REVIEW: ‘Happiest Season’ is satisfying holiday cinema

Take a break from Hallmark and go to Hulu because the streaming service has a romcom of much better quality.

“Happiest Season” stars Kristen Stewart as Abby and Mackenzie Davis as Harper. The two are a couple who’ve been together for about a year or so and are deeply in love. So much so that Abby is considering a proposal over Christmas.

As the holiday approaches, the two set off to visit Harper’s parents to enjoy a family Christmas. However, on the way, Harper informs Abby that she’s still in the closet and that her parents don’t know about their relationship. Planning to tell her parents at the right time, Harper convinces Abby to pretend that they’re just roommates instead of a couple. Keeping the secret proves difficult, though.

This romantic comedy pushes the genre in a positive direction, despite falling into a few cliche traps. A studio movie featuring an LGBT+ relationship prominently in itself is a delightful bit of progress.

On top of expanding the genre, though, the film is quite good in its own right. A lot of this enjoyable romantic comedy works. Meeting the family and hiding a detail isn’t a new idea for romcoms and what happens in the three act structure here is familiar, but the execution is so on point that it can be mostly overlooked.

The humor is well written and the romantic moments are very sweet, making for a pleasant experience. When it comes to the former, the comedy really works thanks to the character interactions, and a few of the highjinks that the leads go through to keep their secret.

The film does stumble in a few comedic attempts where the tone doesn’t match the rest of the picture. One prime example is an entire sequence where Abby goes shopping at a mall with one of Harper’s sisters.

Courtesy TriStar Pictures, Entertainment One, Temple Hill Entertainment and Hulu.

For the most part, though, the humor does land, and a lot of it is thanks to the character John, who is Abby’s friend. Dan Levy, who plays the character, is phenomenal in the role, stealing every scene he’s in and bringing a lot of laughs.

The two leads do shine, though. Stewart is solid as a woman put into an awkward spot while Davis is strong as the more optimistic of the two. There’s an onscreen chemistry between the two and each of them are convincing in their roles.

The supporting cast helps quite a bit, too. Victor Garber is a reliable character actor and fits into the role of Harper’s conservative father very well. Meanwhile, Alison Brie and Mary Holland are fun as Harper’s sister.

Another supporting performance outside the family is Aubrey Plaza as Riley, an ex of Harper. Like Levy, Plaza brings a comedic background to the role that helps, but is good in the more serious moments, too.

Lighthearted and fun, but still quite meaningful, “Happiest Season” is a good flick for this time of year. Despite some snags, this is a pleasing romcom with likable characters played by a good, committed cast with plenty of enjoyable moments. 3.85 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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