“Happiest Season” Roundtable: Yikes, Harper! Wooowwww, Aubrey Plaza!

The time has come for a few of us to give our thoughts on Happiest Season, Clea DuVall’s Christmas romantic comedy now streaming on Hulu. Since the movie’s release a few days ago, we sat down and gave it a watch (some of us more than twice) and then jumped together to hear each other’s feelings on it. We talk about what it’s like to bring someone home, the white universe the film takes place in, and, obviously, Aubrey Plaza in those suits.

There are some spoilers ahead!

First things first: What were your thoughts when you first found out about the film?

Drew: Despite being a fan of Clea DuVall as a performer, I really loathed The Intervention, her first film as a writer/director. So when this was announced and I saw people getting excited about it I just sort of felt… well, honestly, I felt happy for the cis white lesbians in my life and then went about my day. But the thing is I love Christmas movies! Like last year I gave Let It Snow a glowing review. I don’t think Christmas movies have to be masterpieces and sometimes it’s just nice to have a simple seasonal movie to enjoy. So I was excited for it! This was not The Lesbian Cinema Event of my year, but I’ve absolutely been looking forward to it.

Vanessa: I am really not a movie person — I usually see like, one movie a year. That said, I love Kristen Stewart, so when I found out about this movie I was pretty excited and figured I’d make it my “One Movie of 2020.” A lesbian holiday rom-com with one of my favorite actors, what could go wrong!

Shelli Nicole: When I first heard about it I am sure I tweeted and was quite judgmental, but I also recall saying I was of course, still going to watch it. Like, why wouldn’t I want to watch a lesbian Christmas rom-com? I want to live in my own version one holiday season. The big names were a little bit of a draw. I’ve never fawned over KStew but I have wanted to kiss Clea DuVall since seeing her in The Faculty, so there was that.

Christina: There are few things I love more than romantic comedies, especially ones that are supposed to be cheesy and over the top and a little wacky. I also have a fondness for general WASPy mess (I blame the fact that I lived in Boston for ten years) so I was pretty pumped for this! Also, tall bottom representation!

After watching it, did it live up to your queer expectations?

Rachel Charlene Lewis: I… didn’t love it? It had moments I loved. I wanted to finish it and feel so whole and so seen, but I just felt really sad. Will I watch it again? Yes. I’ve already watched it over and over. But I think some of the coming out arc felt way too close to my own experiences with dating and my girlfriends’ parents and families, and I felt a little tricked by the trailer, which made it seem like it would be made up of more fun and shenanigans, and less CRUSHING HEARTBREAK. The acting was great. Kristen Stewart is an angel and getting to watch her be gay and happy made my heart happy. Aubrey Plaza saved the day. The outfits and the makeup and the vibes were just so wonderfully queer. But I think it needed more time to really pull off everything it wanted to and to balance straight audiences who wanted one thing (aka coming out stories) and queer audiences who wanted another (happy nonsense lesbian rom-com).

Valerie Anne: I don’t generally like rom-coms OR Christmas movies but the idea of one made by queer people for queer people made me happy. Especially for those people who DO love Christmas rom-coms and have had to watch thousands of very straight movies just to get their fill. And I bet the people who love those movies will love this movie very much. I enjoyed it quite a bit but it was still a Christmas rom-com so my capacity to love it was somewhat limited, which honestly means it succeeded in being exactly what it was meant to be.

I thought the acting was stellar and the writing was great, and it made me feel happy in my heart to know how many queer people were involved on both sides of the camera. For me, I would have enjoyed it ending like the kinds of movies I watch. For example, it would have ended with Abby and Riley together and running into Harper at pride a few years later. Finally out and happy and with a girlfriend she was ready to be with. But I understand why it had to end the way it did for the genre. I agree with Rachel that Kristen Stewart being gay and happy and Aubrey Plaza’s whole, everything, were absolutely the best parts of the movie. And Dan Levy.

Malic: This rom-com definitely had its funny moments. I adored Aubrey Plaza’s classic deadpan and Dan Levy’s delivery of hilarious one-liners. I knew that the film would be very, very white and very, very homonormative, but I had no idea that the storyline would fill me with so much rage! I didn’t get enough time to buy into Abby and Harper’s relationship before Harper brought them into an impossibly difficult situation. I spent the whole time being pissed instead of rooting for them to stay together. I’m with Rachel — I was unprepared for the crushing heartbreak! Also, I’m bored with coming out narratives and want to see queer people doing other things.

Stef: I am very, very not a Christmas movie person, but I do love a Lifetime movie now and again so I gave this a shot. I had really mixed feelings because while I had a pretty good time watching the movie, everything Harper did made me so anxious I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Abby was supernaturally patient with her and understanding of everything she went through, but Harper just… kept… dropping the ball? Even when it was a simple little thing like her parents putting Abby in a separate room, it would have been so easy to ask your MOM to let your FRIEND sleep in your room. When Harper didn’t even tell Connor there had been a reason she broke up with him, she slipped into irredeemable territory for me and I was deeply upset on Abby’s behalf during the resolution of this movie.

Sometimes it’s possible for someone to love you without respecting or particularly liking you, and that was something I felt very strongly about Harper’s feelings towards Abby. I do love Valerie’s idea for an ending much more than what actually happened; it seemed like a WASPy way of sweeping the issues under the table and deciding everything will be fine if we just will it to be so — and NEVER DEAL WITH ANY OF OUR ISSUES AGAIN. In conclusion, Aubrey Plaza is a precious gem and I would die for her.

