hiding in a closet from Harper’s mother. Honestly I thought there could have been MORE closet jokes.
This ensemble cast has some stellar performances from Harper’s family members who take in their charity case Abby for the holidays, which allow for some funny dialogue…and sadly some of the best jokes in the actual movie. Some of the funniest scenes in this movie occurs whenever Tipper, Harper’s uptight mother, graces our screens. Dan Levy also makes an appearance as Kristen Stewart’s GBF John. The only thing that’s stopping this from being an annoying trope is the sincerity in their relationship and John’s hilarious one liners.
Abby goes on to befriend Harper’s secret ex girlfriend Riley (played fabulously by Aubrey Plaza) after many chance meetings, and instead of being vengeful and pinned as the evil, ex the two get along very well. Sadly the chemistry between the two rivals that of Harper and Abby’s with such an ease that almost feels forced between the original pairing. It’s clear from a quick Twitter search that many, MANY people think the same thing. Do I think Abby and Riley should have had an affair and ran away together? No- there is already an abundance of Lesbian storylines centred around scandalous affairs – Carol. Disobedience. Gypsy. My Days of Mercy. The list goes on. So my opinion stands: no affair. But maybe a twist ending or change of casting wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Happiest Season really gets into the thick of it by the end of the movie, showcasing the harsh realities of being queer over the holiday seasons. But more importantly Happiest Season touches on the stresses of feeling like you have to be perfect over the Christmas season and how that pressure builds up. This all climaxes into the reveal of family secrets when we find out that Harper’s seemingly perfect sister Sloan played by Alison Brie, is getting a divorce and and they have been playing happy families to not disappoint Sloan’s parents. This builds to the even bigger secret being revealed at the big Christmas party when Sloan outs Harper to her entire family and most of the town. This in turn ruins her Father’s election and her relationship with Abby when she denies the allegation.
After storming out, Abby is provided with some words of wisdom from John in perhaps the most beautifully written scene by Mary Holland, who also plays the endearing family oddball Jane. This is a beautifully lit sincere moment where John explains that everyone’s coming out stories are different and how everyone is on different journeys, and that perhaps Harper isn’t ready to come out and that’s okay. All is resolved by the end of the movie as the family come to a heartfelt understanding with each other where parents, Tipper and Ted, let their children know that their love is not conditional, this is something that really hits home for the LGBTQ+ Community during the holiday seasons.
It’s also worth mentioning as I finish this article that Happiest Season has broken Hulu records having the highest number of viewers for an original release ever on Hulu. A sweet serendipity after Sony was forced to sell the movie to the streaming platform when cinemas began to close. Happiest Season is both breaking records and boundaries.
All in all, Happiest Season was a sweet, funny romcom, but I don’t think it’s a Christmas movie. Just a movie where it’s Christmas and that’s okay, because we still got a sweet, seasonal, Sapphic romcom to watch over the holiday season, and better yet some decent representation with a happy ending! No more burying your gay’s tropes!