Happiest Season is a significant step forward for both romcoms and Christmas movies as it features a same sex duo. In fact after teen romance Love Simon, which was hailed as the great groundbreaker, came out just two years ago as well as recent films like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Ideal Home, Dating Amber, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight and The Miseducation of Carmeron Post this now feels as normal as it should. Heteronormativity in cinema is beginning to fall away. This said, all of these films still generate at least some of their drama from the character being homosexual. In this case the couple head to one of their family homes for Christmas but their parents and siblings do not know they are together and the two have to play it straight. I can only think of Booksmart as an example of where one of the main characters is gay and it is entirely incidental. (In case you’ve not got this from me before, this is only one of the many many reasons to celebrate the wonderful Booksmart.) There have been great LGBT films for years of course, but they are only now becoming common and, correct me if I’m wrong, it is only now, the lyrics to Deck the Halls notwithstanding, that this has been associated with the festive season.
Speaking of ‘don we now our gay apparel’ this film is also one of the first to have LBGT people actually playing LBGT people, starring as it does Kristen Stewart. The gay best friend has long been a trope of course but Happiest Season nicely redefines this convention too. You know, because for all the stereotypes he’s actually just the best friend, no differentiating categorisation necessary.
progressive as it may be in this important respect, the film is also very backward in its handling of narrative and cliche. The story is utterly predictable and it ticks too many boxes that have been ticked so many times before. There are devilish children that refuse to accept the newcomer in their family, there is a fight that involves lots of rolling around, slapping and destruction of household contents and they go off to watch an old black and white movie which is, of course, It’s a Wonderful Life. (Something that I’m probably doing myself in a couple of weeks, what with the cinemas really going all out with classic movie screenings next month in the absence of lots of new releases. Find showings here.)
even with this, Happiest Season has a lot of charm. Writer/director Clea DuVall’s script is not quite as sharp as it could be and doesn’t generate many proper chuckles but the performances are good, especially from Stewart, and the central relationship is quite sweet.
All things considered I’m recommending this. I had a nice time with it and any failures in the footing can be excused because these stepping stones of wider representation need to make a splash.
Happiest Season is on download and streaming now.
The Ripley Factor:
In most romcoms there is a question over which gender comes off best. If it’s a Richard Curtis film then it’s all about the guy but if it’s Reece Witherspoon then it’s about the girl. Movies such as When Harry Met Sally get the balance right but this is rare. Here though both parties are women so it’s moot, strong female characters are not something that is lacking. Throw in a couple of sisters and you’re laughing, figuratively at least.