Shelli Nicole: Well, I’m just going to say it and welcome any draggings — I really, really loved it. It was hella cute, very queer from the wardrobe to the writing and also just felt quite real? There was a sideswipe of heartbreak but I just knew that Clea and crew were not going to make these girls have a traumatic ending the first time around. The straights watching simply wouldn’t know how to handle it but the queers watching it would be like “saw that coming”. I thought it was funny, sweet, well acted and told a whole story and didn’t leave many gaps.

What super stood out to me was the wardrobe: I agree with Rachel completely so when she said it was “wonderfully queer.” I too would have changed the ending and wanted Abby and Riley at a bare minimum hook up and become friends, but that doesn’t mean that I wanted Harper to be sad and heartbroken. I think she had some things that she needed to work out, and maybe she needed to do that alone. I don’t enjoy the queer girl narrative that it’s always helpful to work through your personal issues while you’re with someone, because that’s hard and not all of us are trained to do it that way. All in all though, I really dug it and I’ve watched it a few times. I sent it to my dad to watch and he texted me telling me he’s starting it — just waiting for that text that says “LESBIANS?! On MY Christmas?!?”

Drew: I knew the basic premise going into the film, but I think I was a bit surprised by the tone. There are farcical moments for sure, but it felt more slice of life than comedy. Which is fine! It just wasn’t quite as charming and funny as I would’ve hoped. But mostly? Yeah it totally met my expectations. I don’t think it was a masterpiece, but Kristen Stewart looked hot and I’d die for Aubrey Plaza and it hit the story beats I was expecting and I mostly enjoyed the experience.

Vanessa: Haha okay, I’m kind of laughing at everyone else’s reactions considering I’m the asshole here who doesn’t even like movies, so what the hell does my opinion matter, but wow, y’all are so much more generous than I feel! Perhaps it’s because I was told it was a rom-com (I literally did not even watch the trailer, I truly know nothing “about movies,” I just felt excited to watch a cute gay funny romance on my laptop screen ya know?), perhaps it’s because a friend texted me before I watched it complaining about how much they hated it, perhaps I’m just too harsh but… I truly hated it.

It made me SAD. It was not funny, it was deeply painful and very, very difficult to watch! I know from twitter dot com that reactions to this film are very polarizing — I’ve actually seen a lot of people share my reaction, but I’ve definitely also seen tons of people who loved it and of course there has also been backlash to the backlash… I guess it wouldn’t be a queer movie if there wasn’t a ton of semi-stressful queer discourse, right? ;) I just did not see where in the narrative arc the writers gave me any reason to understand why Abby and Harper’s relationship was GOOD, you know?

The opening montage, chronicling the first year of their relationship, was my favorite part, because it felt HAPPY and like at least I understood in a vague way why they wanted to be together. The rest of the film was honestly so bleak; I watched with my housemate who was equally horrified and they put it this way: “Where was the sparkle?” And I want to know that! The only time I felt a sparkle of holiday rom-com energy in the film was the scene with Riley and Abby singing with the drag queens. That was beautiful. I’d watch a whole movie that took place within that scene tbh.

Christina: It was a little disappointing for me—I had seen the discourse flying all over the TL, so I was prepared for it to be a little less charming than the trailer made it seem. It was frustrating, because with a few tweaks I really could have gotten on board, even though the “ooops hahaha sorry I didn’t actually come out despite telling you I did!!” plot was not my favorite thing. If they had given us more time with Abby and Harper up top, so we got to know them and their relationship, I probably wouldn’t have spent the whole time wondering why Abby thought Harper was worth all this. And like, honestly, if the story ended up with Riley and Abby together….I mean is there anything gayer than breaking up with your girlfriend for her ex??

Shelli Nicole: update on my fathers review:

I’m gonna get that nigga to go to pride with me one day or at least wear rainbow cuff links during pride month.

How did you feel about the whiteness of the film, both in front of and behind the camera?

Rachel Charlene Lewis: God, it was so fucking white. I’ve come to expect that from queer films, like, the only thing that can be “wrong” with them is that they’re gay, so otherwise they’re rich/white/etc. In general, I wasn’t shocked by how white it was, but I really didn’t like the way it portrayed the two mixed kids in the family. I also wish the characters themselves had been willing to say, on screen, that their family was super white and clearly using these babies to look ~diverse~ for the dad’s campaign.

Malic: I knew from the trailer and from my experience watching Christmas movies that this film would be oh-so-very white, but I had no idea how aggressive that whiteness would be. This film is nearly all white faces. It’s like the creators went out of their way to make sure that white people and white culture were at the forefront.

Stef: Yeah, the treatment of the kids made me uncomfortable, but something about this did seem like what an authentic Terrible White Family™ would do?

Shelli Nicole: Same Malic, I knew that this film was going to be so very white, it’s not something that they tried to hide. They casted KStew in the lead role for fucks sake, what did y’all think we was going to get? When it came to them sprinkling in diversity…..just no. Also, were the kids supposed to be like a mulatto Wednesday and Pugsley? Because I think they were trying to do that and it just came off weird. It was quite white and I think it became even more so when the political element sort of snuck it’s way in. Having Clea behind it just was the caucasian cherry on top but with her at the helm, I was ready for what was coming. I’m basically saying that they never tried to hide it, it was overt and present from trailer to release and that’s honestly all I ask of white people — just be upfront with what you’re doing and I’ll have more respect.

Drew: This was one of my issues with The Intervention. That movie has an ensemble cast of all white people and it’s about them spending the weekend at a big house in Savannah, Georgia… Not great! So to say I wasn’t surprised by the cast list of this is an understatement. I think it’s clear based on these two movies this is what Clea DuVall’s world looks like so I don’t trust her to write characters that aren’t white. But she’s the one getting to make the big budget lesbian Christmas movie. So that’s a bummer, you know?

