‘The Happiest Season’ features cookie-cutter holiday romance

By Olivia Rosenberg, Assistant buzz Editor

Holiday romantic comedies never seem to go out of style. No matter how many different variations of the same genre are released, they will always draw in an audience during the winter season. Whether it’s because they provide a cozy warm feeling fit for any cold weather or because they are just irresistible, rom-coms seem to be a go-to pick as the holidays approach. 

Most holiday rom-coms feature a heterosexual relationship as the central focus of the story. However, Hulu finally provided some variation from that common troupe with their 2020 release of “The Happiest Season.” Directed by Clea DuVall, the film’s predominant couple is actually a woman-loving-woman relationship. 

Starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis as Abby and Harper, the story focuses on the women’s relationship as the holiday season quickly approaches. Abby has had a strong dislike toward Christmas ever since the death of her parents, and Harper, in the hopes of changing Abby’s mind about the holiday, invites Abby to Christmas celebrations with her family. The conflict arises when Harper reveals she hasn’t come out to her conservative family, which means Abby must hide the truth about the girls’ relationship. 

Including Steward and Davis, the film’s cast is stacked with a star-studded ensemble. Alison Brie, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Aubrey Plaza and Dan Levy round out the rest of the main roles. Steenburgen and Garber play Harper’s parents and effectively elevate the conflict to another level. The supporting cast carries much of the film’s emotional weight, and they accentuate the performances of the main women. 

Stewart is really the heart of the film despite the well-done performances from the other powerhouse actors. She is charming and extremely likable; the audience can’t help but root for her character throughout the runtime. Between her most recent performances as of late, Stewart is setting herself as an impressive actress with a wide range. 

The set design of the film looks artificially sweet with picture-perfect holiday decor in every shot. While fitting for a Hallmark-type romance, most of the mise-en-scene is pretty unrealistic and makes for a stiff environment that doesn’t feel lived in. 

Unfortunately, the relationship between Harper and Abby falls flat as Davis’ performance feels weak at times. Harper’s character is quite frustrating and, at times, makes the audience question if Abby should even be in a relationship with her. The conflict makes you want to side with Abby as the film is written mostly with her perspective in mind. It’s hard to form your own opinion about their relationship based on the way the screenplay is structured. 

Despite the discrepancies in Abby and Harper’s relationship, the film is an overall sweet, romantic holiday flick that’s perfect to watch as Christmas comes around the corner. It has the perfect balance between comedy and Christmas cheer, which makes for a great holiday rom-com. Though it feels a tad unrealistic, if you’re looking for a cookie-cutter romance with all the holiday cheer you can imagine, this is definitely the film for you. 

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