One thing we still have to look forward to this year is the holiday rom-com Happiest Season, starring Mackenzie Davis and Superior Hollywood (K)ris, Kristen Stewart. I was already looking forward to this film as an escapist delight this holiday season, and now that I am (mostly) unclenched, I can enjoy it all the more. The first trailer for Happiest Season is here and it looks like a goddamned delight. Stewart and Davis star as Abby and Harper, respectively, going home together for the holidays, but Harper has not told her family that Abby is her romantic partner. In fact, Harper’s parents think Abby is a straight orphan crashing her friend’s family Christmas. Dan Levy is along as the gay best friend—a much less insulting stereotype in a queer-centered story—Alison Brie and Mary Holland star as Harper’s sisters, and THE Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen play Harper’s parents. The cast also includes Aubrey Plaza, Michelle Buteau, and Sarayu Blue. The casting of this movie is impeccable. Casting is SUCH an underrated part of the rom-com formula, but Happiest Season nailed it.
Now, let’s discuss the most important part of any holiday rom-com: THE HOUSE. You can have the best cast in the world, a lead couple with fire chemistry, and a script full of humor and warmth, but if your holiday rom-com house sucks, your movie is garbage. This is why I can’t get into the Hallmark holiday movie phenomenon. Besides all the successful women punished for having ambitions beyond the boundaries of their (usually small) hometowns, the houses are always so ugly! They’re always hideous McMansions in bland suburbs. (Lainey, please take me on a tour of the suburbs where all these characterless houses live.) The Hallmark houses scream “didn’t sell by summer”, so they were available for film crews to rent.
But the Happiest Season house is AMAZING. Look at it! It looks like it was transported from the Cotswolds. This house is at least as good as the While You Were Sleeping house, and might even reach the level of the house from The Family Stone, a house so good it helps me overlook the inherent meanness of that movie picking on Sarah Jessica Parker’s character just because she’s a busy businesswoman. (Seriously, what do holiday rom-coms have against high-powered women?) The Happiest Season house has all the earmarks of a great holiday rom-com house: historic character; sprawling; attractive but not overbearing decorations; a large and boisterous family that is slightly overbearing but in that loving way, not the “do as we say or we’ll disown you” way. In the movies, mean people don’t live in that house, mean people live in Todd and Margo’s house (not a real house, but a perfect crystallization of the home of cruel monsters). Caring, affectionate families live in the spectacular house with all the decorations. Therefore, Harper’s parents can’t be THAT bad.