In a year where so much is so weird from all we ever knew, the same goes for the film industry. Most theaters are closed and major film releases have moved to digital releases or platforms. Because of this, I feel like I’ve seen a lot less new movies this year. There’s just something about paying for a movie to watch from home that I haven’t quite latched on to yet. Maybe because growing up, pay-per-view wasn’t something I did. My family had a Blockbuster membership which translated into a Netflix subscription once Blockbuster shuttered almost all of their stores nationwide (Yes, I still have a DVD subscription and I rarely use it these days. Probably should change that but oh well.) For a while that was it. Nowadays, Streaming subscriptions are plentiful. There’s Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Video/Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, Apple TV, etc. To have all of these, it costs just as much or more than cable though making it a battle of picking and choosing what’s worth it for you. Again I haven’t latched on, so for me, it’s just Netflix. Thankfully, I have a few a friends who have shared access to their streaming platforms with me making it easier to see some releases that went the digital route this year. One of those was the film Happiest Season which was released on Hulu on November 25th.
Happiest Season is a Christmas themed romantic comedy written by Clea DuVall and Mary Holland. DuVall also directed the film while Holland joined the cast as Jane Caldwell. Normally a Christmas romantic comedy isn’t something to write home about. There’s tons of them. What makes this Christmas rom-com unique is that it centers around a lesbian couple.
Kristen Stewart stars as Abby Holland and Mackenzie Davis plays her girlfriend Harper Caldwell. In the movie, Harper invites Abby to come home with her for Christmas after about a year of dating. Then on the way to her parents’ home, Harper explains she isn’t out to her family. When Abby argues how strange it is to be bringing a girl home for the holidays, she says that she told her family that Abby is just her roommate who didn’t have anywhere else to go for Christmas because her parents had passed away several years earlier, thus creating an interesting situation for Abby meeting her girlfriend’s family for the first time.
Obviously the movie is part coming out story, but the film doesn’t over-do it in a way that it’s the central issue. It overlaps the coming out story with the struggle of Abby and Harper’s relationship because Harper is partially closeted and some familial issues in Harper’s family indicated by both Harper and her sisters Jane, played by Holland, and Sloane, played by Alison Brie. Overall I think this layering creates something more than just another LGBTQ film about coming out.
The movie also stars Dan Levy as Abby’s friend John, Victor Garber as Harper’s dad Ted, Mary Steenburgen as Harper’s mom Tipper, Aubrey Plaza as Harper’s ex-girlfriend Riley, and Jake McDorman as Harper’s ex-boyfriend Connor which rounds out a solid cast for this modern holiday film. Tegan and Sara also contributed to the film’s soundtrack with the original song “Make You Mine This Season.” It’s such a bop too.
When I saw previews for this movie in early November I was stoked for its release. I’m usually not one to spend my days watching a ton of movies on Netflix or other services so I planned out a time I could create a movie experience where I made popcorn and watched the entirety of the film. Is this movie unreal, spectacular, and overall brilliant film-making? No. Not a chance, but it is good! It’s a super solid main stream Christmas themed rom-com with an LGBTQ storyline though, which hooked me from the get-go. There is also some great chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza’s characters. Spoiler alert though, it doesn’t amass to anything so don’t say I was creating some false hype.
I think for me this movie created a nice escape from the oddity that is 2020. It was just nice to feel a world of normalcy around Christmas time. It reminded me of the past few years that I went on vacations in December amongst the Christmas season. The movie was actually filmed in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas in early 2020 and finished right before lockdowns began so it really was a part of that last bout of normalcy. It’s refreshing to see and a hopeful reminder of what our future can hold.
So if you’re looking for a new holiday film to check out and escape the world with this year, I highly recommend Happiest Season. It’s a modern holiday rom-com that provides some funny moments and a bit of romance that doesn’t over-do the genre. It may put you in the holiday mood or it might make you a bit frustrated that Abby and Riley don’t end up together. In general though, it will definitely give you some relief from whatever negative feelings you have about this year and that’s something good that we all need.