Vanessa: I agree with everything everyone has already said, but I will add — while attempting not to spoil anything — that I really hated the choice to make the mixed kids do the thing they did at the mall. That just seemed like a really unnecessary plot point in a slew of shitty choices the writers made for those two characters in particular.

Shelli Nicole: Yeah, I think they were trying to add to the weirdo factor of them and also at the same time trying to make it a “Those darn kids!!” Kinda thing but — nah. It does make me wonder if they had any black writers or interns in the room who maybe would have spoken up and been like “Hey um — maybe let’s not make it them.”

Christina: For the most part I am fine with white people writing the white reality they live in—I’d much rather let people of color write and direct their own stories than have to sit through mistreated characters of color via white writers. I think the portrayal of the twins proves my point! I kind of liked that they were… creepy evil twins instead of the angelic kind of mixed kids that white people seem to feel like will “fix” racism, but they felt just… tossed in a way that didn’t really make sense for me?

What would you have liked to see more of or even less of through the film?

Rachel Charlene Lewis: More: Aubrey Plaza, laughing, cuddling, smiling, time with the resolution. Less: weird shitty moments between the love interests that made their power dynamic seem deeply trash.

Valerie Anne: More Aubrey Plaza, yes! More Jane!! I loved Jane!!! Also I love watching Allison Brie body slam people, turns out. More Harper having to work to rebuild Abby’s trust. She fucked up so much so hard and I don’t think 1.5 speeches was really enough to fix it.

Malic: More humor. More affection. Also I think that Abby and Harper should have broken up.

Stef: So much more Aubrey Plaza in a blazer and so much less Connor. I wasn’t expecting a LOT by way of character development, but I thought it was weird how they just gave Abby and Harper these careers and then never mentioned them again? We saw a lot about the patient and loving way Abby cared for Harper, but never really got a clear understanding of really why, or much about what Harper felt for Abby. The reconciliation just was not enough for me.

Shelli Nicole: More Aubrey Plaza. More Aubrey Plaza in blazers. More Aubrey Plaza giving smoldering nervous dykey looks while in said blazers. She stole every scene and she looks beautiful. MALIC, I know you are used to me screaming at you in all caps by now but YESSSSSSSS!!! Again, I wanted them to break up. I thought it was going to happen too, it’s not me saying I wanted a sad ending because them breaking up doesn’t necessarily mean it would call for one. I could have done without so many references to closets both in the script and with the physical acting. I get it — Dykes, Closets, fumbly experiences, secrets, like…I get it. I also loved the Josh Hartnett shoutout — I see you Clea.

Drew: Yes, in agreement with everyone. More Aubrey Plaza. Obviously. And then I just wish the film had committed to being a more serious dramedy about the dynamics on display and with that not had the “in a bow” happy ending. OR committed to being a holiday romcom and then had more humor and a lighter tone.

Vanessa: Yeah I guess I wanted this movie to be… different? If it was a rom-com, I would have liked a different plot. Just something fun and silly and slapstick, shenanigans ensue, etc. Like my housemate said, something with a holiday sparkle. If, like Drew said, it had leaned into being a dramedy, I would’ve liked a more convincing first act to make me understand why Harper and Abby work together and how they both care for each other, and I would’ve liked a longer climax/resolution to try to work through the honestly very traumatic subject matter of the film! Other things I wanted less of: the weird obsession with calling Abby an orphan, Connor, the bar named Frattys. Things I wanted more of: Aubrey Plaza duhhhhhh, Dan Levy, the fish subplot, A BREAK UP BETWEEN HARPER AND ABBY.

Christina: More Dan Levy in incredible coats, more time to get to know why Harper was worth all of this pain and suffering, A BETTER WIG FOR HARPER MY ACTUAL GOD.

Shelli Nicole: Christina, I don’t know why I didn’t bring that up before but it just was — sitting there? At the big party it looked like someone finally combed it but before that — my goodness.

Have you ever taken someone home for the Holidays (or been bought home)? How did it go? Did you find any similarities to your experience in the film?

Rachel Charlene Lewis: I have! It’s been… fine? But I’ve never dated anyone who brought me home where I could be GAY and In Love With Them. I’ve always had to tone it down, and it’s lowkey a traumatizing experience. I wish Happiest Season had had more time to really sit with how it’s not just a single event; it’s this weird lifelong issue you have to deal with that doesn’t get easier just because time has passed or because the family has decided not to hate you.

Malic: I have a few times, and it’s been fine. I’m grateful to have parents who are fine with most aspects of my queer identity (my mom even got matching Christmas pajamas for my ex and me). I like having partners around my family members, even the ones who are less comfortable with queer stuff. I think it’s important to show my younger relatives that cousin Malic is very queer and very happy with their life.

I’ve never dealt with anything like what I saw in Happiest Season, at least not around the holidays. I have dated people who were closeted, so maybe that’s why this movie brought up so much for me.

Stef: During my first deeply messy relationship with a woman, I was brought along on a family trip without said family being aware of the whole situation. I was very young and in love and confused and heartbroken and deeply upset, and I dealt with it very poorly, as one might expect! I got blackout drunk and ended up having a full-on panic attack, crying and screaming on a boardwalk in the rain. Ultimately I made things very awkward with some cousins who had definitely figured out what was up. Probably in this particular situation, the right thing to do would have been to not bring me on this trip in the first place.

In general, I have a pretty good track record with my partners’ parents, because I am polite and offer to help with dishes. Moms love me. I only recently introduced my parents to someone I’d been dating for the first time, and it went medium OK? Nobody really asked too many questions or had too great a time; I think it will be a while before I try that particular move again.

