Christmas cheer is not all it’s cracked up to be for one “happy” couple in Clea DuVall’s holiday comedy Happiest Season.
Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) live together and are in love. It is the holiday season and during a night visiting suburban homes festooned with lights, Harper invites Abby to share the festivities at her parents’ place. Abby hasn’t been much for the ho, ho, ho since she lost her parents when she was 19 … and that was a decade ago. Still, she thinks it’s a positive step forward and agrees to five days away with the woman who she wants to spend the rest of her life with. She’s even gone out a purchased a sparkling solitaire diamond ring for her love.
Trouble is, although Harper originally told Abby her parents knew about their relationship, the truth is she hasn’t told them and now she wants to pass Abby off as her roommate. Harper’s dad, Ted (Victor Garber), is straitlaced and it wouldn’t fit into his idyll of a perfect family, especially now as the city councillor is standing to become mayor. But that’s not the only surprise in store for Abby. Harper’s mum, Tipper (Mary Steenburgen), is all about staging the perfect Christmas and that involves inviting Harper’s ex-boyfriend Connor (Jake McDorman) and secret girlfriend, Riley (Aubrey Plaza). Abby also gets to see a competitive side of Harper she hadn’t seen before. That manifests itself with her married sister, Sloane (Alison Brie), with the pair constantly at loggerheads.
And one shouldn’t overlook Harper’s other well-meaning, but over-exuberant sister, Jane (Mary Holland). The revelations just keep coming and let’s just say Abby is in for a hell of a few days. In her corner is her friend John (Daniel Levy), who she has tasked with looking after her pets while she is away. He, too, will be tested.
Exaggerated characterisations abound in this fun rom-com. Although largely predictable, Happiest Season features a number of strong performances.
Stewart comes across as natural and sincere in the lead role and Levy nails the part of the empathetic friend. Holland is in-your-face as the awkward sister and Plaza is suitably wistful as the all-knowing former girlfriend.
Profound and important issues underpin the script by DuVall and Mary Holland, corny and syrupy though it may be in parts. DuVall displays a deft touch as director, ensuring all story threads are given a suitable airing.
Happiest Season has charm and pep, and could just scratch that Christmas movie itch.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.