A Sort of Merry, Happiest Season

The Stream: An unlikeable group of characters drag down some of the fun.

The Big Screen: Daniel Levy and Mary Holland make the best of their screen time.

The Final Bill: An enjoyable and pleasant Christmas movie about love and family.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: Clea Duvall
Writers: Clea Duvall and Mary Holland
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Daniel Levy
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rating: PG-13 for some language
Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes
Platform: Hulu

If you’re not exhausted by all of those romantic Hallmark Christmas movies that have populated almost every basic cable channel, then you should venture over to Hulu to check out its latest original movie, Happiest Season. Unlike your run-of-the-mill Hallmark fare, Happiest Season has actual movie stars and some semblance of a budget. The film attempts to infuse that romantic comedy vibe into what happens when your girlfriend invites you home for Christmas and along the way she tells you that her parents don’t know she’s a lesbian and you’ll have to pretend to be just her platonic, orphan roommate for 5 days. We’ve all been there in some shape or form; nevertheless, hijinks ensue.

Directed by Clea Duvall and co-written by Duvall and Mary Holland, Happiest Season tells the fish-out-of-water story crossed with the poignant theme of the struggle to hide your identity added in there. It is all wrapped in the cozy Christmas blanket of one of those ensemble family holiday tropes. Kristen Stewart stars as little orphan Abby, who doesn’t like Christmas, but she’s happy to be a part of the holiday family traditions with her girlfriend, Harper, played by Mackenzie Davis, until things are complicated by Harper still being in the closet to her conservative and hyper-competitive family. Abby is forced to endure both a holiday she doesn’t enjoy and being set aside so her partner can pretend to be something she’s not.

The unfortunate part of Happiest Season is that Harper and her family come off as completely unlikeable, except for youngest sister Jane, played by co-writer, Mary Holland. Jane has some of the funniest moments as the most authentic person in the family. While the actors do a good job of playing their parts, the writing of the characters doesn’t make a case for why Abby would want to be a part of the family. If this is a romantic comedy, then there is a failure to provide the romance, especially in the central characters. It never really makes sense why Abby and Mackenzie would be together and this trip would otherwise solidify that.

The comedy bit is more successful. Daniel Levy pops up throughout as Abby’s best friend, John. He has some good lines and is a welcome presence. Alison Brie also does her best as Harper’s uptight sister.  As I mentioned before, Jane cracked me up each time she was around. As these Christmas movies go, it ticks the boxes on being inoffensive, relatively fun and pleasant. The message about family at this time of year, in this year in particular, hits home.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Although the central mission of Happiest Season doesn’t quite work, overall the film is pleasant and a good addition to the Christmas film queue. There are some laughs and, if you like Christmas, you’ll get Christmas. Because of Daniel Levy and Mary Holland, you can just turn on this movie with a bowl of popcorn and have some chuckles throughout the holiday season.