Warning: this review contains major spoilers.
On the face of it, the Clea DuVall directed Happiest Season seems like a clarion call for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in families of all kinds – a gleeful celebration of “how far we’ve come”. However, it also exposes the vulnerabilities so many of us experience in connecting with families of origin – our own, and those of the people we love. How many of us have been the friend or the roommate? How many of us have been forced to balance romantic love with respect for our own journeys?
Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (KStew in full tie-wearing gal pal mode) are a beautiful but generic lesbian couple living in big city USA. In a fit of Christmas horniness, Harper invites little orphan Abby home for Christmas. She fails to mention until practically cutting into the turkey that ps, she’s not out to her parents; to them Abby is just her roommate; oh and if Abby could pretend to be straight that would be swell. If you’re rolling your eyes and shouting “GET F**KED HARPER!” welcome to the #FeLezNavidad club. From this premise, the hijinx unfolds, with mysterious high school exes (the smouldering Aubrey Plaza), to gay BFFs saving the day (Daniel Levy) adding to the romcom drama.
The cast is superb, especially given the Hallmark holiday genre this movie slots into nicely. Levy is great of course, but the standout is Mary Holland as the middle sister Jane – the awkward underachiever who actually has things figured out more than anyone else does. Kind and slightly deranged, she’s the one you want to be pals with when the credits roll – the rest of her family can, quite frankly, get in the bin. Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber are utterly believable as the high-status parents obsessed with image and reputation – to the detriment of the happiness of their youngest daughter. GLOW queen Alison Brie rounds out the family as the snarky, jealous older sister – curating artisanal gift experiences (the rest of us call that making gift baskets) and hiding her own crumbling marriage
Happiest Season is enjoyable and has all the traditional holiday fare – from slapstick roof falls to a classic orphan at Christmas storyline. It is funny, and sweet but also maddening – the Irish Twitter lesbians on #FeLezNavidad spent most of our time roaring about the toxic way Harper treats Abby.
Well that was great. Let’s meet again in another 10 years for the next lesbian Christmas movie. #FeLezNavidad
— Rebecca M (@Smurphette85) November 26, 2020
She abandons her multiple times during the movie, at parties, to go to a fancy political dinner etc…she forgets to mention the traditional family gift exchange (this set my social anxiety to kill). She spends time flirting with an ex rather than hanging out with her gentle but lost girlfriend. Watching them interact as a couple leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It is the nature of dumb Christmas movies that everything finishes all tied together in a nice red sparkly bow – but I didn’t buy it. I could believe the happy ending if I had seen Harper behaving with kindness or respect to her partner even once in the entire movie. I know people change – that people evolve and learn and move along their journeys at different points, but we don’t get to treat the people we love like crap because of that. The movie would have benefitted from fewer family shenanigans and more time spent on the central couple – I wanted to know why Harper was worth all the turmoil.
— Sarah (@broccolidoggo) November 26, 2020
I remember the lean times of lesbian representation – the Simpson’s episodes; Xena and Gabrielle making googly eyes at each other; waiting an entire season for Willow to kiss Tara…any representation was grasped at, celebrated, endured. It’s a cause for celebration that we’ve reached a stage where a movie about a lesbian couple features no deaths and no one going back to men – but you know what, I want more! I want more than traumatic coming out stories and people treating their girlfriends like crap. Even if everyone in Happiest Season is dressed in fabulous coats.
Having said all of the above, I’ll definitely be watching it again – I mean, Aubrey Plaza in a blazer? Sign me up. 7/10
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