My expectations for Happiest Season weren’t exactly what I’d call high, and yet somehow the movie just barely grazed that incredibly low bar. As I suspected, most of the jokes were given away in the trailer, and in lieu of any well-developed, interesting characters, this “comedy” is full of wacky, over-the-top personalities that make no actual sense in the real world, and worse, aren’t funny! This movie was so ‘meh’ it took me two months to write this review.
We meet Abby (Kstew) and Harper (maybe someone from Westworld??) as they’re taking some kind of Christmas-themed tour through Pittsburgh. Harper has that kind of adult-child energy female leads in rom coms are famous for. (Similar to Disney-loving adult energy.) She’s bummed Abby doesn’t like Christmas and for some reason thinks taking her on a walking tour through Pittsburgh in December will make her change her mind. (Also, anyone over a certain age who *loves* Christmas is not well.)
We later learn Abby doesn’t like Christmas because BOTH OF HER PARENTS ARE DEAD. Which, like, yeah, my parents are divorced and I don’t really like Christmas so I can honestly only imagine if they were DECEASED. And what is with the obsession with having parents die in Christmas-themed movies?? You know who doesn’t want to think about dead parents around the holidays? People who are alone because THEIR PARENTS ARE DEAD. (Characters in rom coms also have no sympathy for holiday-related trauma.)
At some point on this Christmas tour, Harper literally drags Abby up to some stranger’s roof and, referencing the view, is like “this do anything for you?” and it is just a very average looking street with some lights. I say that having lived in Pittsburgh for years and with a deep love for the city but it is still just a fucking street with some lights so like, no, this doesn’t make me FORGET MY PARENTS ARE DEAD.
It’s worth noting that Kristen Stewart is comically smaller than the actress playing her girlfriend —like Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins. Harper looks CGI in most scenes. Kristen Stewart literally has to crane her neck to look at her when they’re talking.
The owner of the house on which the two women are sitting yells at them to get tf off her roof and it’s at this point Kstew’s acting skills are really put to the test. Stewart, the brilliant thespian she is, reacts with a subdued “um,” before falling off the roof. While hanging on for her life, she says, this time a little nervously, “um.” (I think we can all admit Stewart can’t act and she’s been coasting off her Jodie Foster energy her entire career.) Then we see that the woman living in the home is a domme dressed like Santa and I desperately wish the movie was about her instead.
Abby and Harper run to some dark ally and make out and it has the energy of a really horny Gap ad. Then Harper drunkenly (?) invites Abby to her parent’s place for Christmas. (Which is something a dyke would do tbh.) But the next morning, hungover, Harper’s like “oh shit did i really do that? i hate this bitch” and tries to get out of it. But Abby tells her she’s been thinking about it and is now “very excited about Christmas.” Only, she says it in a repressed, horny kind of way. Every line reading of Stewart’s makes no sense to me. She also always looks as if she has to take a shit and it’s not gonna be an easy one. Like she’s got one eye on the bathroom and is debating how long it would take to make it to the door.
In the light of day, we can really see Harper’s wig in full effect. This certainly was a *choice*. The auburn ramen remains partially attached throughout the film, with a big hump in the back that bobs up and down in the profile shots. It sits like it was lazily plopped on her head last minute. During one of the final scenes, I actually thought it was going to come off. And the bangs look like Harper cut them drunk.
There isn’t necessarily what I’d call “a spark” between Abby and Harper. They’re more like two women who happen to be in close proximity to each other physically. We can tell they are lesbians and not cousins because they keep calling each other “baby” and kissing (without tongue) occasionally.
We learn that Abby’s planning to propose to Harper, which seems like a big step for a couple that’s still getting used to the idea of spending Christmas together. She goes shopping for an engagement ring with her BFF John, played by Dan Levy. His character’s main traits are that he’s gay and unhinged. He’s also against Abby and Harper getting married because he’s a radical feminist and these women just don’t understand real feminism, ya know? White gay men are the real revolutionaries I always say……………………
On their way to Harper’s parent’s house, as Abby is in the middle of explaining how this is her first family Christmas in 10 years, presumably since her PARENTS DIED, Harper’s like, “oops they don’t know I’m gay, you’re gay, or that we’re dating. ur my orphan ;)” And Abby’s trauma (and all of ours??) is triggered.
