Director: Clea DuVall
Writers: Clea DuVall (story by), Clea DuVall (screenplay by)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza
Happiest Season, a unique and heartwarming Christmas rom-com, starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis as loving couple Abby and Harper. But unlike sugary Christmas rom-coms before it, Happiest Season brings a little extra. In a charismatic and funny flick, Kristen Stewart stars as Abby, who hopes to propose to her girlfriend on a Christmas trip to meet the parents. The only catch is that Abby’s partner, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), has lied about coming out to her uptight family, and she wants Abby to keep up the heterosexual charade.
Growing up parentless, Abby never had the “joy” of family get-togethers. So Harper invites Abby to her home for the holidays. That’s when things take a turn. It soon becomes clear Harper hasn’t told her conservative parents she’s gay. The news puts a slight spanner in Abby’s plan to ask Harper’s dad for her hand in marriage. The comical chaos ensues. Harper isn’t ready to come out yet, so Abby’s forced to pretend she’s Harper’s roommate, amusingly lying about an ex-boyfriend to Harper’s mother (Mary Steenburgen).
The film mostly focuses on Abby as she attempts to impress Harper’s dad (Victor Garber) who’s busy running for mayor, and fit in with Harper’s two entertaining sisters: the uptight Sloane (Alison Brie), who has the perfect husband and children, and the just happy to be there fantasy novelist Jane (Mary Holland).
Another great addition to the situation comedy occurs when Riley (Aubrey Plaza), Harper’s ex-girlfriend, shows up in an awkward restaurant encounter. Man of the moment Dan Levy rounds out the superb cast as Abby’s best friend John, who brings an extra added jolt of hilarity.
Director Clea DuVall, star of Veep and But I’m a Cheerleader, loves Christmas movies. In a recent interview about the film she said “Even the ones that are not that good, I’ll still watch them. There’s, like, one movie in my rotation that is so bad that my partner is like, ‘Why do you want to watch that movie?’ I’m like, I don’t know. I gotta watch it.”
Happiest Season, which DuVall co-wrote and directed, is a frequently funny movie that gives off warm and joyous holiday vibes while also retaining a hefty amount of bite.
“I’ve been on both sides,” DuVall says. “I’ve been Abby and I’ve been Harper.” The story is mostly told from Abby’s often understandably frustrated perspective, but DuVall wanted to make sure Harper’s journey was represented as well. “[I was] making a movie with the message of coming out is a process,” she says. “It’s a journey and it doesn’t look any one way. It looks like so many different things, but no matter what your experience is, be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself. Having compassion for that experience, and being able to see someone who is struggling and is able to push through and have their happy ending, and that person still deserves to be loved and that person can redeem themselves, I think is really important and something I haven’t really seen before.”
Christmas movies become a part of our lives in a way that other movies just don’t, and “Happiest Season” is a perfect example of that. Happiest Season’s coming out story resonates with all its characters, and those who hide their true selves from their family at Christmas. It’s got warmth and laughs, and is the comfort food delivered at a time when many of us need it the most.