Film review: Happiest Season

This could become a seasonal classic, says Linda Marric


Kristen Stewart (Twilight Saga, Personal Shopper, Seberg) and Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire, Blade Runner 2049, Black Mirror) head a stellar cast in this irresistible and heartwarming romantic comedy from actor-turned-director Clea Duvall (The Faculty, She’s All That). Happiest Season is the first major mainstream seasonal comedy about a same sex couple and features a hilarious turn by Schitt's Creek star and co-creator Dan Levy in one of his first major film roles.

Abby (Stewart) has been invited by her girlfriend Harper (Davis) to spend Christmas with her conservative family for the first time since they became a couple. With both her parents dead, Abby longs for a family of her own and decides that this would be a good occasion to do things the traditional way. She has secretly hatched up a plan to ask Harper’s father (Victor Garber) for permission to marry his daughter, the only problem is that Harper hasn’t been completely honest with her and has failed to divulge that she isn’t really out to her family.

Hilarity ensues when Abby finds herself dismissed by Harper’s unsuspecting mother (Mary Steenburgen in fine form) and relegated to a basement room during her stay. She also quickly realises that there is a lot about Harper that she doesn’t know, including a handsome ex boyfriend who still has feelings for her girlfriend. Soon Abby finds herself questioning her feelings for the woman she thought she knew, but who has let her down once too many.

Duvall should be commended for bringing one of the funniest and most unapologetic queer romances of the year. While her film isn’t without a certain degree of contrivance, and perhaps one too many secondary characters, she still manages to present a film that is bound to become a classic holiday movie.  Duvall and Co-writer Mary Holland - who also stars as Harper’s downtrodden and plain middle sister Jane - have concocted a wonderful list of characters and a clever premise full of hilarious twist and turns.

Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza puts in a fantastically understated turn as the wickedly acerbic Riley, as a shunned former lover, while Community’s Alison Brie is exquisite as Harper’s insufferably bossy and competitive older sister Sloane. Elsewhere Dan Levy is Abby’s best gay friend John, a character not a million miles away from his now famous Schitt’s Creek alter-ego David.

Stewart and Davis put in two impressive performances as two young women trying to navigate their sexuality the best way they know how. Stewart in particular puts a stunning and highly believable turn which goes a long way into cementing her as someone who is at ease with both drama and comedy.

Overall, this a truly enchanting, touching and hugely funny romantic comedy. Duvall et al have given us a truly wonderful story about love, acceptance and triumph over adversity. This is truly unmissable for any self-respecting hopeless romantic and a film which is set to become a seasonal fixture in years to come.

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