Happiest Season review – a queer festive romantic-comedy with some salient messaging

By Daniel Hart
Published: November 25, 2020 (Last updated: December 15, 2023)
Hulu film Happiest Season


Happiest Season is about the need for family acceptance; it ties in emotional themes, signalling that the effort for acceptance can be damaging in itself.

This review of Hulu film Happiest Season does not contain spoilers. The romantic comedy will be released on the streaming service on November 24, 2020.

Christmas content is coming thick and fast this year on streaming services, and Hulu has managed to secure one that stars Kristen Stewart, which I am sure Film Twitter will spend weeks chin-wagging about as she is a social media favourite. Happiest Season is a romantic comedy in many forms, combining the usual Christmas tropes to give you those warming feels. But it’s also a festive coming out story, with plenty of important messages and themes that thrive throughout.

This is your typical romantic comedy purely by substance; it follows Abby (played by Kristen Stewart) who decides to spend Christmas with her girlfriend Harper (played by Mackenzie Davis) and her family. The plan is to propose to Harper, but on the way to Harper’s family home, she learns that they have no idea that Harper is gay. What follows is a story where Abby has to pretend she is a friend of Harper, and comically act like she is an orphan with no parents.

Of course, there will be plenty of discourse about whether we’ve seen too many stories involving coming-out, and whether it’s time for gay stories that don’t involve characters pretending to not be in a relationship, but it’s important to highlight that for some people, it’s not easy or safe to be transparent with family — while we live in a society that continues to progress, coming out can still be a big deal. Happiest Season battles with that notion, not just from the perspective of Harper, who struggles internally with it, but also the pain it inflicts on Abby, unable to feel loved in the presence of someone she wants to spend the rest of her life with.

Happiest Season is about the need for family acceptance; it ties in emotional themes, signaling that the effort for acceptance can be damaging in itself. The Hulu film raises the importance of being your true self; fronting as another person can visibly shake down the foundations of your character. While the movie tries hard to hit home the Christmas feeling with Harper’s overbearing and intense family, Abby and Harper’s secret “fooling around” will hit home to many familiar couples out there that have had a similar experience during a time of the year where togetherness is important.

Hulu’s Happiest Season manages to squeeze political suppression into the narrative; Harper’s father is a politician on a journey, presenting the perfect family to the outside world. There’s this idea that is silent throughout the film that Harper and her sisters need to stay in line with the usual conventions for the sake of their father’s campaign; I’m not sure this is a plot point that landed rather well.

Outside of the themes and its important messaging, Happiest Season holds strong performances; we can expect a strong outing from Kristen Stewart, but Mackenzie Davis plays her part as well. Both actors represent characters that feel socially crippled by their secret, betraying their souls which slowly eats away at them as the story moves forward. It’s a comedy, so it’s not deep in any sense of the word; there are a few scenes that are laugh out loud, but it’s more amusing if anything.

As a Christmas film, Happiest Season is likely to be the best you can get this year in terms of new holiday movies, but it has a hearty message nestled in its story while weaving a slow coming-out journey.

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