Happiest Season ***
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Alison Brie, Victor Garber, Daniel Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Holland
Director: Clea DuVall
It’s been a long time coming, but a LGBT+ Christmas Movie has finally arrived, courtesy of director Clea DuVall (The Intervention, But I’m A Cheerleader). And credit where credit’s due, she has managed to assemble quite the cast. In recent interviews Kristen Stewart (Twilight, Charlie’s Angels) has spoken about how important she feels it is for there to be inclusive Holiday Films, ensuring that LGBT+ people feel as much a part of the festivities as everyone else. And voila, here is cinema’s first foray into inclusivity for a snow-dusted delight in a mainstream movie, upon whose heels will be swiftly followed Hallmark’s first LGBT+ movie, The Christmas House, starring Jonathan Bennett.
Abby (Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis – Blade Runner 2046, Tully) are in the honeymoon stage of their relationship. Abby’s hasn’t liked Christmas since the death of her parents, so Harper invites her to come and be a part of her Family Christmas. Except Harper’s family don’t know that she’s gay and her politician father (Victor Garber – Titanic, Alias) and overbearing mother (Mary Steenburgen – Melvin And Howard, The Help) are unlikely to take the news well. Add to that her bitter rivalry with one sister (Alison Brie – Community, GLOW) and embarrassment of the other (Mary Holland – Homecoming, Veep) and the dysfunctional family reunion is far from the festive utopia that Abby has been promised.
As usual, most of its gags come from its cast of disparate supporting characters, of whom Holland is the stand-out (who also co-wrote the script and definitely gave herself the best lines), along with gay best friend John (Daniel Levy – Schitt’sCreek) who has been left to look after animals disastrously on Abby’s behalf. But despite these two, the biggest problem for this rom-com is that while it’s definitely rom, it’s a lot less com. A film like this relies heavily on its script, but this never quite manages to get the wind in its sails, setting up gags that fall flat or are just too obvious to be funny.
The actual set-up for the film is flawed from the outset. The opening scene sees Harper enthusiastically telling her girlfriend that waking up with her on Christmas morning for their glorious Family Christmas will absolutely make her fall in love with Christmas again, but she already knows that won’t be the case. When in the following scene she reveals enroute in the car that she’s actually still in the closet, the two moments jar massively and make absolutely no sense when played back to back. From that point onwards, the characters make confusing decisions, with Abby allowing herself to be walked all over, but then strangely allying herself with Harper’s ex-girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza – Parks And Recreation, Dirty Grandpa) in a peculiarly insensitive act of defiance.
The aim of any good Christmas film is to make us feel festive, warm and fuzzy. Happiest Season mostly succeeds on all these counts, with the film smothered with glitter, woollen jumpers, roaring log-fires, decadent bouquets of baubles and bottle green party dresses. It’s a warm hug of a film that’s lovely to watch bathed in the twinkling lights of your Christmas tree. It may be light on substance, but it hits the right feel-good notes to get you in the festive spirit. You’ll just wish it was that little bit funnier and that Kristen Stewart smiled just a little bit more.
OUT NOW TO WATCH ON DEMAND, RELEASED BY SONY PICTURES RELEASING.