HAPPIEST SEASON – Review by Susan Granger

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of diversity and inclusiveness, but this lesbian update on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? doesn’t have a shred of believability.

Since her parents died, Abigail – a.k.a. Abby (Kristen Stewart) – has never been into the holiday season. Despite that, her live-in girl-friend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), impulsively insists that Abby come home with her to celebrate with her family.

“It’s five days,” reasons Abby. “How bad can it be?”

Problem is: closeted Harper hasn’t ‘come out’ to her conservative parents: hyper-judgmental Ted Caldwell (Victor Garber), who is running for Mayor in their small Pennsylvania town, and uptight Tipper (Mary Steenburgen), who’s determined to get a proper family photo on Instagram.

“I can assure you this family has nothing to hide,” brags Ted to a prospective supporter.

So reluctant Abby must pretend she’s Harper’s straight, single roommate, which certainly hampers her plans to propose marriage to Harper on Christmas morning.

But their superficial charade doesn’t fool Harper’s hyper-competitive older sister Sloane (Alison Brie), married Eric (Burl Moseley) with mixed-race twins, although it completely eludes their quirky younger sister Jane (Mary Holland), who has spent 10 years writing a fantasy novel.

Plus, there’s Harper’s ex-boyfriend Connor (Jake McDorman), who keeps turning up at family gatherings, along with Harper’s ‘secret’ high-school ex-girl-friend, Riley (Aubrey Plaza).

Superficially scripted by Mary Holland and actor-turned-director Clea DuVall, it’s a glossy Christmas rom-com that underscores the universal desire for acceptance by your loved one’s family, along with the fear of rejection.

“I’d never seen a movie that really represented my experience,” openly gay DuVall explains. “Any LGBTQ+ people were, if they were there at all, side characters.”

Unfortunately, the characters are familiar, two-dimensional caricatures and heavy-handed clichés abound.

Winner of several Emmys for Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy is the saving grace. His sensitive portrayal of the incredulous ‘best-friend’ delivers the most heartfelt moments, particularly his observations about empathy and coming-out.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Happiest Season is a frosty, formulaic 5, making the Yuletide gay.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.