It’s finally December, and there’s no better way to embrace the holiday spirit than by curling up with a good ol’ Hallmark movie. With more shows focusing on LGBTQ representation such as “Love, Victor” and “Schitt’s creek,” Hulu adds “Happiest Season” to the list. But if you’re looking for a fun Christmas movie, you might be disappointed. Although the movie sheds light on a social issue and possesses stellar performances, its poor plot execution disinvolves the audience.
“Happiest Season” follows Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) who are been in a long-term relationship. Ever since her parents passed away, Christmas isn’t the same for Abby, but she reluctantly agrees when Harper invites her home for the holidays. But there’s one problem: Harper hasn’t come out yet, fearing it will hurt her family’s image in the midst of her father’s mayoral campaign. So throughout the film, Abby is known as Harper’s roommate as she conceals her true identity and is treated like an outsider.
The acting in the film is executed brilliantly by each cast member. Harper’s parents (Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen) really capture their conservative nature and high expectations through their professional clothing, extreme attention to detail and disappointed expressions when their values are ignored. With regards to the protagonist, Stewart delivers her lines with a touch of innocence and is very soft-spoken, which shows Abby’s kind personality. Stewart’s character is shy, just how one would feel if they were spending the holiday with strangers. While Abby is likable, Harper is the exact opposite. She is oblivious as to how her actions impact Abby and is locked in another world where Abby is nonexistent. In doing so, Davis does an incredible job at making herself the “villain” of the story by utilizing angry facial features and expressing carelessness when her and Abby’s relationship is brought up. The audience roots and sympathizes for Abby after witnessing the way she is treated. Apart from the protagonists, the supporting cast includes actors in the LGBTQ community, such as Daniel Levy (Abby’s best friend, John) and Aubrey Plaza (Harper’s ex-girlfriend, Riley). This not only adds an authentic touch to the film but also displays it as pushing for LGBTQ inclusivity. The cast radiates with enthusiasm and works well together in a lighthearted atmosphere.
Although the performances are great, they don’t redeem the terrible plot. The storyline is very rushed towards the end as Harper is essentially forced to come out, so the audience doesn’t witness her authentic experience. Moreover, the plot significantly lacks development as it doesn’t progress Abby and Harper’s relationship and the consequences of Abby being trapped to Harper’s toxic whims. Instead, they have an on and off relationship that makes the film quite boring. The plot also goes off on another tangent as it explores Abby’s relationship with Riley and jumps back and forth between Abby spending time with Harper and Riley. This distracts the audience because it builds potential for the two characters, as Riley is more considerate than Harper, but ultimately abandons their chemistry altogether when Abby gets back together with Harper.
For being a rom-com, “Happiest Season” is far from funny. For example, Abby is often referred to as an orphan throughout the film so much so that in one scene, Abby introduces herself as one. It’s a feeble attempt at presenting humor that instead comes across as inconsiderate and rude. The only humor you will find is from John, who has a good number of funny lines throughout the film.
“Happiest Season” showcases the challenges and judgments that may arise when LGBTQ individuals come out. The audience is powerfully impacted as we receive a glimpse into how they may conceal their true identity out of fear of others’ opinions. We see Harper as the golden child who will do anything to remain the perfect daughter in her parents’ eyes, hence her deteriorating relationship with Abby. In doing so, the film calls to attention the stress and fear of disappointment some LGBTQ individuals may encounter for simply being themselves. The downside is that the film focuses on a toxic relationship, almost suggesting that this is fine as long as one comes out.
“Happiest Season” has a good concept, but it is poorly executed with a rushed plot that lacks development. Despite the remarkable acting and traces of humor, the plot distracts from enjoying this holiday film. It does a fairly good job at representing the LGBTQ community but adds a toxic aspect to it.
Verdict: Though it has outstanding performances, “Happiest Season” is not the best but is a decent holiday watch. The plot is in shambles and disengages the audience, but it still manages to highlight a societal issue.