Shelli Nicole: Never. I have never even introduced my parents to anyone I have dated, even when I was still in the closet. But just like with KStew in the film, other people’s parents love me. I razzle dazzle them out of their socks and they ask about me for years to come because I am charming, pretty and have manners to make you melt. HOWEVER, those are the parents of my friends, not someone I’m dating. I was forcibly (literally) bought home in my first relationship with a woman. Not just for the holiday but every weekend for the entirety of our relationship. This was also the same woman who threatened me in a bunch of ways until I came out to my mother, I did but I didn’t tell her I had a girlfriend.

When my mom came to visit I told her we were going to have dinner with my “friend” at her place — and when we showed up my ex invited her whole family without telling me. It was so horrible and I escaped to the bathroom where I was told this was all my fault. Her family cared for me and I had a better relationship with her sisters than I did with her but yeah, that shit is hard. Family is wild you know, so it’s best to not bring anyone home without giving them as much info and heads up as possible about what your family dynamic is. That way, when you get a moment to yourselves you can both talk about how wild it is and make your connection that much sweeter.

Drew: I’ve brought two partners home and also met their families. But when that first happened I was supposedly a cis straight guy so that’s a very different dynamic. Honestly, as a trans woman, I’ve had experiences where it’s clear someone I’m on a date with does not want their roommates or friends to know I’m there as a date. That’s what I thought of way more. So maybe it’ll be like that but worse next time I meet someone’s family! Who knows what the future holds!

Vanessa: You know what, I just started writing this deeply personal thing about my family, and then I got freaked out and deleted the whole thing. I will say I think “bringing someone home for the holidays” is very intense and can be really awful for the person not part of the nuclear family, especially if you and your family have unresolved issues, and perhaps that is why I reacted so strongly to this movie. I think Harper’s choice to remain closeted around her family — while my therapist would definitely call it “a betrayal of self” — was absolutely her choice to make for as long as she needed to. Family shit and parental expectations are COMPLICATED. But I think it’s irresponsible and downright cruel to bring a partner into a dynamic like that if you aren’t going to be able to protect her from your family’s shit (which is why I think Harper is awful — not because she’s closeted, that is a neutral fact).

Uhhh, but back to the question… My very first girlfriend brought me home to her parents’ house a lot and I got to know them pretty well and they loved me. One Hanukkah I was visiting and we were getting ready for their Hanukkah party, and my girlfriend and I hopped in the shower together. Why was her family cool with this? I don’t know. Why were we cool with this? TRULY DO NOT KNOW. Anyhow, we were really just showering, no sexy stuff, because we were at her parents’ house and also in a rush to get ready, when suddenly I hear the door open and HER MOM ENTERS AND SUDDENLY THERE IS FREEZING COLD WATER ALL OVER ME BECAUSE HER MOTHER HAS HURLED A BUCKET FULL OF ICE WATER OVER THE SHOWER CURTAIN IN AN EFFORT TO GET US TO HURRY UP. And my girlfriend acted like it was totally normal and like I was the jerk because I was mad and couldn’t “get over it” in time for the party!!! Anyway the moral of the story is never go home with your girlfriend for the holidays, I think. That’s gotta be the moral of my story and also of Happiest Season.

Christina: I have brought a girlfriend home for a weekend, not the Holidays, but I have never done the whole meet the parents thing for the Holidays. I am deeply single! I give great parent! Someone bring me home to charm them!!!!

That’s gonna be it for us but let us know how you felt about the film in the comments below!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

the team

auto has written 730 articles for us.


  1. It definitely had “Discrimination is not a thing in 2020….All you need to be happy is supportive family!” vibes.

  2. I… enjoyed it, if not just because I get messy over literally any crumb of representation (especially when real-life queers are involved, and it isn’t intended to be a sad story where someone’s girlfriend inevitably dies in the end). BUT, that said, it weirdly felt like it was “for” the straights with gay decoration on top? I don’t know. I echo everyone here saying Aubrey Plaza was the best and that I’m tired of coming out stories, but I feel like those kinds of stories are what the straights like most about ~queer cinema~. A bummer.

  3. “But I think it’s irresponsible and downright cruel to bring a partner into a dynamic like that if you aren’t going to be able to protect her from your family’s shit (which is why I think Harper is awful — not because she’s closeted, that is a neutral fact).”

    This part! And it was just not addressed at all, leaving me feeling very dissatisfied with this movie. Kristen is a great actor, her heartbreaknfelt very real, and i loved Aubrey Plaza, but I could not take Harper just abandoning her girlfriend like that. And also how the film used the children. And also Dan Levy’s shtick is old. (And who thinks it’s funny for a queer woman to be mainsplained to about patriarchy by a white dude? Not this queer woman).

    I thought this would be funnier. Kinder, somehow.

    But I spent most of the movie just yelling “you are awful” at Harper and her family and wishing Abby had just run off with Riley because they both at least seemed like grown-ups.

  4. “I give great parent!” hahaha, that sounds great Christina!

    I agree with a lot of these points…I’m on the “I liked the movie” side of things. But I also would have enjoyed a regular holiday rom-com where it wasn’t centered about the coming-out story. Like, we could have a gay couple with other holiday problems in their life!

    I haven’t gone to a partner’s home or brought anyone home yet. I’m still a single gal- but I know that I’m great with parents & family, so I would totally be up for going home with a partner for the holidays!

    My family has been supportive as I’ve come out, but it would probably be an adjustment if I brought a partner home with me aha! My brother just brought a longterm gf home for the holidays last year- and it went well- but it was definitely a weird situation at first. I like her, it’s just that my family is small & not used to having extra people!

