Happiest Season: If Hallmark Christmas movies were gay…


Mia Emerson, Feature Editor, Editorial Cartoonist

On November 25, Hulu opened the closet and released the romantic-comedy Christmas movie Happiest Season. 

Happiest Season is a PG-13 Hulu original starring Kristin Stewart as Abby and Mackenzie Davis as Harper, the lesbian couple who stumble into a long game of heteronormative hide-and-seek. This movie was directed by actress, writer, and director Clea DuVall, who as a lesbian herself, pioneered the divergence from heteronormative Christmas movies that have plagued the holiday season. She also cast multiple queer actors in this movie such as Kristen Stewart, Dan Levy, Victor Garber, and Aubrey Plaza. 

If you have seen other things Kristen Stewart has acted in, such as Twilight, don’t be so quick to pull away from Happiest Season, as Stewart’s acting has significantly improved. She seems very genuine in this movie with only rare glimpses at the emotionless, stoic acting seen from Steward previously. 

This movie focuses on the happy couple a few days before Christmas where Harper impulsively asks Abby to come home with her on Christmas. Harper later tries to stop Abby from coming with her as Harper’s parents, Victor Garber as Ted who is running as a conservative mayor, and Mary Steenburgen as Tipper, Ted’s wife who is obsessed with appearances, do not know she is a lesbian. 

This sparks the drama of the film, with Abby agreeing to hide their relationship until after the holidays. This leads to various hijinks where the leads are constantly trying to hide their relationship. 

There is a lot of miscommunication between Abby and Harper, which seems a lot more realistic to real-life couples, where the partners try to work out problems in their relationship. This is in contrast with a lot of romantic holiday movies, particularly Hallmark Christmas movies, where couples believe everything is hunky-dory and the solutions will fall into their lap. However, the miscommunication between Harper and Abby seems to be exaggerated for the sake of entertainment. 

Because Happiest Season is a romantic-comedy, it falls into the traps that many comedy movies make: cheesy and somewhat unnecessary. One of these tropes involves physical scenes where people fall off of things or get into ridiculous fights, both of which are in this movie. 

The biggest problem I have with this movie is how they used Jane (one of Harper’s sisters played by Mary Holland) as a character who is the basis for many jokes in the movie. She’s portrayed as a hyper, eccentric girl who is disliked by the whole family, and the whole family is unnecessarily mean to her. Though she sticks up for herself at the end and the family starts to like her, I feel as though the family could have gotten across their distaste for her in a subtler way by ignoring her or being polite to her when she was around and showing their distaste for her behind her back rather than insulting her to her face. Of course, I don’t agree with doing those things to Jane either, but I feel if they wanted to portray discourse in the family these would be more realistic ways of doing so. 

The other problem with this movie is the pacing. Happiest Season spent a lot of time building up the problem of the movie and left little time for the solution, making it seem rushed and unrealistic. The characters also seem to only question things they disagree with for a few moments before agreeing to them relatively quickly, which is also unrealistic. 

However, I can overlook these problems because what stood out most to me was the underlying message of how difficult it is to come out as gay in a heteronormative world. This concept is evident through a really powerful scene between John, Abby’s best friend played by Dan Levy, and Abby about how gay people feel terrified and estranged before they come out. Though they may recognize this concept, many heterosexual viewers are likely unable to truly grasp this idea of coming out, as they’ve never had to face a world where people might not accept who you are.

For me, as someone who has gone through that, I understand how difficult it is to come out, and knows how uncertain and trapped you feel before you come out, this was especially powerful and really made this movie a top pick for me. 

And if any of you feel uncertain of coming out, or are with someone who has not come out, I will leave you this quote from John that really spoke to me:

“Just because Harper isn’t ready [to come out] doesn’t mean she never will be, and that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.”