As the holiday season can officially get underway, people may be looking for new films to watch. Hulu released its original holiday film, Happiest Season, last week. Something must be said about Hulu’s original films that can’t be said for Netflix: there is a quality to them. As Netflix likes to make so many movies and throw them against the wall, to see what sticks. Like with Palm Springs, Hulu likes to offer some non-traditional stories for people that want something different.
Obviously, if you’re looking for more of that Hallmark Christmas vibe, this isn’t one of those films. Thank God! However, it isn’t about a group of dysfunctional people, as we see in films like Love the Coopers. The family is flawed and would be considered the archetype of privileged families we see in other films. However, there is a layer that can be related to by competing siblings.
Harper (Mackenzie Davis) comes from one such family. She is the only bright star among children that have either let down their parents or was cast off from the beginning. Ted (Victor Garber) is proud of her since she works for a newspaper and is a keen political mind. However, there is one secret that she can’t tell, in fear of losing his love: she is a lesbian.
Happiest Season checks off all the boxes
She’s been living with her girlfriend of a year, Abby (Kristen Stewart), and emotionally invites her to come visit her family for Christmas. Of course, when things settle down, she knows that she made a huge mistake. Harper lied that she came out to her family earlier in the year. Reluctantly, Abby agrees to play a heterosexual roommate. She is horrible at lying. You can see where it goes from there.
Clea DuVall co-wrote and directed this small town flair from what seems like experience. Mary Holland co-wrote the film with DuVall, and plays the role of outcast Jane. Allison Brie’s Sloane is cold and hostile toward Harper and Abby. Of course, she lost her father’s affection after she left a stellar law practice to make gift baskets. That cold and stoic demeanor comes across her husband Eric and her two kids.
The film gets into the nuance of coming out at your own pace. After the inevitable revelation, when Harper is forced out of the closet, there is a telling and beautiful moment after that is the key. John (played hilariously by Dan Levy) confronts Abby about her feelings toward Harper’s denial of her relationship.
The online backlash is ill-conceived
Abby’s fate was a reminder of her previous girlfriend’s experience when Riley (Aubrey Plaza) was thrown under the bus. John asks Abby about how did her parents react when she came out. She recalls them being loved and caring. She was still their daughter. John, however, had a different experience. His father kicked him out of the house and didn’t speak to him for over a decade.
There is a bit of hypocrisy in regards to audience’s reaction. When a character would react the same way, in a traditional rom-com, the audience doesn’t waver in their support of them getting together. No matter how toxic one is to another. However, in this film, people cite that she should’ve left her for Riley. In fact, audience’s see Abby’s side but don’t recognize what John said about his experience. Everyone’s experience is different and not as loving as hers.
Happiest Season itself is a microcosmic look at over-achieving families. However, this realization comes from the top down. The film itself does have a traditional, cornball ending, but you expect that when you watch these films. Rom-coms are comfort food for people that seek happy endings. The movie had strong comedy, which is unusual for Stewart. Yet, it gave you something that would’ve been nearly the same if the characters were straight.
Some may complain about that. However, it is a solid movie that is a rom-com that just happens to be gay. The movie was entertaining and slightly struggles in the beginning with Abby’s idealism. Although, once the arrival at Harper’s parents house, it manages to check off all the necessary boxes to be an enjoyable film. Happiest Season is heart-warming and definitely going to be watched closer to the holiday.
Rating: 3 stars.