Stewart is an actress that we should all feel sorry for. Most people still unfairly refer to her as the ‘Twilight girl’ despite the fact that she had a pretty decent filmography behind her before she stepped into the shoes of Bella Swan and since that outing has made a number of more serious cinematic classics, namely Cafe Society and Clouds Of Sils Maria. Yes, she also made Charlie’s Angels but we will give her a free pass for that one because she is one actress that normally knows how to pick a film with an interesting script.
In Happiest Season she plays Abby, a young gay woman in a relationship with the love of her life, Harper (Mackenzie Davis – Blade Runner 2049), but hasn’t really celebrated Christmas since the death of her parents several years before. In a moment of Christmas spirit Harper invites Abby to go and spend Christmas with her family but then instantly regrets it when the next day she remembers that she has never told her parents she is gay.
The pair create a story that Abby is Harper’s orphaned house-mate and Harper promises to tell her parents the truth after Christmas. But then when they arrive they discover that Harper’s father, Ted (Victor Garber – Titanic), is mounting a political campaign for mayor fuelled by her mother, Tipper (Mary Steenburgen – Step Brothers), who is in full campaign mode. But as the weekend goes on Abby sees a darker side to Harper as she competes with her sister (Alison Brie – Community) and continues to hurt Abby.
As Abby then finds herself confused by her relationship and Harper’s attitude she finds herself listening more and more to her best friend, John (Dan Levy – Schitt’s Creek), and Harper’s ex Riley (Aubrey Plaza – Ingrid Goes West).
Just like Last Christmas last year, Happiest Season is the kind of Christmas film that even the most seasoned cinema-goer can enjoy. Director/screen-writer Clea DuVall (The Intervention) makes sure that there are no cheesy Christmas moments in the film – instead she has created serious relationship drama that at times contains just as much suspense as a thriller.
The key to that feeling being created is that DuVall has made her lead characters likable. Abby is sensationally set up in such a way that as an audience you instantly care about her and even though Harper is the ‘baddie’ for a majority of the film you do also still feel for her as you can see why she is trying to protect herself.
That same script also creates some amazing side characters that are further enhanced by the actors and actresses playing them. Dan Levy is sensational and comical as Abby’s gay best friend while Aubrey Plaza is so likable as Riley that there are times throughout the film where you find yourself kind of hoping that she and Abby end up together. Then there is Mary Holland (Good Posture) who steals every scene she is in as Harper’s ‘challenged’ sister Jane.
Happiest Season is a relationship drama with heart. The fact that the film is set at Christmas time almost becomes incidental as the film goes on. Instead, it becomes more a film about people struggling with their own identity and being honest with the people around them. Stewart is sensational in the lead role and is well supported by a talented cast that mix comedy and drama together brilliantly well.
Happiest Season opens in Phuket on Feb 4 and is classified 15.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus