Review | Clea Duvall sweeps away the tinsel with ‘Happiest Season’

Happiest Season | Dir: Clea Duvall | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Abby (Kristen Stewart) is hoping to propose to her girlfriend at Christmas after Harper (Mackenzie Davis) gives her a spontaneous invitation come and meet her family and stay with them for the 5 day festive holiday. The problem is that Harper lied about being out to her upper middle class family and wants to keep the heterosexual charade.

Beneath the happy acceptance of gay marriages and the like, many people still have to deal with not being accepted for who they are. The latest La Trobe research in 2019 reported that of 6000 LGBTIQ adults surveyed in Australia, only 52% felt accepted among family even though 54% were in committed romantic relationships.

The opening of Happiest Season has jolly music and cheesy portraits of the main characters of this dramedy on Christmas cards. Fortunately lesbian filmmaker Clea Duvall, who wrote the script with Mary Holland (who stars as Harper’s sister Jane), has managed to sweep away the tinsel and the picture-perfect Instagram family has to do some self-reflecting.

Abby’s friend John (Daniel Levy) gets some of the best lines as he questions not only the archaic heteronormality but people’s readiness to engage with it. Among the chuckles, there are some awkward conversations and unfortunately some slapstick comedy which, in my opinion, goes overboard. There is some awkward intimacy between the lead females and Stewart is for more convincing that Davis … go figure!

Fortunately, while the film is heading towards everybody celebrating a gay Christmas season, it deals with many other issues to do with family dynamics and how adult children continue to tap dance to what they perceive are the expectations of their parents. As the stay progresses, Harper changes to fit more and more into what she sees as her parents’ expectations … a scary reminder to many of us who have been there!

Happiest Season is now screening.

Lezly Herbert

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