Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Happiest Season

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Copyright: Sony Pictures Releasing

We’ll never see another year of classic Christmas comedies. Gone are the glorious classics of Home Alone and Die Hard. Every year, a new wave of festive, family-friendly films is thrown together and shunted onto any platform that will dare buy them, released into the wild, waiting to be hunted down by rabid members of the public who don’t know what they want from a film, but will complain whatever they receive. Happiest Season feels more earnest than most of the holiday cash-grabs we’ve seen from this year. Still, at least this one feels a tad genuine, capturing the havoc of a big family gathering with a reserved understanding of its cliché and bloated holiday feel.  

This acceptance goes a big way. Not just in gelling with the narrative, but in allowing director Clea DuVall a bit of scope for her project. Nobody wants their best-remembered film to be a festive one, but DuVall crafts a sweet holiday mood here, one that will give her the leverage needed to make something far greater and ground-breaking. Still, to expect anything more from a Christmas film would be redundant, and the charms throughout Happiest Season are fine. Nothing beyond the pale or of intense quality, but likeable enough to move us through the generic festivities of the genre.  

Mackenzie Davis and Kristen Stewart make for a palatable leading couple, great chemistry on the whole and well performed. We should expect nothing less for actors who, for one reason or another, are plugging away at starring roles and not making major ground in the way of awards success. Odd as it may be to see them in a Christmas film verging on the side of older audiences, Happiest Season is all the better for it. A bit of slapstick here and some marginally decent writing there, broad plot points and jokes that try their best to appeal to every audience imaginable. Appealing to everyone leads to painfully plodding stories and expected turns from the cast, who can’t break free from their tinsel-clad stereotypes. 

Happiest Season does indeed capture that overwhelming feeling of feeling festive, but stumbles from time to time. There’s a bit of venom behind some of the supporting performances, the brunt of the joke often comes in the form of manic family moments or characters that simply aren’t likeable. The festive spirit is suffocated by an overwhelming dislike for the supporting characters. Their pompous moments are never met with a comeuppance or any form of rounded end, they just receive a forgetful ending that sees their dreams come true. If only reality were as easy, the Christmas arguments would feel a lot less resentful if they were met with frivolous response.