Happiest Season: A LGBTQ Holiday Rom-Com

Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis) in Happiest Season. (Photo by Jojo Whilden/Hulu)

Happiest Season, featuring a star-studded cast, is the first major LGBTQ studio romantic comedy to be set during the holiday season.

There are not that many LGBTQ studio comedies let alone many films set during the holidays.  Jenna Laurenzo’s Thanksgiving-set Lez Bomb is among the few films out there.  All you have to do is change the holiday but the gist of the film basically remains the same.  Kid brings girlfriend home for the holiday but her family doesn’t know she’s a lesbian.  The big difference between the two films is Abby (Kristen Stewart) is planning to propose to Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis).  In Lez Bomb, Jenna’s Lauren just wants to come out to her family.  Harper doesn’t even want to do this–at least not until after the holidays!  Both films are fun to watch in their own ways, of course.

Meeting the family comes with all sorts of challenges.  It takes you out of your comfort zone.  Abby wants to use Harper’s family’s traditional dinner to propose.  The major hang-up here is that Harper is not even out to her family.  it’s a small bump in the road as Harper forces Abby back into the closet.  Nobody wants to be there and being transgender myself, I know perfectly what it means to attend a holiday gathering while closeted (Chanukah 2015 came amid World War 3 at home).

Harper’s parents are Ted (Victor Garber) and Tipper (Mary Steenburgen).  While stopping short of calling them conservative, they are rather traditional in their views.  Moreover, Ted is running for mayor and Harper coming out could be disastrous for his campaign.  Harper’s other siblings are type-A attorney Sloane (Alison Brie) and fantasy fiction novelist Jane (Mary Holland).

Helping round out the cast are Harper’s secret-ex-girlfriend, Riley (Aubrey Plaza), and Abby’s best friend, John (Daniel Levy).  They’re supporting players so don’t expect to see major screen time from them.  Despite the amount of screen time, they make the best of it.

There are a few moments here that will draw major laughs–one of which is the climactic fight towards the end of the film.  You couldn’t not make this film without a major family fight.  is it cliché to where you see it coming a mile away?  Yes but the execution makes it so fun to watch.  Another is the scene featuring Timothy Simons and Lauren Lapkus as mall cops.  Simons plays it over the top here but despite the feelings towards cops right now, I want to see a spin-off featuring his character.

I sympathize with Harper.  It isn’t easy coming out to family.  Trust me, this is something I know all about!  I had to deal with two consecutive Thanksgivings after coming out.  And when you have a family in denial, it is pure hell.  I haven’t written my own holiday-set film yet because it’s not really something I care to relive.  That isn’t to say that we don’t need more Jewish holiday-set films because we most certainly do.  Will LGBTQ individuals rush to watch Happiest Season?  The simple answer is that I don’t know.  It is so hard coming out to our families to where films like Happiest Season hit very close to home.

This film has two things going for it in which it will bring about familiarity.  The holiday trope and the romantic comedy trope.  It’s because of the latter that we inherently know that no matter what happens during the run time, everything will turn out okay in the end.  That’s not to say that things won’t get intense and stressful along the way–this is a holiday comedy after all!  Adding in the LGBTQ part and chaos is just waiting to happen!

If there’s a takeaway from watching Happiest Season, it’s that nobody should be forced into a closet.  Families need to be accepting.  I’ve been publicly out as transgender since 2016 and have been very open about my own story.

DIRECTOR:  Clea DuVall
SCREENWRITERS:  Clea DuVall & Mary Holland
CAST:  Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Levy, Mary Holland, Burl Moseley, with Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen

Hulu launches Happiest Season on November 25, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.