Happiest Season (3 stars)

Happiest Season

Clea DuVall freshens up the Christmas film with the help of Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis

A Kristen Stewart Christmas movie seems like a good reason to start celebrating early, with the actress bringing her nonchalant cool to the kind of recognisably farcical scenario we've seen a thousand times. Even better, she's paired with the similarly talented Mackenzie Davis (Tully, Terminator: Dark Fate) in writer-director Clea DuVall's contribution to the festive canon, whose story revolves around the trials of a rather adorable lesbian couple. With gay characters usually sidelined in such (and indeed most) films, it feels like a Christmas miracle to see them take centre stage.

Stewart plays Abby, who is 'not a huge Christmas person' for reasons relating to the death of her parents. On the other hand, her girlfriend Harper (Davis) is fit to burst with festive spirit and when she impulsively invites Abby to stay with her family for the holidays she neglects to mention one crucial detail: they don't know she's gay. And so, the pair arrive at Harper's lavish suburban family home unhappily masquerading as roommates. Her clan – headed up by mom Tipper (Mary Steenburgen) and dad Ted (Victor Garber) – are all about appearances, and with Ted running for mayor there's extra emphasis on that this year.

Co-writing with Mary Holland (who also puts in some amusing work as one of Harper's sisters), DuVall delivers a sweet and witty script ('I once took too many Ambien and bought a racehorse online,' Tipper confesses), done full justice by the excellent cast. With comic stalwarts like Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie and Dan Levy (Schitt's Creek) in support, Happiest Season is a very appealing addition to the home-for-the-holidays sub-genre, which has been milked to death, and beyond. Stewart and Davis give their scenes together real emotional pull; there are some genuinely touching moments here. Unfortunately, the tendency toward myriad genre contrivances – easy to resolve misunderstandings, the machinations of competitive siblings, the desire to tie everything up in too tidy a bow – does undermine its good work somewhat. But its inclusivity and charm make this a real winter warmer.

Available to watch on Premium VOD from Thu 26 Nov.

Happiest Season

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • 12
  • Directed by: Clea DuVall
  • Cast: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Levy, Mary Holland, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen
  • UK release: 26 November 2020

A young woman's plans to propose to her girlfriend while at her family's annual Christmas party are put in doubt when she discovers her partner hasn't yet come out to her parents.