Holiday/Comedy/Romance/Drama, 1 hr 42 min
Log line: A holiday romantic comedy that captures the range of emotions tied to wanting your family’s acceptance, being true to yourself, and trying not to ruin Christmas.
a must watch for anyone who loves Christmas, family, and a good old fashioned rom-com
Every Christmas, I avidly watch very good but also very noticeably non lesbian Christmas films. I sit on my couch with my twinkling Christmas tree lights and mulled wine in hand, and watch movies full of joy, love, comedic moments, family connections, nostalgia and Christmas cheer. But never a Christmas film that represents that LGBTQ+ part of me that sings out for a “lesbian Christmas, please!” Well finally, a mainstream version is here, and it’s here with a cracker style bang. Directed by Clea DuVall and encompassing a fairly star-studded line-up, the film includes Kristen Stewart to boot, whose performance is both genuine and heartfelt. Happiest Season is a traditional Christmas rom-com about love, family, and Christmas—but it’s also a story about coming out. And in a time when it’s widely still thought that coming out is a thing of the past, Happiest Season handles it with the right amount of holiday frivolity mixed with a thoughtful depth. It shows that discovering what love really means can be a bumpy, well-travelled road but, ultimately, worth the effort.
The story begins with a traditional Christmas lights trail in which our love-struck couple, Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis), are enjoying the trail discussing Abby’s less than enthusiastic feeling towards Christmas. Harper, in a moment of high Christmas vibes and in an attempt to encourage Abby to like Christmas a little more, invites her home for the holidays. All seems jolly and good, until Harper drops the bombshell on the way to her parent’s house: she in fact has not come out to them yet. And here the holiday shenanigans begin. What follows, when they reach Harper’s family home, is a series of mishaps that Abby experiences, reminiscent of Meet the Fockers. This, combined with Harper’s ever escalating propensity to go even further into the closet and give off an air of straightness, starts to cause Abby to feel even less festive than before and start to doubt that what she has with Harper is love after all.
Although I would have liked to have seen a mainstream movie that didn’t have the usual trope of coming out in it as a main premise, Happiest Season does tackle some very real, still ongoing issues for LGBTQ+ people when it comes to important aspects of our lives. DuVall also shows that Christmas does tend to bring out the thoughtful, nostalgic need to be yourself almost more than any other time of the year. One of the core issues that is tackled well in Happiest Season is its portrayal of why some people find it hard to come out and the depiction of how insidious obliviousness by loved ones surrounding sexuality can be. There’s a particularly poignant scene between John (Dan Levy) and Abby, a discussion around the complex nature of coming out and how the act of it and repercussions vary greatly for different people. Levy is a gem in this film and manages to provide a brilliant balance between delightful comedic moments and touchingly heartfelt scenes. Happiest Season did also touch on various other emotional issues that people face generally in family dynamics, and it did all this within a framework of some really great comedic scenes, providing a good balance of both rom and com.
I did have two disappointments with this otherwise really fabulous festive frivolity of a film. Mackenzie Davis’ performance as Harper was a bit of a low point in the film for me, as otherwise performances felt really authentic and spot on. I also felt the ending and resolution, although very touching and hopeful, was too quick to come after all that had come before it. But otherwise, Happiest Season was a Christmas treat for me. Great performances (a particular shoutout to Mary Holland who co-wrote the script and played Jane here…total off kilter wit fabulousness alert!), well directed and filmed, chock full of Christmas cuteness, and a killer soundtrack (especially Tegan and Sara’s sure to be festive favourite Make You Mine This Season). This wonderful film was all about accepting and loving others for who they truly are and not what we may want them to be. This is a must watch for anyone who loves Christmas, family, and a good old fashioned rom-com. And for all the lesbian and bi Christmas rom-com lovers out there…well…put this on your list and make it yours this season!
Watch the trailer
This review was written by:
Reviewer and Writer
Alex has worked as a film stills photographer, written stories for a museum promotion campaign and has had her work featured on the cover of an Australian based lesbian magazine. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree, focusing on film, writing and photography from Perth's Edith Cowan University.
She is currently working on a documentary project centred on lesbian refugee women’s experiences, combining her love of documentary film, photography and her current role as an occupational therapist. All in all, she is passionate about film, especially lesbian-made and themed films.