    I’ll get there eventually…Watching this movie, I wasn’t particularly moved to bring anyone home, I was more interested in being brought into someone else’s home. Or to celebrate Christmas with a partner on our own! I imagine it would be lovely to just be cozy & open presents & be lazy and watch tv with a girlfriend in our own apartment one day :)

    • While I liked parts, I came away from the movie feeling major bummed. I definitely thought it would be more fun, and i realized i was counting on it getting me in the holiday spirit. Instead it felt like a grim reminder to not get your hopes too high about simple festivities because you’ll be left disappointed. *insert the Simpsons “gee kids, lighten up back there” gif* I guess I’ll just have to bake or something tomorrow!

  5. My conspiracy theory is that they shot an ending where Abby and Riley run away from all this terribleness together and live happily ever after, but some old white guy in a suit vetoed that ending, so they had to do the “wallpaper over all the problems” version. The whole tone of the end was different from the rest of the movie, and it was so odd and disappointing. But also watching K-Stew and Aubrey Plaza grump through the holidays kind of made it all worth it.

    • Yes! This is exactly what I kept saying to my wife. This movie felt like it wanted to be gay in so many of the right ways, but then one of the studio execs came in and said “oh no we can’t have that.” It feels like the studio ended up dictating a lot of what they thought the movie should be.

  6. I’m always a little disappointed to see people complaining that a lesbian movie is a coming out story. It’s like… yeah, some of us have been out for years and this isn’t relevant to us anymore, but there are new people coming out every day. There are people who have to be closeted now for whatever reason, and it’s important for them to see movies about people like them. Are there a disproportionate number of coming out movies compared to “already out and happy” movies? Yeah. But I think the solution there is not that people stop making coming out movies, but that they start making more queer movies of all kinds.

    • I’m not against coming out stories, but I am against something that has been advertised as a fun Christmas romcom actually being a miserable coming out story.

    • I am a person who has to be closeted now and for the foreseeable future and I also hated that this was a coming out story. I think the problem with coming out narratives is not just that they are so commonplace, but that they present a linear story of coming out. You face struggles, are afraid of coming out, then you come out and everything gets much better immediately. It feels so divorced from my reality that I hate to see it in movies. I am okay with it in TV shows cause then we have to deal with the aftermath but with movies that’s where the story ends

  7. I wasn’t prepared for how dark that movie was going to get. I wanted cute and silly and did not feel that for most of the movie.

    Aubrey Plaza stole the show and had much better chemistry with Kstew than McKenzie Davis. That scene in the drag bar was my favourite thing in the whole movie and I could watch that over and over again. And I would have loved an ending where Abby and Riley get together

    If Harper and Abby were going to stay together, I would have loved to see Harper do a grand gesture at the party and come out and say how much she loves Abby in front of everyone and then have Sloane and Jane support her.

    I think the thing that was most disappointing was that it wouldn’t have taken much to make it a better movie

  8. I feel like this movie really puts the queer viewer in a “pick your trauma” type of situation?? Like, if you have been the more Out partner of someone whose WASP-y family doesn’t know about or fully acknowledge you (i.o.w. if you are a KStew), then chances are it’ll be a triggering film for you! At least, it was kind of like that for me.
    On the other hand, if you are someone who came from that buttoned-up, surface-happy family and had real trouble coming out to them (i.o.w. a McDavis, a nickname I just came up with), this may be a nice depiction of what happens when it goes ok! Bonus if you actually like Christmas.
    I loved Aubrey Plaza and Dan Levy, and, painfully white though it was, I did enjoy the whole cast. But Parker and Abby should not have gotten back together! Or at the very least, not without some serious follow-up conversations.

  9. Just saw it today – don’t have any deep thoughts to add, definitely not as funny as expected but great cast. Definitely on the the Harper and Abby should have broken up bandwagon.

    I truly think there is at the very least a buddy movie with KStew and Aubrey Plaza that needs to be made

  10. I enjoyed the movie. It is a balancing act to make a movie which resonates with a majority straight target audience and the queer community it represents. Overall all the queer characters in this film were very human, humanity is flawed! I think it is hard not to empathise with where they are coming from, even if it leads them to make very questionable messy decisions.

    • Yeah, I agree! How do you make a movie that will bring in the straight audience and please queers as well? It’s a balance that isn’t going to make everyone happy.

  11. I saw it last night and had some time to think about it. Everything has been already said and I agree with a lot and with everyone’s infatuation with Riley. I don’t think that they should have ended up together because it is a Christmas Movie! And this is the major problem, the targeted straight audience. White dude protagonists behave badly in these type of movies and still get the girl in the end. That’s what happened here as well. Harper is a shitty person and a shitty sister. The fact that she was closeted is not such a factor, a lot of people still are unfortunately.

  12. Why are straight people so interested in coming out stories and not other LGBT stories?!

    My theory is that these stories give the power and attention to them, it’s all about how they react. When LGBT people are just living our lives straight people’s opinions are less important to us and some straight people don’t like that.

    • I think it is a myth that straight people are “so interested” in coming out stories. Look at all the gay fanfiction written primarily by straight women for straight women. Overwhelmingly there is no coming out as LGBT, everyone is pretty much bi or cool with whatever in that stuff. I can think of films and TV shows by straight creators with gay characters who are not in the closet or coming out, and films and TV shows by LGBT creators that feature coming out stories.

      • I don’t think most straight people really seek out (non-awards-bait) gay movies at all, unless it’s teenage girls obsessing over cute gay boys (incidentally also what most of the gay fanfic written by straight people is about; the f/f fic I see is usually written by queer women). I don’t understand the suggestion that this movie was in any way made for a straight audience, regardless. I’m just thinking about something like Jenny’s Wedding where so much of the movie was devoted to the mom and her feelings about her daughter being gay. Here we only got one short scene where the parents acknowledged that having daughters who were afraid to be honest with them was a parenting fail, and even that was about both daughters, not just the gay one. And all of the jokes, even the visual ones like Abby looking incredibly gay in that gray suit and nobody picking up on it, were at the expense of the clueless straights. It felt like Jenny’s Wedding was trying to preach acceptance to the het, and I didn’t get that from this movie.

