New Christmas movies are easy to dismiss because we all have our favorite festive flicks long established. Some of us appreciate a cozy, cornball holiday romance, whereas others prefer more of a Griswold vibe. The world of Our Favorite Christmas Movies is not objective; instead it’s partially based on the repetition of watching these films and the nostalgia we’ve created around them. There is no black-and-white, good-or-bad, naughty or nice when it comes to what we dig in an X-mas flick.
I’m not usually a Hallmark holiday movie person – I’ve maybe seen five in my life and they have morphed into one holly jolly snowflakes-on-sweaters memory. So when I started to watch Hulu’s “Happiest Season,” a Christmas rom-com that debuted on Thanksgiving featuring a lesbian couple, I was skeptical because of the holiday rom-com genre. At the same time, I actually wanted to like this movie because this is the first mainstream LGBTQ+ movie of its kind and that’s important for the normalization of all the love forms. But I also wanted to fancy this film because, as my dear and queer friend Lex pointed out, “every homo is fully aware that the entire genre of lesbo films has yet to produce a single watchable movie or show.”
This movie had a lot to prove right out of the gate, setting it up for failure. Could it compare to (insert your favorite Christmas movies here)? And separately, does it bolster the lame list of lesbin movies already in existence?
There is, indeed, a lot to like about “Happiest Season”: it's warm, it’s well written, it’s funny, it’s festive and it’s made by the rare unicorn lesbian filmmaker (Clea DuVall). It’s a simple coming-out story that tracks the terribleness and hilarity that ensues when Abby (Kristen Stewart) agrees to go to her girlfriend Harper’s (Mackenzie Davis) parents’ house for the holidays, not realizing that Harper told them she is her roommate and platonic friend, rather than about-to-be fiance.
Stewart creates the most solid and likable character (although she often looks really cold in the many outdoor scenes and consequently has few facial expressions.) Davis is good, too, although she is more believable as the popular, uppity girl we see first than the enlightened, self-accepting woman she later becomes.
Fans of Schitt’s Creek will appreciate Dan Levy’s role in “Happiest Season” as Abby’s best friend. Levy is great, as always, in providing humor and compassion simultaneously, but his character of John seems to be an extension of his David character from Schitt’s. As a huge fan of Schitt’s Creek, it was wonderful and comforting to see Levy on the screen again, but now I long to see him play a completely different role someday. It is usually a joy to see Aubrey Plaza on any screen at any time, but I found her bland in this film. (If you want to go for a powerful Aubrey role, check her out in "Black Bear," which we caught during the 2020 Milwaukee Film Fest.)
Like all Yuletide rom-coms, “Happiest Season” requires a lot of disbelief suspension aka going with the flow, because otherwise it just doesn’t make sense. Why would Harper lie to Abby in the first place to get her to agree to come home with her for the holidays (Abby refuses at first) and then trap her in a house with haters? However, although this weakens the plot line, the premise provides the chance to expose straight people’s fake, conservative cheer that exists both in reality and in many Hallmark holiday films.
Although often lighthearted, “Happiest Season” scratches at the surfaces of deep and meaningful issues, like the always unfortunate outcome when a gay person tries to mold themselves to hetero expectations. When Harper finally assumes her more authentic self, we see her character morph into a confident woman. The only problem for me was that Abby easily slid into the Hallmark-mandated happy ending after everything she went through during her miserable stay with this clueless family. But this is a heartwarming holiday movie – first and foremost – so fine.
And that’s the point. Take away all of the LGBTQ aspects of this film and “Happiest Season” is a success for what it is: a solid holiday film that made me feel good, cringe and chuckle a few times while sitting in the comforting and joyful glow of my Christmas tree lights. It takes time to make a movie a Christmas Classic, but this one has the nuts and bolts of what's needed to someday be a family favorite, and that has nothing to do with sexual preference. Just pass the cookie plate, mkay?
Watch a lively convo between Molly and Matt about "Happiest Season" here:
Is Hulu's "Happiest Season" more than a lesbian rom-com?
Is Hulu's "Happiest Season" more than a lesbian rom-com? Is Hulu's "Happiest Season" more than a lesbian holiday rom-com? Join in the discussion now!Posted by OnMilwaukee on Monday, December 7, 2020
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.