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Happiest Season

Distributed By: Hulu

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               Every year, I go in search of a new holiday book or movie to review for the site and this year, I found a real winner.  I had heard much about Happiest Season, a semi-autographical film by Clea DuVall, but never got to see it when it came out in November 2020.  I just watched it a couple of months ago and I’m so glad I did!

               Abby Holland (Kristen Stewart) has not been a fan of Christmas since the death of her parents.  However, she is definitely a fan of girlfriend Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis), so much so that Abby is planning to ask Harper to marry her.  So, when Harper spontaneously asks Abby to spend Christmas with her family, Abby reluctantly agrees.  The next morning, it’s Harper who is reluctant.  She realizes that she hasn’t come out to her family and, with her father (Victor Garber) running for Mayor, she believes this is not the right time.  Harper eventually persuades Abby to pretend she is her straight roommate.

               Abby meets the crazy Caldwell family who believe her to be an orphan with nowhere to go for Christmas.  If spending the holiday pretending to be someone she’s not isn’t bad enough, Abby has to deal with Harper’s perfectionist mother Tipper (Mary Steenburgen), her stuck-up sister Sloane (Alison Brie), her overly attached, eccentric sister Jane (Mary Holland), her bratty niece and nephew, her ex-boyfriend Connor (Jake McDorman), and her sympathetic ex-girlfriend Riley (Aubrey Plaza).  Abby watches as Harper’s parents push Harper toward Connor, while the whole family makes every attempt to suck up to a potential campaign donor

               The longer Abby stays at the Caldwell’s, the more she feels like she doesn’t really know Harper and begins to regret bringing along the engagement ring she bought for her.  After talking to the ex-girlfriend Harper never mentioned, Abby starts to believe that Harper will never come out to her parents.  A series of events lead Abby to call her best friend John (Dan Levy) to pick her up, but his counseling makes her wonder if she is making the right decision.  Can Abby find happiness with Harper or will this be one more reason to hate the Christmas season?

               The characters in this film are very relatable.  I’ve actually seen this happen many times, when one partner is not out and the other has to pretend they are just a friend or roommate.  The drama is very real and those moments in the film translate very well for those who have been through it before.  The comedic moments are absolutely hilarious and are the perfect offset for the dramatic moments, taking the edge off just a tad.  You definitely will find yourself rooting for Abby and getting a bit pissed off at Harper, while still rooting for their relationship to work out in the end.

               The only thing I ever saw Kristen Stewart in was the Twilight movie series, and I really wasn’t a fan, so I was surprised to discover I enjoyed her acting in this film.  Stewart has excellent comedic timing and she and Dan Levy play off one another well.  Mackenzie Davis is completely unrecognizable from the previous role I saw her in – Terminator: Dark Fate – and I found her equally enjoyable in a role that was less dramatic and more comedic.  Mary Holland is hilarious as the perceived wacky sister who actually has a better handle on life than anyone else in the family.  She steals much of the film with her quirks and awkwardness. 

               How do I describe Happiest Season for the audience out there who hasn’t seen it?  Think Hallmark holiday movie meets a bit of reality.  The language and some of the more adult situations and scenes would definitely not make it onto the Hallmark Channel, but the film does contain a great deal of the elements that go into a Hallmark holiday film – the secrets, the seasonal events, the misunderstanding, the quirky characters and the fun.  Happiest Season was just the movie I was looking for to start off my holiday season!

Check out Happiest Season at Amazon

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Published by Melissa Minners

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