Harper tells Abby that her dad — played by the guy from Titanic whose head is kind of shaped like Stewie’s from Family Guy — is running for mayor and that’s the reason she doesn’t want to come out. I guess he’s running as a Republican? And homophobia is a part of his platform??? She says this Christmas is “all about impressing” some “big donor.” I guess, a homophobic one??? These are all things we’re left to assume because none of it is addressed head-on at any point in the movie.
The homophobia is to be inferred, like we’re supposed to know they hate gays based off of their table cloths or job titles. Why couldn’t a mayor be gay in 2020? Even a rich Republican one? Or a “big donor”? Is the movie set in 1997? It’s a little strange they never specify a political party or explain exactly why any of these people are so bigoted. The way they gloss over homophobia makes it seem not so bad, just a faux pas we all have to forgive sometimes. Something that happens in the suburbs.
Harper not only hasn’t come out to her family, but Abby isn’t even allowed to be gay, so it would be an issue if any gay person ever stepped foot in their home? That’s how homophobic they are? And Abby doesn’t resent them at all or have any kind of mixed feelings about them as human beings? Cool cool cool. Obviously this plot is bizarre, and completely flattens the gay experience. The idea that the only conflict in gay people’s lives is the fact that they’re gay makes them two dimensional. We have lots of other problems!! (Srsly, none of us are okay.)
So a “straight” Abby has no choice but to continue on to Harper’s house because they’re already in the middle of nowhere where’s there’s no lyfts. She meets Harper’s mom and sister Jane first. Harper’s mom has that waspy “I wanna fuck” energy all moms in rom coms have, and jane is supposed to be the “weird” sister, but really she’s just a good person in a family full of assholes. Everyone is so rude to her for no reason but I think it’s supposed to be funny.
Abby then meets Mayor Dad and starts kissing his ass. Bitch, he’s voting against your basic rights!!! Harper’s mom keeps talking about Harper’s high school ex-boyfriend and how he’s single now and she wishes they’d get married. Abby randomly tells everybody she dated a milk man? Also Harper has Josh Hartnett posters in her childhood closet and as someone who had his character from Pearl Harbor as the background of my PC in high school, I can relate.
Later, they (including Harper’s ex-boyfriend) all go out to dinner and Harper and Abby pretend to be straight by going to the bathroom together. As they’re walking back to their table, Harper’s ex Riley, played by Aubrey Plaza, approaches them dressed like a bank teller — wearing a burgundy silk blouse and a grey suit jacket and pants— and walking like she’s got spurs on her shoes. I can’t tell if she wants to fuck them or help them open an IRA account. Honestly, I’m not into it. But the queer internet busted a collected nut, so god bless.
When they sit back down, Harper’s parents reference Riley’s “lifestyle choice” as being “such a shame” and that’s about as deep as this rom com goes into homophobia. In the movie’s description on Hulu, the family is referred to as “conservative,” but really it’s just bigoted and we should call it that :):):)
Once they get back to the house, Abby calls Dan Levy and says of this batshit toxic situation: “It’s not so bad, it’s kind of fun having a secret.” ??!! You guys have, like, 28 different secrets, though. She says she knows “it’s not ideal.” Not ideal??? Not ideal is when you miss a flight not when you realize your entire relationship is built on a lie but alright.
The next morning, Abby wakes up to two silent children who look like they want to murder her. They’re Harper’s niece and nephew, Magnus and Matilda. They’re also the first two actors of color we see in the movie. Their mom, Sloane (Alison Brie), Harper’s older sister, has no personality other than she’s really mean. Harper and her fucking hate each other and it’s never clear why.
The only other actor of color is Sloane’s husband, and Magus and Matilda’s dad, Eric, played by Burl Moseley. All three don’t really speak and all very serious. They’re literally only trotted out for photoshoots to help the politician look diverse and it’s real fucked up and offensive and literally never addressed. Which leads me to think that the screenwriters (Clea DuVall and Mary Holland, who also plays Jane) just never thought this would come across as racist and so never thought to address it? Or the racism, like the homophobia, is to be seen, heard, but never addressed?? Idk.
That night, there’s a big event for mayor dad and Harper needs to bring her “A game” whatever that means. At the fancy event, Abby feels uncomfortable, obviously. She’s introduced as the “friend” but she’s wearing a suit and talks in a whispery Batman voice, so I think everyone’s gonna know they’re fingering each other. At the party, Aubrey Plaza hits on Abby. Aubrey’s hair is kind of mom-like, like the stylist was like “lesbians are like moms but cooler right?” It’s also tough to see Aubrey Plaza in such an un-funny, meh role.
