Is there a genre called Awkward? I feel like there is, or should be. Hey, it’s a popular place to mine for laughs.
Happiest Season, the new Christmas rom-com on Hulu from Clea Duvall and her Veep co-star Mary Holland, comes from the more specific school of Meet the Parents, The Family Stone, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and other similar fare. Awkward first acquaintances, amongst awkward family dynamics and structures.
Plot-wise, it may seem been-there-done-that, but Happiest differentiates itself from other mainstream holiday movies by bringing its LGBTQ protagonists front and center.
Abby (Kristen Stewart) is excited to meet her girlfriend Harper’s family for the first time. Things get tricky when she learns that Harper (Mackenzie Davis) hasn’t told her family about them. Even more awkward? Harper hasn’t come out to them yet.
Harper’s solution? Warm them up to Abby by presenting her as an orphaned straight roommate who has no place else to go for Christmas. Abby reluctantly goes along with it despite things most certainly going…. yes, you guessed it…..
Needless to say, this causes major friction and hurt in the relationship.
Oh, the Eccentricities
As things go in the awkward genre, the family is populated by eccentrics. Her father, Ted (Victor Garber), is amidst a heated campaign for mayor. His wife, Tipper (Mary Steenburgen), is obsessed with documenting every holiday moment for his Instagram account and therefore highly image conscious.
Then there is Harper’s nightmarish sisters – the hostile and competitive Sloane (Alison Brie) and the attention-desperate, oft-ignored Jane (Holland), who’s name may be a little too on the nose.
Rounding out the cast is Riley (Aubrey Plaza), an ex of Harper’s who illuminates the reasoning behind this bizarre plan, and Abby’s bestie, John (Dan Levy), in a scene stealing role that makes those unfamiliar with his work, like me, want to seek out Schitt’s Creek as soon as possible!
The film does tend to rely a little bit too much on coincidences, characters happening to run into each other, if only to have conversations to move the plot along. The character of Harper could have benefitted from some more character development, so we could root for her more.
But we forgive the little flaws because WOW, WHAT A CAST! It deftly creates a balance between heavy conversation surrounding the LGBTQ experience and finding laughs and keeping things light. What a wonderful, feel-good movie!
The film effectively captures the range of emotions tied to wanting your family’s acceptance, being true to yourself, and trying not to ruin Christmas.
One of the biggest values of films and books, especially the latter, is its ability to transport us into the minds, thoughts, and experiences of someone entirely unlike ourselves.
The film allows us, and particularly a heterosexual male like myself, to properly empathize with Harper’s predicament and consider just how scary it would be to come out to one’s family. And as Abby learns, it would be a mistake to assume that someone’s experience is going to be the same as yours or weighted similarly, so a certain amount of grace should be in order in our relationships with others.
As a parent, it may cause us to examine ourselves and ask the question: Are we perhaps unknowingly creating a charged family environment of expectations that prevent our children from feeling like they can be their authentic selves? If so, perhaps we should take steps to loosen things up a little.
To those seeking self acceptance: Here’s hoping things wrap up (no pun intended) as tidily as it does in a Christmas movie. But, even if it doesn’t, take steps to accept yourself and forget approval. Love yourself. Create a daily practice of mindfulness, self respect, courage, and boldness. It requires a moment to moment intentionality and fearlessly sharing your truth with the world. Doing that could result in a sense of confidence and liberation!
Creating a culture of love and acceptance will certainly go a long ways towards preventing this holiday season from becoming too … awwwwwwkward! Oh, and avoiding politics!
- Seek out ways to empathize with someone different from yourself.
- Ask yourself if you are creating a family culture where a child feels comfortable enough to be their authentic selves without being tied down by parental expectations.
- Create a daily practice of self love and intentionality.
Where to Watch
Happiest Season is now streaming on Hulu.
What do you think? Have you seen Happiest Season yet? Have you watched or read something lately that has caused you to empathize with someone different from you? Please share in the comments below!
Happiest Season (2020)
Director: Clea Duvall
Screenwriters: Clea Duvall, Mary Holland
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Daniel Levy, Mary Steenburgen, Aubrey Plaza, Victor Garber, Mary Holland, Buri Moesley
Scott is a movie lover who brings over 20 years experience in mental health, journalism and vocational ministry. He has a Masters of Divinity degree, which is not nearly as amazing sounding as Masters of the Universe, but it is what it is. It is here at Movies That Move Us where his powers combine! It is not uncommon to find him pretending to open automatic doors using The Force.