“Happiest Season”: A Not So Jolly Holiday Movie

Hulu’s new holiday LGBTQ+ rom-com has no doubt hit your radar this Christmas season! But it probably wasn’t for the best reasons…

Happiest Season, directed and written by Clea DuVall, tells the story of Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) as they try to navigate a Christmas spent with Harper’s family, who is unaware that she and Abby are in a romantic relationship. It was released as Hulu exclusive content on November 26th, 2020.

As soon as it was announced, members of the LGBTQ+ community were overjoyed to hear that a holiday movie would center around a lesbian couple. When I googled “LGBT holiday movies”, only ten results appeared, so their excitement was understandable. However, upon the movie’s release, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment. 

While I cannot speak on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, I can speak as a lover of Christmas movies. So here are some of my thoughts on “Happiest Season”!

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PIECE INCLUDES SPOILERS FOR HULU’S Happiest Season! PROCEED WITH CAUTION!

IT IS NOT A ROMANTIC COMEDY.

Although marketed as a fun holiday rom-com, there’s nothing really funny about it. I think I made it through the entire hour and 42 minutes without laughing once. 

It’s good for the first few minutes, but as soon as Abby and Harper leave to go see Harper’s family, Abby is just miserable for the rest of the movie. And that’s just sad to watch. The movie also carries more of a serious tone than a humorous one, so any jokes that appeared in it usually felt out of place.

IT’S BARELY A CHRISTMAS MOVIE.

The beginning feels like Christmas. The ending scene before the flash-forward feels like Christmas. But everything in-between forgets about Christmas completely. There are no warm Christmas cheer moments that are a staple of the holiday classics! It just feels like a normal movie that just happened to happen during Christmas.

ABBY AND HARPER

Abby (Kristen Stewart) is probably my favorite character in the entire movie. She wanted to meet Harper’s family under the impression that they knew she was Harper’s girlfriend. But when Harper waits until the last second to tell Abby that she hadn’t come out to her parents yet, Abby is fine with. She keeps their relationship and her own sexuality a secret just to keep Harper happy, because she loves her and Harper promises to tell her family after the holidays. 

Harper (Mackenzie Davis) is probably my least favorite character of any Christmas movie that I’ve ever seen. She uses the fact that Abby’s parents are deceased as an excuse for Abby to come over for Christmas instead of coming out to her family! She ditches Abby in favor of sucking up to her parents and hanging out with her ex-boyfriend! She gaslights Abby into thinking that she’s the victim and that Abby is overacting about certain things!

Eventually, Abby breaks up with Harper… only for Harper to run after her and convince her to stay. And Abby does… only to break up with her again, this time when Harper denies their relationship after being outed by her sister at the Christmas party (in front of all of her family and friends). I don’t feel like this should have to be said but apparently..

IF THE CHARACTERS IN YOUR CHRISTMAS ROM-COM BREAK UP TWICE, THE AUDIENCE ISN’T GOING TO WANT THEM TO END UP TOGETHER! 

But of course, Harper runs after Abby again and they end up living happily ever after. woo.

My favorite part of the movie is when they broke up. I loved watching Abby tell Harper off, it was great. She deserved it.

THE REST OF THE CHARACTERS… yikes

Harper’s family is probably the worst family I’ve ever seen in a Christmas movie. Harper’s parents, played by Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen, have been pitting their daughters against each other for their entire lives. This created a tense rivalry between Harper and her two sisters, Sloane (Allison Brie) and Jane (Mary Holland). Through the movie, there was no point where I thought “Oh, this is such a nice family”. They were always fighting, being passive aggressive, or just plain mistreating each other. It’s sad, and it gets even sadder when Harper admits to Abby that the way their family works is messed up, but then proceeds to do nothing about it.

Throughout the movie, the only member of Harper’s family to treat Abby nicely is Jane. Harper’s father doesn’t acknowledge her, her mother repeatedly invades her privacy, and Sloane is just straight up mean to her. And they all tend to make insensitive comments about the fact that Abby’s parents are deceased. At one point in the movie, Sloane’s two children slip a necklace into Abby’s purse while they’re at a mall AND GET HER ARRESTED! No one but Harper believes Abby when she tells them that she’s innocent and they treat her with suspicion for the rest of the movie.

Now with that said, let’s move on to one of my favorite characters.

John (Daniel Levy) is Abby’s best friend from home and he sticks by her side through the entire film. He covers for her pet sitting while she’s away at Harper’s, he listens to her every night when she calls him to vent about how badly everything is going. Sure, he could be judgmental at times, but he apologizes and actually drives to Harper’s family’s house to rescue Harper once things go too far. He and Abby also had good chemistry as characters so their interactions were pleasant to watch.

They also have what I think is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. John takes Abby outside during a Christmas party at Harper’s house because she’s upset. They walk and talk about how everyone’s coming out experience is different. They decide that while Harper not being ready to come out is a valid reason for her not to come out yet, Abby deserves to be with someone who is ready. It’s a very sweet moment with a good message!

And I think that this was the message that the movie was trying to go for as a whole, but it ultimately doesn’t work. Sure, Harper is eventually ready to come out and be true to her relationship with Abby, but it’s too late. The damage is already done. And somehow that fact doesn’t effect Abby decision to stay with Harper, which is a huge let down.

A WASTE OF AUBREY PLAZA.

It’s just an objective fact that Abby should have left Harper for Riley.

Riley (Aubrey Plaza) was Harper’s first girlfriend from highschool. In my favorite scene in the entire movie, Riley tells Abby that when she and Harper were lifelong best friends that fell in love. But when someone found a love letter from Riley in Harper’s locker, Harper outed Riley to the entire school rather than come clean about their relationship. So ultimately, she and Abby were in similar situations.

Every scene with Abby and Riley hanging out or even just briefly interacting is just infinitely better than any other scene with Abby and Harper. The absolute best scene in the movie is when Riley takes Abby to a drag show to cheer her up! It’s really one of the only scenes in the movie that feels like Christmas!

If the movie wanted to stick to the “Abby deserves to be with someone who’s ready” message, then a Abby leaving Harper for Riley plot line would be perfect! Riley had chemistry with Abby that Harper NEVER did, not even in the being of the movie when they were a happy couple! I don’t understand why they didn’t up together.

THE END.

the climax was stupid and I hated it. 

Harper’s sister Sloane (Allison Brie) finds out about Harper and Abby’s relationship. She and Harper get into a physical fight that ends with a painting being smashed over Sloane’s head, a Christmas being tackled by three grown women, and Harper denying her and Abby’s relationship to her entire family. I didn’t enjoy it.

Abby, of course, is upset by this and leaves with John. They stop at a gas station on their way home and Harper appears to win Abby back. And even though she doesn’t deserve a second chance.. she does.

the ending was stupid and I hated it.

The movie remembers its a Christmas movie and has a scene of everyone forgiving each other on Christmas morning as they open presents. Sloane and Harper make up from their fight, Harper’s parents accept her for who she is, and Abby even gets to be apart of their family Christmas photo.

The movie then flashes forward to “one year later”. Jane has now published a famous fantasy novel, Sloane is divorced, and Harper and Abby are married. And if that isn’t upsetting enough, they completely left Riley out it. The end.

It’s such an unsatisfying ending and overall really disappointing.

IN CONCLUSION…

it was frustrating to watch. Harper receives no consequences for her actions and Abby just forgives her for everything. It doesn’t work as a rom-com or a Christmas movie. So far now, I’ve seen it twice and that’s enough to last me a lifetime. Hopefully in years to come, we’ll see better LGBTQ+ holiday movies, because this isn’t cutting it.

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