  13. Yes, the main characters were quite white. They seemed to try and balance it out with POC supporting characters and that might not have been very successful.
    But I’ve been there, twice, having to be the friend at the family Christmas of my living in girlfriend, who was not out. And when she came out, they stopped talking to her for 10 years.
    So excuse me for loving this movie, warts and all. The performances were spot on, it made the heart break devastating.
    It is a Christmas movie like I’ve never seen and I loved it. It doesn’t have to be the only lesbian Christmas movie, I hope we get more diversity in the years to come, but it spoke to me in a very personal way. Autostradle writers in this round table are being a bit too negative.
    I’ve watched it three times in 2 days now. It was fun. I love the happy ending. We queers can be too cynical sometimes because we’ve been dealt a difficult hand and it has been hard, but why not have a happy ending for once?
    I found The kids are all right way more problematic, to be honest, and that was nominated to the oscars.

    • Is Harper supposed to be Clea DuVall then? I understood that she wanted to tell her own story, but I now wonder why, as the protagonist is so unlikeable. Was this movie a way of justifying her own bad behavior?

  14. I like the movie. One part that really resonated while I watched it was seeing Abby trying so hard to make a good impression on these people who totally weren’t worth it. For me, that was a familiar queer feeling—working to be extra perfect to be accepted by people who are actually not great and need to be doing a lot of work on themselves. I like that the antagonists in the movie were this awful white political family and being closeted. Both of those things felt true to me. I loved when Abby fully got that it was all bullshit and was ready for the ending because it’s billed as a Christmas romcom.

    (I also decided that the kids have been struggling with their parents’ separation and that’s why they were such a mess—similar to the evil twins in The Devil Wears Prada but hopefully only temporarily :)

  15. Ok, so Aubrey, Kristen, and Dan will be the only reasons I watch this movie again. Would’ve loved a scene with him trying to wrangle cats. Harper was awful, I’m over coming out stories, and even more tired of the ‘I lied and told you I was out but I’m not plotline’.

    What was happening with the black folks? My people deserve better. The black kids are thieves and the black guy cheats on his wife at her family’s home. And at the end they perform for the white people. Just no. Hell no.

    Personally, I would not be with someone who wasn’t out and I certainly wouldn’t stay after they lied to me about it. I refuse to be anyone’s secret. I did that in high school. For survival. Never again. Abby and Riley definitely should’ve ended up together. And Harper could’ve found someone else.

    The reconciliation was too easy because Harper was seriously cruel to Abby. Overall, it wasn’t the best and it wasn’t the worst.

    • Also, as someone in a mixed race marriage in a white political family- trust me, there are a lot of jokes around our marriage and frequent discussions about race and cultural differences etc. I hate when they whitewash away difference in movies. Being in a multicultural marriage isn’t window dressing for your white narrative. You can’t just take a white character and add some skin coloring. They are a whole, complex person. At least get a writer on the team that can write from that perspective

  16. Movie was fine, just not at all what I expected. Some marketing genius decided to position it as a romcom, which I really don’t think it is.

  17. My Happiest Season review

    Spoilers abound (watch the movie and make up your own mind before checking out my review)

    I have a strict “no Christmas stuff until December 1” rule. I love holiday music, but I don’t want to hear it until the turkey leftovers are eaten. I enjoy decorating for the season, but I always wait until the first December weekend to travel down memory lane as I put up the family momentos of years gone by. So what does it take for me to watch a Christmas movie on Thanksgiving night? Excitement of a lesbian holiday tale written and directed by Clea Duvall starring Kristen Stewart and many other big names!

    I’ve been looking forward to finally having a holigay classic of our very own. I should preface by saying I eagerly watched Seasons of Love in 2019 from Tellofilms. I appreciated the deaf representation. I enjoyed seeing Dominique Provost and a host of female performers take on this attempt, but I felt it fell short in both writing and acting strength. Cut to fall 2020 when we all needed something to lift our spirits.

    The buzz surrounding Happiest Season has been palpable. I read promos, reviews, and teasers, joyous that it seemed to be resonating with the lesbian community. Praise has poured in for Clea bringing us a bigger budget feature debuting on such a mainstream platform as Hulu. Cheers went up for seeing Kristen in a gay role. I was personally looking forward to seeing a film set in Pittsburgh as I am from western PA myself. This much -anticipated film was released November 25, the day before my wife and I were spending our first Thanksgiving at home alone, without being surrounded by her large, loving family. Despite my hardened rule about all things Christmas, these elements led us to our turkey day evening viewing.

    I will begin with what it got right. I think the best part of this movie is Dan Levy in his comedic turn as the supportive gay best friend we all have or wish we had. His humor and wisdom are entertaining and comforting. I delighted in every moment he was onscreen, though the animal lover in me feared for the well-being of his non-human charges. I loved when he showed up for Abby, and I would have been satisfied if he had whisked her back to Pittsburgh and the movie had ended. However, he encourages her to go back to Harper in the 11 o clock moment at the gas station. As the caring, advice-filled gbf, I think this was out of character for his otherwise perfect persona.

