Happiest Season is the latest Hulu original film and, simply put, is the groundbreaking LGBT+ Christmas film that the queer community has always deserved. I hope it starts a trend of more queer based holiday films for years to come because representation is so important, and this film does a great job of showing why they should be made more often. This film could have been very dark and depressing, but thankfully it ended up being very light-hearted and heartwarming, a perfect holiday rom-com that gives joy and comfort.
The film follows Abbey, a young woman (Kristen Stewart) who plans to propose to her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) at her family’s annual Christmas dinner. She’s taken aback when she realizes her partner hasn’t come out to her conservative family and begins to question the girlfriend she thought she knew.
Happiest Season is the sophomore directorial effort by actress Clea DuVall and is a story that’s very personal to her as she is an out queer actress. She brought such authenticity to the queer aspects of the film. While the film is a blast and features many funny moments, the emotional aspects of the film were what I enjoyed more. You can tell how she wrote the story and characters that she understands the obstacles one faces in coming out to their family and how difficult it can be if your true self is hidden. Her screenplay does a great job of showing the struggle of coming out. How much hurt keeping such a secret tends to cause the person.
There’s a great scene in the film where Mackenzie’s character Harper tells Stewart’s Abbey about how the consequences of being herself are losing her parents, who she loves, but if she isn’t herself, then she might end up losing Abbey. That perfectly shows the struggle many people in the closet face, and it’s just excellent writing from DuVall.
She does a great job of showing the understanding and the patience of being with someone who is not entirely out. She tested that aspect while showing that love keeps one together, but there is always a limit to a partner’s patience. The perspective of showing two sides of a person was heartbreaking. It was devastating to watch how she treated her love for the sake of keeping up appearances due to her family’s reputation and conservative views. It’s why I wouldn’t say I liked Harper in the film.
While Mackenzie Davis does a great job and has shown so much growth as an actress since the first time I saw her in a Black Mirror episode, San Junipero, it’s tough not to root for her character. When her character kept making decisions, I kept thinking about how Harper didn’t deserve Abbey. Despite feeling this way about Harper, there is no denying that Mackenzie and Kristen Stewart have fantastic chemistry. The love felt real.
Now, I have never understood the hate Kristen Stewart gets. She is an extremely talented actress that has done fantastic work in the indie scene for the past decade. I think she has excellent comedic timing and is very charismatic. Just like last year’s failed Charlie’s Angels reboot, this film allowed her to show that. This film gives Stewart, who is bisexual in real life, her first chance to play a queer character, and she was terrific. In interviews, she’s mentioned how important this film was to her. How she saw herself in her character, and that made me smile.
DuVall co-wrote the script with Mary Holland, who has a role in the film as one of Harper’s sisters, and let me say she is the film’s MVP. She is a complete scene-stealer. I loved every scene she was in. Watching the movie and knowing she was a co-writer, I couldn’t help but feel she gave herself some of the best lines. I hope this standout performance in one of the year’s best films leads to bigger things for her.
Being a HUGE Schitt’s Creek fan, I was very excited to see Dan Levy’s first project since the show ended, and he didn’t disappoint. His onscreen presence is a delight. He doesn’t get as many scenes as I would have liked, but he makes every scene he’s in count. He plays Abbey’s best friend and serves as a voice of reason. He hits the nail on the head regarding the film’s message. In a critical scene, he says, “Everybody’s story is different. If your partner doesn’t feel comfortable telling their family yet, don’t pressure them, but if you don’t feel comfortable being in that situation, then it’s okay to say that you need to be with someone who is more ready.”
As Harper’s parents, Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber do a stable job in their roles. Steenburgen made me laugh a lot as a mom who comes off like she’s trying to stay hip by posting regularly on Instagram. Moms like that are always adorable, and Steenburgen delivers. Garber plays his role to perfection. Being a conservative politician, it’s obvious why Harper feared being herself with her family.
I don’t have any issues with the film, and if I have to nitpick, it would be how misused the very talented Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie were. They both do what their roles asked for, but I felt more could have been done with them, especially regarding their comedic talents. Plaza plays Harper’s ex, and she serves her purpose at giving a back story to how Harper was before Abbey and how there is a pattern to her actions. Brie plays Harper’s other sister, and she is a super unlikeable character. She is the jealous older sister who is very bitter about not getting much attention.
Another small issue I have is that the film is very formulaic. Many scenes are very predictable, and it’s easy to spot a mile away. While it features a lot of standard rom-com material, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film.
Happiest Season is one of the best films of the year and an important movie that does a fantastic job for queer representation and acceptance.
Check it out on Hulu. You won’t be disappointed.