I also feel like ppl tend to interpret queer as kind of masculine and stiff and a little more serious, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’d love a funny, fun dyke onscreen for once. Both she and Kristen and especially Harper were all a lil womp womp. The only energy was coming from Dan Levy but that was like three phone calls the entire movie. (And i hate how we need a gay guy for comedic relief, there are funny lesbians! Just not these lesbians.)
At this event, Mayor Dad gives a speech and Abby is looking at Harper like she’s a chicken dinner and Sloane sees and is like “those are some dykes,” but not out loud. When they get home, Abby sends Harper a watered down sext in her sports bra while she brushes her teeth. Harper’s like “lemme at it” and so the two end up spending the night together and are somehow woken up by the whole family. But Harper’s only spotted by one of the kids, who is for some reason borderline-demonic (??)and doesn’t really speak, so they get away with it.
That’s when the plot gets weird(er). One of the children, who I guess are literally supposed to be evil? Steals something at the mall but puts it in Kstew’s bag to pin it on her. So Abby’s arrested by mall cops? Afterward she’s “released,” she runs into Riley and gets drunk at a drag bar with her. Riley tells Abby that she dated Harper in high school and that Harper outed her and everybody made fun of her. So basically Harper is once again confirmed to be a horrible human being. Then they have a deeply awkward singalong with the drag queens and it’s hard to watch. Meanwhile, Miss Harper is across town at another bar flirting with her high school boyfriend until 2am.
The next morning, Harper legit tells Abby she needs space LOL. She’s basically like “let me lie to my family and fuck my ex-boyfriend in peace!” Abby is obviously upset and is all, “This is why I don’t like Christmas.” I think it has more to do with it being your dead parents’ favorite holiday but okay. Abby then calls Dan Levy to complain and he hangs up on her. (He eventually comes to pick her up, but like, tell me that????)
At yet another rich person gathering, Abby is once again dressed like a slutty pallbearer and complaining about Harper to Riley. Harper is flirting with her high-school boyfriend as per ushe. That’s when Dan Levy shows up and has to pretend to be Abby’s ex for some reason. Then Abby tells Harper she’s done with them and they have a big fight and Harper says she’s hiding their relationship because she hates herself which is a SHOCKER. Then they make up and it’s like stopppp guys just end it.
Then Sloane walks in on them kissing and there’s this huge fight between her and Harper in front of all the guests, during which Harper nearly loses her wig. Sloane calls her out for being a lezzie and she calls Sloane out for her husband cheating on her with somebody in the cupboard (he was but who cares? would anyone at that party care?). Somehow, in all the hubbub, Jane’s stunning painting is ruined and it’s real fucked up.
At some point, Abby goes on a walk with Dan Levy and he basically justifies Harper’s shitty behavior by saying “not everyone’s coming out story is the same.” Yeah but like, what?? You’re coming out story shouldn’t include kidnapping somebody on Christmas and forcing them back into the closet. I don’t think that’s a case where “we’re all different but the same” applies. Also, after Abby says her parents were super supportive of her sexuality, Levy says his dad kicked him out and it’s like okay, babe, this isn’t a competition.
Inside, Harper apologizes to Riley, who’s still at the party for some reason, and they shake hands and it’s awkward. Also, you ruined my life and outed me in high school and all I get is “I’m sorry”??? Before she leaves, Riley tells Harper, “she’s a good one,” referring to Abby, and it’s like, yeah, you should’ve hit that when you had the chance.
Eventually Harper comes out to her parents and Sloane admits to getting a divorce and Jane is like “i’m perfect.” Then homophobic mayor dad excuses himself to go be sad about it all in another room. Abby’s like, “k we’re gonna go,” bc I guess she and Harper aren’t together anymore? And she and Dan Levy go to Sheetz. It’s there that Harper basically proposes (my dream!)
Next morning the dad is like “sorry for hating gay ppl that was uncool :(“ and they all are like “ur the best daddy :)” And then he takes a phone call from the famous “big donor” who is essentially like “we loved you, but we hated your homo daughter. lie about her and you can have all our money.” And the dad, being the BEST PERSON EVER, says “no, you can keep your money, I love my dyke daughter” or something like that.
Basically the parents are never really called out or held accountable for their homophobia. It’s unclear what changes their mind about gay people, other than their daughter being one. They’re immediately self-reflective and empathetic, which, as all of us queer kids from “conservative” homes know, is exactly how it works!
Then it cuts to a year later and Harper and Abby are seeing a Christmas movie with the whole family, still happily pretending either one of them has a personality. ~the end~