    Were there other things to like about this film? Yes, it had some humor and heart. It had relatable, awkward, family moments that those of us who had families that did not provide an environment where we could be ourselves could see truth. It had Aubrey Plaza in a delightful turn as an ex I wanted to see more of. This is where the problems begin. In most lesbian films, I root for the main couple and want to see them end up happily ever after. I would dread the ex swooping in to be friendly with the newer girlfriend. That usually spells trouble and conflict. In this movie, I loved seeing Abby and Riley together. They had the easy connection of two people who are comfortable in themselves and have both been burned by Harper’s lies. I found myself wanting Abby to get to know Riley better because she treated her kinder than her girlfriend did.

    Here is where I begin to take issue with the relationship of our two leads. I want to cheer them on. I want to see them live happily ever after, and let’s face it, we know they do because after all, this is meant to be, at its heart, a cheesy holiday flick. The problem is that at its core, this relationship is not a happy one. It is based in lies, control, and fantasy. Harper is one person in Pittsburgh with Abby and quite another with her family at home. Sure, we all act a little different around our parents. However, the treatment that Abby endures is horrible. The trouble is that we see Harper showing her controlling side right from the first scene. We hear her foisting her opinions onto Abby regarding her love of Christmas. Instead of respecting that Abby has a feeling about the holiday due to her past trauma, Harper tries to change her. Rather than coming across as an attempt to make Abby happy, it feels selfish and controlling. I should have known when Harper makes her climb up onto someone’s roof that Abby was in trouble. I should have seen the signs when Harper leaves Abby to hang and ultimately fall by herself that she would not be there to save her later when things got tough. And yet, I kept watching, hoping to find a relationship to root for.

    I do not believe that relationship exists in the confines of this film. I think Harper’s behavior is appalling. I would first like to note, that I have no issue with Harper not being out to her family. Everyone has their own journey, and I totally agree with Dan’s character John when he gives Abby this speech. The trouble is that it’s Harper who needs to hear this speech, not Abby. I take issue with Harper having lied to Abby about coming out and telling her family about their relationship months before. I dislike that she said they were accepting when she hadn’t said a word. What about their relationship made Harper think she needed to create this fiction to tell Abby? I cringed every time she lied and then tried to apologize to Abby. I disliked her ridiculous behavior, physically fighting with her sister. I couldn’t stand her leaving Abby behind despite having invited her to spend the holiday with her family. I was horrified at how her family spoke to Abby. I wanted Abby to go back to Riley when Harper stayed in the bar with her “friends” instead of being with Abby. This is not how I would want to be treated by a partner whom I loved. And yet, poor Abby has to awkwardly take it. I just felt bad for her the entire time.

    This movie was not what I wanted it to be. I did not feel good about Abby and Harper’s reunion. I didn’t even feel good about the rapid turnaround of Harper’s entire family. It didn’t feel realistic in any meaningful way. I would have rather watched a brief lead up of Harper feeling that she couldn’t be herself and then an hour of her family processing and finally accepting their relationship. It would have felt more honest than the quick wrapping up of the loose ends.

    It did not escape my notice that while Abby initially intended to propose on Christmas, according to Tipper’s Instagram in the final credits, the engagement didn’t occur until the following October. I’d like to think that trust had to be earned and the relationship was rebuilt on a more solid and equal foundation. However based on the character of Harper and the writing of this story, maybe she just didn’t tell her family for eight months about what occurred right there in her childhood bedroom that Christmas. It would track just as likely.

    We have an endless stream of straight holiday films to choose from. There are hundreds of cheesy Hallmark and Lifetime formulaic tropes to view. Happiest Season doesn’t fit in this genre because it takes itself too seriously. The sibling rivalry and physical altercations don’t play as slapstick but rather awful dysfunction. If Abby and Harper were a straight couple, It would still fail. Consider if Harper was a man who invited, then uninvited, his girlfriend to meet his family for Christmas. Imagine if he was, say ashamed, that she was from a lower class than his (because, let’s face it, part of Harper’s shame stems from classism). If a man tried to hide that the woman he brought home was actually his girlfriend and he treated her the way Harper treats Abby, I’d have turned the movie off long before we ever get to the “happy ending”. I would think of him as a controlling, self-centered asshole who puts her through some serious mental abuse. Not to mention, his physically violent actions toward his siblings. As an audience, we would not put up with his crap and certainly not feel sympathy for him! So why do I have to feel sympathy for Harper and want to see Abby take her back and forgive? The truth is, I don’t.

    I really wanted to like this movie. I broke my lifelong holiday timing rule to check it out. Nonetheless, the story was uncomfortable and awkward. The acting was solid. They did well with the script they were given. I give props to the costumer who put Kristen in that outfit at the Christmas Eve party. No complaints there. I choose to keep that image of Kristen and Aubrey side by side at that party as my fondest memory of this film.

    To those who enjoyed this film, I am glad you found delight in a holigay movie. To those who didn’t, let’s continue this path and keep writing stories about us to put out into the mainstream. Give us more to love or hate; just give us more.

    (Note: Netflix also has put out a lesbian themed holiday attempt: A New York Christmas Wedding. I haven’t heard as much buzz about this one, and the only review I’ve read wasn’t too favorable beyond touting the diversity of the cast. I also hear it deals with two timelines:one with the girl and one with the guy. While I intend to watch it because as stated above, yay gay representation, it doesn’t sound like something worthy of breaking my Christmastime rule. I’ve learned from my mistakes. )

  18. I expected almost all the shortcomings, but the one thing I wanted was just a little bitty conversation at the end. About how it wasn’t Harper being in the closet that was the problem – it was that she treated her girlfriend like shit and had a pattern of doing so. Just a little little lesbian processing was all I needed

    • That was definitely the problem and it bugged me it was framed as an issue of her not being out and needing to come out. I needed much more than some processing afterwards though.

