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film review

Abby (Kristen Stewart, right) and her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis, left) get into yuletide shenanigans previously reserved by Hollywood for straight couples.LACEY TERRELL/Courtesy of Sony Pictures

  • Happiest Season
  • Directed by Clea DuVall
  • Written by Clea DuVall and Mary Holland
  • Starring Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis and Dan Levy
  • Classification PG; 120 minutes


2 out of 4 stars

In a way, the new Christmas-timed romantic comedy Happiest Season counts as progress. Finally, a big and shiny studio-backed holiday movie targeted to queer audiences that is just as sappy, cheesy and predictable as the many groan-inducing films that have been chucked toward straight moviegoers all these years.

So while it is somewhat refreshing to watch Abby (Kristen Stewart) and her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) get into all manner of yuletide shenanigans previously reserved by Hollywood for straight couples, the film’s surface-level progressiveness doesn’t automatically make the effort more enjoyable than, say, Christmas with the Kranks or Four Christmases or the many forgettable families-be-crazy comedies that pop up around this time of the year. There’s nothing wrong with easy-viewing comfort cinema – but there’s a difference between lazily entertaining your audience and insulting their intelligence.

Dan Levy, right, makes the most out of his sketch-comedy-thin character.Jojo Whilden/Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Matters aren’t helped by Happiest Season’s La Cage aux Folles-like conceit, in which the closeted Harper brings Abby home to her white-bread family under the guise of the two being roommates. There is no doubt that this is still an immensely challenging and devastating reality faced by far too many couples today, but director Clea DuVall and her co-writer Mary Holland don’t do much to contemporize the situation, substituting opportunities for emotional sincerity and impactful context with tired pratfalls and eye-rolling gags (including one in which Abby gets trapped in a literal closet).

At least the cast has a good time. Stewart and Davis make for a charming couple, and the all-star supporting players Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie do the very most with their sketch-comedy-thin characters. But the highlight performance might just belong to co-writer Holland, who scripts herself the best bits as Harper’s desperately lonely and oft-ignored sister Jane. (I’m still thinking about the delivery of her line, “I have a way with routers.”) Merry Christmas to her.

Happiest Season is available digitally on-demand starting Nov. 26

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