Movie Review: The Happiest Season- A New Holiday Classic?
By David T. Valentin
Happiest Season is a 2020 queer Christmas romcom directed by Clea Duvall. The holiday film features many notable actors, including Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie who play Abby and Harper respectively, and who are the main couple in focus in the film. Supporting cast members include Dan Levy as John, Abby’s hilariously gay best friend, Aubrey Plaza as Riley, Harper’s ex, Victor Garber as Harper’s father and Mary Steenburgen as Harper’s mother.
The plot is fairly simple, what you would expect of a Christmas romcom. Abby and Harper have been dating for a year yet Abby has never met Harper’s family. After a romantic night out of happy dates and much more, Abby, who hates Christmas, agrees to tag along to Harper’s house for the holiday. Even better, Abby decides she will propose to Harper after she asks for Harper’s Father Ted’s blessing. On the way to Harper’s house, however, Harper admits she’s never came out to her parents, told her parents Abby is simply her orphaned roommate, and that the two of them should just pretend they’re just friends. From there, hilarity and drama ensues, plenty of closet jokes, plenty of queer jokes, and some hilarious overexaggerated character tropes—the overbearing father, the controlling mother, the uptight older sister, the cooky younger sister, and the wise ex that’s thrown in the mix to make things a little fun.
What happens next? Well, you’ll have to watch for yourself. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise but I’d definitely say Happiest Season is certainly a treat for those who have been waiting for some good queer holiday films.
While I’m not normally a fan of cheesy holiday romcoms because of the pacing and the lack of developing the supporting characters, I found Happiest Season to be a happy medium to what I like about holiday romcoms. The film knew when to speed up its plot, slow it down in those pivotal moments, and really deliver on the emotions of a heavy scene.
The comedy was also always on point. With Dan Levy’s hilarious character as the gay best friend (but also giving vibes like a holiday fairy godmother to the orphaned Abby), critiquing the patriarchy and also trying to act straight to impress a straight guy, Harper’s ex, you always knew when he came on the screen you would be laughing.
Mary Steenburgen, playing the out of touch mother, Tipper, who seemed to just discover the power of social media, somehow always managed to piss you off but also make you laugh.
Mary Holland as the cooky sister Jane never failed to make me laugh in any scene. And that was really the point—she was unapologetically herself and never sorry for it. I guarantee you will be cracking up at any scene she’s in.
Aside from the comedy of the film, the climax of the film, the ending, and Dan Levy’s speech as John to Abby really drives the point of the film home for queer viewers who have experienced coming out to their family and straight viewers who don’t understand the pressures of coming out and what that might look like, the good and the bad.
I will admit, there were a few moments in the film where I found I was not rooting for Abby and Harper to stay together by the end of the film and found Harper’s treatment of Abby rather cruel (especially when Abby could’ve ended up with someone a bit more understanding by the end). Still, the film does a great job at not vilifying Harper for her choices because coming out is hard and different for everyone, even if she was being a shitty girlfriend. And even then, Harper still works for Abby’s love and makes some brave choices by the end of the film.
So, will Happiest Season end up being a queer classic for the ages? Will it be up there with movies like Love, Actually? Although I can’t speak for others, I want to say that the comedy, the romance, and the queer importance of the film will definitely be a memorable moment for me. It was a treat to watch a queer holiday romcom with my family and boyfriend and to see that kind of representation for the holidays, especially given that for queer children the holiday times are not always the happiest times.
But even if Happiest Season doesn’t go down as a holiday classic for everybody, I already know I’ll be re-watching it a few times this holiday season and many of the holiday seasons to come.