Monday, December 14, 2020

Happiest Season (2020) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Happiest Season (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: TriStar Pictures, Entertainment One, Hulu Originals, Temple Hill Entertainment, B&H Film Distribution, Sony Pictures Releasing Argentina, Sony Pictures Releasing Australia, Sony Pictures Releasing, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Hulu
Director: Clea DuVall
Writers: Clea DuVall, Mary Holland
Actors: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Dan Levy, Burl Moseley, Aubrey Plaza, Sarayu Blue, Jake McDorman, Ana Gasteyer, Caroline Harris, Jenny Gulley, Dominique Allen Lawson, Michelle Buteau, Timothy Simons, Lauren Lapkus, Jerick Hoffer, Benjamin Putnam, Anis N'Dobe, Asiyih N'Dobe, Chelsea Banglesdorf, Daryn Kahn, Matt Newell
Blurb from IMDb: A holiday romantic comedy that captures the range of emotions tied to wanting your family's acceptance, being true to yourself, and trying not to ruin Christmas.

Selina’s Point of View:
I need to start off by saying that I hate the trope this film covers. I hate it, because there shouldn’t be a norm for it to be imitating. No one should have to deal with the fear of how someone is going to react to them because of who they love.
That said, it was a really great movie.
This is only Clea DuVall’s (The Intervention, The Handmaid’s Tale, Veep) second writer/director full-length feature film credit. Still, it’s incredible. I haven’t seen her first, but I can tell you that this made me want to. Happiest Season is one of the best rom-com dramas that I have seen in a long time, maybe ever. I felt the situations as though they were nearly first hand, and it dug into that part of me that has never felt like I belonged in a family.
I’d be surprised if DuVall didn’t write the script, at least partially, from her own experiences. It was too honest.

The family is built up to show this unsupportive group of people, but it goes deeper to show that most of them don’t realize how awful they are to each other. It exhibits a family trying so hard to seem one way that every individual person involved can’t see beyond their own little picture. In that way, it almost feels like there is no antagonist. It’s the situation itself that wears that label.
The poster actually shows each character’s perspective extremely well, just through facial expressions. I normally don’t even bother to mention the poster, but this one gets better the longer you look at it.
As a Christmas film, Happiest Season feels like it properly portrays the anxiety of masking for your family and worrying that if you slip even a little bit, that everything will go wrong. I can absolutely relate to it. I know a lot of people can.
Most films in the holiday genre aren’t really directed toward people who find the entire season anxiety-inducing. When they are, it labels the main character as uncaring, or emotionally constipated. Here, we see the protagonists as people who care so much that they can’t help but be terrified. I think that’s something that’s not represented well enough in holiday films.
I would absolutely recommend Happiest Season for anyone looking for a Christmas setting in a well-written story. 

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ll be honest. I owe Happiest Season an apology. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – but it was certainly not the glorious emotional gauntlet I actually experienced.
This felt so grounded. It doesn’t surprise me at all that writer/director Clea DuVall (Argo, American Horror Story, The Intervention) pulled from her own experiences to create this story. While the tale focuses on the gay couple, it also illustrates well that you don’t have to be queer to find yourself wearing a mask in life and the complications of such. While presenting a solid LGBTQ+ story as the focus, this film went the extra mile to give everyone a little something to relate to - all without minimalizing the core issues. 

Like most offerings in the holiday rom-com genre, Happiest Season hit on most of your staple tropes that one would expect to see and then upped the ante by blending in the wonderfully awkward ‘meet the family’ moments. While generally predictable, I found that I didn’t even mind. I was just enjoying being in the moment and along for the ride.
The entire cast of Happiest Season is chock-full of talent. I couldn’t find fault with anyone’s performances – not that I was looking. I was happily immersed in the story and wasn’t even taking mental notes. If pressed to pick a favorite among the cast, however, it would be Dan Levy (Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Stage Fright, Schitt's Creek) without question. Though, I do also want to tip my proverbial hat to Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Seberg, Underwater). The last several movies I’ve seen her in have been a refreshing change of pace from her earlier work – this film included.

While I don’t feel like this movie will make it into my annual rotation, I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it again and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 80%
Metascore – 68/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
P.S. – A small epilogue, represented by a character’s Instagram posting, is shown during the beginning of the credits.
Movie Trailer:

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