Review: 'Happiest Season' A Holiday Movie of Our Own

by Padraic Maroney

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 25, 2020

Dan Levy and Jake McDorman in 'Happiest Season'
Dan Levy and Jake McDorman in 'Happiest Season'  

The gays are taking over Christmas! Not only has Lifetime finally acknowledged the LGBTQ community exists by incorporating their first gay couple into one of their holiday movies, but also a mainstream Hollywood studio has produced a Christmas film with big name Hollywood actors. This is a large step forward for the community. Even better news? "Happiest Season" is a funny, endearing comedy that can be watched year after year.

Since her parents' death, Abby (Kristen Stewart) hasn't celebrated Christmas. Instead, she takes the selfless position of watching other peoples' beloved pets so that they can go home to be with their families over the holidays. Her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis), on the other hand, is all about Christmas and asks Abby to come home with her this year. There's just one small problem — Harper kind of lied to Abby about coming out to her picture-perfect family. Complicating things even more is the fact that Abby was planning to propose to Harper while they are home in the Winter Wonderland.

An all-star cast has been assembled for the comedy, including Allison Brie and co-writer Mary Holland as Harper's sisters, Dan Levy, Jake McDorman, Ana Gasteyer, Sarayu Blue, and Victor Garber. Also on board is Mary Steenburgen, who is basically the patron saint of holiday movies at this point — having previously starred in "Elf," "Four Christmases," and Disney's "One Magic Christmas" over the years.

Stewart's quirky awkwardness, which has become her trademark, is actually a benefit to her here, as she is the outsider to all of the family fun. Trying to impress Harper's parents, but never really gaining much traction, allows Stewart's uncomfortable demeanor to be an asset for the character. She also has an easy rapport with co-stars Aubrey Plaza, as Harper's ex-girlfriend, and Levy, who plays her best friend and steals every scene in which he appears. Unfortunately, Levy is mostly sidelined until the end, when he finally gets to come out and play with the rest of the cast.

Director and co-writer Clea DuVall, who has a small role in the film, not only provides laughs from the awkward situations that the characters find themselves in, but she and Holland have offered a realistic, relatable look at the coming out process. Harper is torn between a life that she has created in Pittsburgh, with the woman she loves, and the life she led in a small town with her family, and worried about how one might affect the other.

Additionally, DuVall, an out performer herself, has created an inclusive cast with Stewart, Garber, and Levy all part of the community — along with "RuPaul's Drag Race Queen" alum BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon, who perform a few holiday ditties while Abby and Plaza's Riley bond in a dive bar. This level of inclusion in front of and behind the camera helps the film to be more authentic to that experience. The level of detail extends beyond the film itself, as DuVall even enlisted Tegan and Sarah to contribute to the film's soundtrack.

The script mines the dysfunctional family dynamics for most of the laughs. However, it does fall into a few of the cliché Hallmark traps that make things a little too saccharine sweet At one point Levy's John asks if Harper's family has ever even met a lesbian before, because the family just accepts whatever they are told upon hearing that the two women are roommates (in Harper's one-bedroom apartment), and that Abby is an orphan needing a place to go for the Yuletide time of year. Also, Garber's mayoral campaign sometimes distracts, taking away from the main point of the story more than is necessary.

While there have been gay holiday-themed movies before, such as "Make the Yuletide Gay," it can't be stated enough how big it is to have a well-known cast and mainstream Hollywood studio backing a queer-themed holiday tale. DuVall has done her homework in crafting a tale that is as heartwarming as it is funny, and doesn't beat its viewers over the head with its message. "Happiest Season" is a film that the whole family can watch together every year when this season comes around.

"Happiest Season" is streams on Hulu starting November 25.