Review: ‘The Happiest Season’ has some great moments but they come from side characters
Many LGBTQ people have anticipated The Happiest Season, on Hulu, for its canon representation of lesbian couple, Abby and Harper, played by Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis. Rom-coms are a beloved stand by of the Christmas season, but it has been pointed out that they tend to be very heteronormative. So when the news came out (pun intended) about The Happiest Season, it was an exciting indicator of progress. It was especially exciting to see that the gay characters in the movie would be played by openly LGBTQ actors. It was especially enjoyable seeing Kristen Stewart finally play gay. My favorite look of hers in the film was blazer, and undone tie. Look at that fit!
But despite all this, one concern about the film was the toxicity of Abby and Harper’s relationship. The whole premise is built on Abby not knowing that Harper’s parents, that she’s visiting for Christmas, don’t know that Harper is lesbian, at least until they are nearly at Harper’s parents house. So, Abby has to pretend to just be Harpers, friend, roommate, and heterosexual, all the last minute. Leaving her to be excluded from Harper’s family because they think she is just a friend, and Abby fails to properly be able to socialize with other people while pretending to be straight.
Initially, it seemed like this could have comedic effect similar to The Birdcage, in which a young man’s gay parents pretend to be straight (with one of the them pretending to be a woman) while meeting their future daughter-in-law’s politician parents. Interestingly, Harper’s father is also a politician. It seems that politicians, at least somewhat conservative ones, are the decided upon homophobic parent trope. But The Happiest Season’s comedic moments were not in Abby and Harper pretending to be straight, which were mostly just awkward. No, the comedy was in Abby’s gay best friend, John, played by Dan Levy known for his role as a pansexual character in Schitt’s Creek. Okay, one those comedic moments was about him and Abby pretending to be exes, but he was the one who carried that scene.
This ended up being a theme, with side characters stealing the show. My other favorite characters were Riley, Harper’s ex-girlfriend, played by Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation and Jane. One would assume that Abby and Riley would have a rivalry because of having dated the same woman, but they become friends, in those many moments when Harper ditches Abby to hang out with friends, family, and political sponsors that her family is trying to impress. I honestly found myself hoping that Abby would end up with Riley who, the audience actually sees Abby laugh and have fun with, which only happens once once between Harper and Abby in the film.
Jane, Harper’s sister, played by Mary Holland, is immediately friendly towards her sister and Abby, which contrasts with Harper’s other sister Sloan, who has a competitive relationship with Harper. I found her to be my favorite character of the film because of her unabashed quirkiness and kindness. Often, quirky female characters are the butt of the joke in the media, while she did have comedic moments, Janet was very self aware, and gave a beautiful speech at the end of the film that brought me to tears. Ultimately, although it was nice to see a canon lesbian couple on screen, Abby and Harper were not the focus for me, the side characters were. John, Jane, and Riley were what saved this film and I thank Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, and Mary Holland for that.
Trailer Here: https://youtu.be/h58HkQV1gHY