The holiday season is typically full of extended family and a little drama comes along with it. While many people won’t be going home for their share of family drama this year, you can get a little bit of it in the Hulu Original film Happiest Season, streaming November 25th. Originally planned for a theatrical release, this romantic comedy comes from TriStar Pictures in association with eOne and Temple Hill.
Harper (Mackenzie Davis, The Martian) is going home for Christmas and brings along her girlfriend Abby (Kristen Stewart, Underwater), who discovers on the way that the love of her life is still in the closet. Going back in with her, Abby is exposed to Harper’s mayoral candidate father (Victor Garber, Alias), demanding mother (Mary Steenburgen, One Magic Christmas), and her sisters who have to compete for their parent’s affections. It’s just another Christmas at home for Harper, but it’s a rude awakening for Abby, who was planning to propose to Harper as a Christmas present.
Elements of the plot feel underdeveloped, with the introduction of Harper and Abby almost haphazard and wild in comparison to the rest of the film’s more restrained tone. The introduction of the large family is also drawn out, with each member getting their own introduction. Compared to other holiday films where a potential spouse meets the family for the holidays, it feels like the filmmakers ignored all the well-established rules of the genre.
Most of the film’s charm actually comes from its supporting cast. Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) plays Abby’s gay best friend who initially is a bit of dead weight as he takes over her pet sitting business, but becomes essential to the story in the final act. Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West) and Jake McDorman (The Right Stuff) play Harper’s exes who bring out new qualities in her that are new to Abby and make for some fun bits of action as well. A cameo by Ana Gasteyer also produces one of the film’s biggest laughs. But the real scene stealer, and the character I felt most affected by, is Harper’s fish-out-of-water sister Jane, played by Mary Holland (Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge).
Happiest Season’s plot is predictable once it gets going and funny enough to keep viewers engaged, but far from a new holiday classic for most viewers. It earns points for being a progressive LGBTQ+ story with the familiar message of “Love is love” and has a level of star power that the onslaught of made-for-TV holiday films can’t match. If you’re looking for something new to keep your holiday season merry and bright, you could certainly do worse, but you’ll be hard pressed to remember it next year when thinking about the holiday films you want to watch again.
I give Happiest Season 3 out of 5 Roomba vacuums.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.