Happiest Season: A conveniently gift-wrapped queer rom-com

Few holiday movies are very queer or racially diverse, but last year, we were gifted with Happiest Season

This movie was much needed during the pandemic, and social media users raved about it and hyped up its queerness. 

Directed and co-written by Clea Duvall, the film stars queer actors and focuses on queer characters. 

For all its positives, Happiest Season isn’t all that original in premise, and it has quite a cookie-cutter ending.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Abby Holland (Kristen Stewart) and Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis) have been dating for almost a year. 

An orphan, Abby has nobody to spend the holidays with, so Harper spontaneously invites her to spend Christmas with her family – who happen to be predominantly conservative and very white overall. 

If that doesn’t already sound like a disaster, the icing on the shitty cake is that Harper has lied to Abby about having come out to her parents. 

Lies and deception are classic rom-com components. 

For Abby, they lead to uncomfortable situations with Harper’s family and ex-boyfriend and weird behavior from Harper. 

Abby deserves better from the start, but she’s not entirely alone throughout the movie. 

She has her gay best friend, John (Dan Levy), and strangely enough, Harper’s ex-girlfriend, Riley (Aubrey Plaza). 

In my opinion, Abby should have ended up with Riley. 

Every scene with the pair is filled to the brim with chemistry, and Riley can relate to enduring Harper’s terrible behaviour. 

This isn’t about Harper being closeted, which is not something to shame any queer person about. 

It’s the way she drags Abby far from where they live, lies about everything, and puts her through a more difficult time than usual during Christmas.

Harper’s forcing Abby to hide her sexuality and their relationship, and make nice with people who call being queer a “lifestyle”, is selfish. 

Her family is horribly toxic, to the point where eldest sister Sloane (Alison Brie) outs them to a room full of people, making Harper deny her sexuality and the relationship. 

A film called Happiest Season obviously has a neatly wrapped ending. 

In almost any other genre, Abby wouldn’t take Harper back, but this is a rom-com. 

Everybody reveals their truths, although none are comparable to coming out: Sloane is separated from her husband, middle sister Jane (Mary Holland) is a proud weirdo, and their mother wants to learn karate and hates flowers. 

John comes to Harper’s rescue and takes her home, also serving as the voice of reason, even when we know Abby is right to be angry. 

Of course, before she leaves, Harper catches up with her. They exchange heartfelt words, kiss, and make up. 

The ending isn’t realistic because there’s no way conservative parents like that would have become supportive that quickly – or at all. 

And why would Harper be all right with Sloane after being outed? It’s brushed under the rug like it never happened. 

What Happiest Season manages to do is be very queer while following near-identical beats to most straight rom-coms.

One person is easily forgiven for their shittiness, and an engagement or wedding ensues because why not?

While most of my review is salty, I will say that Abby serves some looks, and John would be a great best friend. 

I do recommend this to folks looking for a relatively funny queer movie, if you’re willing to look beyond its flaws.

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