Happiest Season is one of the most timely and deeply affecting releases this year. For starters, the need for representation in films, let alone one based around the holidays, is long overdue. Seeing LGTBQ narratives shouldn’t seemingly be relegated to arthouse or indie flicks. Have we made strides as a society? Yes, but until we’ve reached a point where LGTBQ narratives are regarded as simply narratives, we have a ways to go. Writer/Director Clea DuVall and Mary Holland have managed to weave in the love story of Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) into this backdrop of the holidays without compromising any of the film’s true purpose. Happiest Season is about how our need for acceptance is so powerful that it can drive some of us to be inauthentic, especially if we feel that who we are will hurt our loved ones somehow. The perception of happiness and acceptance of happiness is not the same as being happy. Is it ever the “happiest season” if your focus is on maintaining a lie?
Happiest Season is essentially about Harper (Davis) inviting her girlfriend Abby (Stewart) to her parent’s home for the Christmas holidays. On the surface, it doesn’t seem too complicated but becomes a huge mess when we learn that her mother and father don’t know that Harper is gay. Abby initially had plans of proposing on Christmas morning and now she’s faced with having to play pretend while openly questioning if this relationship can last.
The chemistry between Stewart and Davis in the film comes off as real and is off the charts. There’s never a false moment between these two. Dan Levy plays John (Abby’s good friend) and amounts to more of a pallette cleanser after some of the more emotionally trying moments. His character does have one of the best written moments in the third act. Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Aubrey Plaza, and Allison Brie are equally wonderful, but the Happiest Season really showcases how talented Stewart and Davis are. Kristen Stewart is incredibly vulnerable in the film and just lovely. Mackenize Davis strikes a perfect balance on screen as her character struggles with how she can love Harper while not being a disappointment to her parents. Can the lie just simply continue? The film is at it’s best when Harper is at her worst. Her need to be perfect is heartbreaking. With every compromise of who Harper is, Abby’s heart shatters just a bit more. How can they build a life together on a lie?
Happiest Season should vault to the top of every watch list this holiday season. It’s a joy to watch and debuts November 25th on Hulu.