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Happiest Season review: Did this new Hulu movie come out with joy?

Kristen Stewart stars in Happiest Season
Kristen Stewart’s Abby tries to have a merry Christmas in Hulu’s Happiest Season. Pic credit: Hulu

The premise of Hulu’s Happiest Season rings hopeful: an inclusive Christmas with whomever you consider family.

Neither politics nor prestige ultimately get in the way of the viewer searching for a contemporary version of It’s A Wonderful Life.

No doubt this fact is especially important in 2020. The year hasn’t been very nice to a whole bunch of folk, no matter what their creed or color.

In the case of this rom-com- and except for some religions and a whole bunch of nationalities (the film takes place in Pennsylvania, after all)- nearly every aspect of being human is represented.

Given all that, the spotlight does shine on the LGBT community more than other groups, especially as the definition of family also comes into play.

How queer folk come out is part of the Happiest Season’s premise

(Warning: Get ready for some major spoilers just ahead.)

When Kristen Stewart’s character Abby came out as gay, her parents told their daughter they loved and supported her.

When Dan Levy’s John came out as gay, his dad kicked his son out of the house and didn’t talk to him for the next 13 years.

But when Mackenzie Davis’ Harper took her longtime girlfriend home to meet her conservative family during the Christmas holidays, she had not come out to any of her closest relatives.

“Everybody’s story is different,” John explained to Abby.

“There’s your version and my version and everything in between,” he told her about how it is to come out to your immediate family, adding, “But the one thing that all the stories have in common is that moment right before you say those words when your heart is racing and you don’t know what’s coming next.”

“That moment’s really terrifying and then once you say those words you can’t unsay them. A chapter has ended and a new one’s begun and you have to be ready for that. You can’t do it for anyone else,” he concluded.

The moral of John’s explanation? Even though Harper had not yet come out to her parents, that situation had nothing to do with her life partner.

John explained by telling Abby, “Just because Harper isn’t ready doesn’t mean she never will be and it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.”

Lost joy found in Happiest Season

Toward the end of the seasonal Hulu film, all the joy seemed missing from one family’s Christmas Eve.

This was especially true of Abby and Harper’s relationship, which seemed kaput.

After all, Abby already admitted to John that she wanted to end her relationship with Harper. She wanted the split because her partner was still very much in the closet.

Sadly, too many tear-stained situations had ensued during Abby’s visit to Harper’s childhood home.

But happily, that finality didn’t ultimately come to pass.

Just before Abby fled her girlfriend’s family mansion in the country and while speaking before everyone with whom she had been raised, Harper finally came out — and with a flourish no less.

Sure, the situation was tense, especially when Harper told her parents that she had long realized their reputations and appearances mattered a lot to them and that her being gay “didn’t fit into the plan.”

Her heartfelt speech literally hit home when she admitted the only reason she did not come out sooner was that her closest relatives would possibly discover she wasn’t who they wanted her to be.

But Harper was done with that fear.

And so, with her secret out, Harper and Abby stayed together.

Happiest Season hit Hulu on November 25
Much of Happiest Season is not as happy as one might suspect. Pic credit: Hulu

The Happiest Season wasn’t always happy

Thank goodness for that happy ending, a major redeeming factor.

While all these teaching opportunities were rife for making this holiday movie’s yuletides gay, Hulu’s Happiest Season is flawed.

For one, some of the film’s churned-out lines are beyond cheesy, making it tough to love the made-for-streaming flick.

Also, the down-in-the-dumps nature of much of the meat of the so-called comedy went on far too long for this reviewer’s taste.

In addition, Mary Steenburgen’s portrayal of Harper’s mother was greatly exaggerated compared to the performances of the other actors.

And finally, many of the comedic visuals went beyond screwball. No doubt the film could have easily done without most of those antics.

In other words, while the message that family includes those you really truly love — blood relatives or not — is a great concept, the overreach in Happiest Season should have been left out of the final cut.

Happiest Season was directed by Clea DuVall from a screenplay written by Clea DuVall and Mary Holland.

The Hulu film stars Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Mary Holland, Victor Garber, and Mary Steenburgen.

Jane Lasky


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