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Happiest Season

Peter Malone MSC  |  21 December 2020

HAPPIEST SEASON. US, 2020. Starring Kristin Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Daniel Leay, Burl Moseley, Aubrey Plaza, Jake McDorman, Ana Gasteyer. Directed by Clea DuVall. 102 minutes. Rated M (Occasional coarse language)

In so many films, Christmas is the happiest season. And, in so many films, it is not always the happiest. It is one of the times, as with Thanksgiving, when families gather together to enjoy one another’s company, to have meals, to share the spirit of the season, but also when tensions arise, harsh truths are told or truths concealed and revealed.

This is one of those family gatherings at Christmas – and quite some revelations.

This is a personal drama of two women in a relationship. Mackenzie Davis plays Harper, a writer. She is in a relationship with Abby, played persuasively by Kristin Stewart. They have their own lives, are open about their love for each other. And, as so often in the movies, they have a gay friend, John. He is played entertainingly by Dan Levy (who created the Canadian award-winning television comedy series, Schitts Creek). Harper persuades Abby to travel home with her to meet her family (John will stay at home to look after the pets that Abby cares for).

On the way home, Harper confesses that she has not come out to her parents – but will do so after Christmas. Abby reluctantly agrees to keep quiet about their relations. When they arrive, they are welcomed by Harper’s exuberant mother, Mary Steenburgen, and the rather proper father, Victor Garber, a town councillor who is campaigning to be mayor and his using Christmas engagements, dinners and parties, to exemplify his credentials.

The older daughter, Sloane (Alison Brie) arrives with her husband and twin children. And, there is the daughter, Jane, who has stayed at home, always cheerfully erupting into the conversation, probably autistic (Mary Holland who co-wrote the screenplay with director, Clea Du Vall).

As anticipated, there are difficulties in concealment, and the parents inviting Harpers College boyfriend to dinner, disconcerts Abby. There is the room situation, and Abby put upon by Sloane’s twins, shopping, slipping an item into her bag and her being arrested. While the parents do their best, it is clear that they are finding Abby somewhat of an embarrassment. Abby, in the meantime, encounters Harper’s friend from school days (Aubrey Plaza), now a doctor at Johns Hopkins, but who knows the secret.

John then turns up to help with the situation, providing enjoyable touches of camp comedy. Abby, on the other hand, is deadly serious, dismayed at Harper’s overt denials.

The build-up is to one of those American family squabbles, or more than squabbles, where secrets come out, mother coping better than father who comes to realise how he has treated his daughters, favouring Harper for her intelligence and expertise, not acknowledging Sloane, and treating Jane in such offhand ways.

So, acceptance, resolution, happy photos, which makes the Christmas season happier than might have been expected.

Released 3 December
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of Jesuit Media



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