When I first heard about Happiest Season, I won’t lie. I was excited. It was another cherry on top of my queer holiday movie extravaganza boon this year, and was set as a coming out romcom.
Then I watched the trailer and my stomach curdled. This isn’t going to be a typical review. Instead, I’m going to tell you why this film literally hurts, and why I can’t understand how this is being touted as a feel good holiday romcom.
The entire film is predicated on a lie. Harper (Mackenzie Davis) is not out to her family, and not only is she not out, but she also doesn’t tell her girlfriend, Abby (Kristen Stewart), she’s not out until they’re minutes away from her family’s home. She doesn’t even give Abby the chance to decide if she wants to go on this trip or not having all the actual information. Instead, Harper lies, portraying Abby as some orphan sad sack that she’s graciously helping, and brutally forces her back into the closet.
As the film goes on, we see Harper growing more and more repulsive as her internalized homophobia comes raging to the surface. Forcing Abby deeper and deeper back into the closet, the truly heinous way she treated Riley (Aubrey Plaza), and how even when she has a chance (albeit a very fucked up one and nobody *SPOILERS* deserves to be outed) to come clean she still lies about her sexuality.
I’ve been an Abby. Being forced back into the closet is violent, painful, and agonizing. It’s ripping open an old wound you had long thought scarred over and opening yourself back up to shame you swore you’d never feel again. Some might think I go too far in saying Harper, from what we see of her in this movie, is abusive. She is certainly toxic, and I would argue abusive, whether she realizes it or not.
I don’t care how attractive Davis is, or how badly director Clea Duvall wants me to think there’s something in Harper to keep fighting for. Harper needs to fight for herself. Abby can’t do that for her. Riley can’t do that for her. It’s not fair to demand that other queer persons keep shouldering her pain and fallout.
And after all Harper put Abby through, Abby sure as SHIT doesn’t need to be putting a ring on all of that mess. The worst part was that of course Abby forgave Harper, naturally, it’s a holiday movie. That’s what Duvall wasted her holiday movie magic on. Magical forgiveness and a marriage proposal for the woman who was actively harming Abby the entire film.
Abby, I hope you realize that Harper is in no place to be in a serious relationship at this stage in her life. Leave her, jet out of town with Riley, and hopefully Harper can learn to grow into her identity and let go of that internalized homophobia. Because I can empathize with her, I truly can. Being trapped in the closet and not seeing a way out is painful and suffocating. Harper deserves better than that. But right now, she isn’t ready for that type of ending with Abby or anyone else, and I daresay she certainly hasn’t earned one with her behavior.
If you DO want to see a poignant and uplifting wlw holiday movie, and one that isn’t chock full of white people everywhere, go check out A New York Christmas Wedding on Netflix instead. Or check out Seher’s guide to entertaining holiday films of 2020.
Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures
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