A heartwarming hour and a half: “Happiest Season” review

by Zach McGuckin | Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Hulu

In many ways, “Happiest Season” is a movie you’ve seen before. It’s a feel-good holiday romantic comedy in which the two main characters visit one of their families only to experience a series of wacky misadventures and awkward interactions. In fact, you may have seen it a million times. What sets “Happiest Season” apart is that it features an LGBTQ+ relationship with its two leads being female.  

Abby (Kristen Stewart) and her partner Harper (Mackenzie Davis) decide to visit Harper’s family for Christmas. The only problem is that Harper has not come out to her family yet, so Abby must go as Harper’s roommate. Suddenly the wacky misadventures and awkward interactions have a newfound sense of urgency and discomfort. A simple story is transported and recontextualized into something much more meaningful than the sum of its parts. 

That being said, “Happiest Season” fails to live up to the promise of its premise. Nothing here is poorly done, but nothing is done exceptionally. The comedy provided some chuckles, but I never laughed particularly hard. The drama was compelling to a degree, but I felt a fairly shallow level of investment. The cinematography was never disappointing, but only one shot was particularly impressive, in my opinion. The characters were solid and likeable enough, but none of them stuck in my memory once the credits started rolling. 

To be explicit, I don’t think “Happiest Season” is a bad movie, but I was underwhelmed. The situation is unique, though. I believe that in this case, my sense of underwhelm is not so relevant. The holiday season can be a traumatic time for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, and if this film brings comfort to a single queer person, what I thought of it doesn’t matter. 

The film’s exploration of its leads’ relationships – both with each other and Harper’s family – may not be the most intellectually engaging, but with its lack of specificity comes a greater sense of relatability. The reason why many of the characters didn’t stick with me is because many of them are characters into whom the audience is supposed to insert their own experiences. This choice may not have hugely appealed to me, as a straight viewer, but this film wasn’t made with me in mind. What I find most commendable about this film is that it feels fully set on centering a LGBTQ+ audience. Straight people can certainly enjoy it, but this film wasn’t made about or for them.  

It’s fantastic to see a mainstream, accessible Hollywood film centered around the LGBTQ+ community’s experience during the holidays and made specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s wonderful this film exists, even if I didn’t love it. 6/10 Pinecones 

Happiest Season is streaming now on Hulu.