  19. poc here, loved it. so much resonated with me – horrible family dynamics, different coming-out statuses in a relationship, effing up terribly with the person you love and being super lucky to get a second chance. i also loved the budding queer friendship between riley and abby, follow up please. though i wasnt expecting it to be this heartbreaking, very much enjoyed it.

  20. They had a chance to make a classic movie about chosen family coming to the rescue and a hot romance between Abby and Riley…and they chose this?!? I feel like this sends so many bad messages to young queers like it’s ok to hold out while someone treats you like Harper treats Abby. Plus- going to a hometown Main Street and ditching your city fiancée for the sweet small town love interest is a Hallmark trope. Classic Christmas.

    But then I wonder, do a lot of us hate Harper because we see a little of ourselves in her? Her reasons for not coming out to her family completely parallel mine and her family was very similar to my own. I would never treat anyone the way she treats Abby, but her closet is too familiar.

    • I think my issue might more be that I see none of myself in her. I’ve never been in that situation, so I can’t begin to understand… And I also wouldn’t treat people like that. That last part seems like a fair thing to judge her for, while the latter is a limitation of perspective.

  21. I felt like they missed a BIG opportunity by not having a Moment with Harper and Abby at the queer bar. But also I would have been mad if the Moment that Abby and Riley shared had been tarnished by rude Harper.

  22. You all nailed it! thank you for this roundtable, every thought and critique that i had was mentioned here :)

  23. Thank you so much to whoever in the comments mentioned A New York Christmas Wedding! We watched it tonight after Happiest Season, and honestly, despite the music, costumes, acting, casting and production values not being quite so good… so so so much happier afterwards. Some really powerful moments, way more diversity, uplifting message, genuine Christmassy feel good on the Things That Matter. 😊

    • That was me :-) I’m glad to hear that despite its shortcomings, your takeaway was more joyful. I will check it out once December is here!

  24. Rewrite the high school ex character into Zoey, a trans lesbian who just so happens to come home this particular Christmas. Have Harper and Zoey get together and Abby and Riley get together. Done.

  25. I’m such an Aubrey Plaza fan, that just being able to watch her playing a queer woman made my heart go crazy (And also her outfits GOD). Still, not even THAT was enough for me to stand this movie. Harper’s attitude was so wrong and I couldn’t bear to watch the apology speech scene. I was disappointed, but not surprised tho…I find that this type of toxic behavior is VERY common among these kinds of movies.

  26. This movie was disappointing. It was not very romantic or funny and Harper made terrible decisions. And Harper needing to come out to her family was not the problem, it’s putting someone in the position of being a secret and not telling them the full story. I would love to see a movie with just Jane, Paige, and Riley, and whatever Dan Levy’s characters name was. The only thing I laughed out loud at was the fish scene with him!

  27. It’s tricky because the traditional heteronormy rom-com structure is that the couple at the beginning of the movie never ends up together, while queer movies are usually true-love-triumphs-over-all-odds kind of stories. I didn’t quite know which one this wanted to be.

  28. My least favorite part was the father. He gave a speech about keeping the “depravity” out of their community by upholding faith, family, and tradition? And then its mentioned that Harper helps him write his speeches? Abbey dear, don’t dump her being closeted, dump her for being a Republican.

  29. Is it just me or were the twins staged and shot to mimic the twins from The Shining? They are constantly shown in that stiff, shoulder-to-shoulder, blank-faced manner.

  30. My wife and I just watched this and we both had PTSD like reactions to it. Having been kept in the closet by an ex, I know the disrespect felt…and my wife has gone through it too. The fact that Abby took Harper back devalues any respect that I had for that character. And maybe this was meta…you could argue that Abby took Harper back because she was filling the hole left by her own family? Still. SO disappointed…

  31. Okay I just watched A New York Christmas Wedding and I don’t know how anyone liked this. The only actual good thing I can say is that it was a little more diverse.

  32. I think it’s very impressive how a fun, light-hearted Christmas romcom has managed to dig up the buried traumas of all my queer friends. Thanks Clea, I hated it

    • Haha! I didn’t actually hate it (aside from Harper being trash) but your comment is so true and made me lol. I was almost shaking during parts of it because of the retraumetization. Jeeeesus. I think the marketing of it as a straight up rom com was maybe the problem there.

  33. I finally got a chance to watch this last night, and the outfit Abby wears to the white elephant party may be the best part of the movie. That, and Aubrey Plaza. There were a handful of funny moments (mostly Dan Levy’s one liners) but overall it was really disappointing.

    Harper is SO AWFUL to Abby throughout the entire movie – as soon as she revealed that she’d lied to Abby about coming out to her parents I was like, OH HELL NO. Not being ready to come out to your family is one thing, I don’t begrudge Harper that because I think we’ve all been there. But lying to your partner about it, then inviting her home for Christmas and dropping on her IN THE CAR WHEN YOU ARE ALMOST THERE that you didn’t actually come out to your family after all is a deeply shitty thing to do. And then she just keeps doing shitty things, and Abby keeps forgiving her, and I hate it. The message that queer people should tolerate being treated poorly by partners who are incapable of dealing with their own baggage is so toxic.

  34. Can someone please direct me to where I can buy every single outfit Audrey Plaza wore in the movie and Kristen’s final party outfit? Please and thank you.

  35. I watched it twice, of course, and liked it more the second time, I think because my expectations were different. I feel like they could’ve tweaked it a little and made it kinder, but I’ll still rewatch and enjoy it for what it is.

  36. I felt the movie was fine, but I increasingly dislike it as I think about it. Saccharine, sparkly and somewhat hollow like most holiday movies, but gay!

    Character and relationship development were surprisingly weak—I never felt like I believed the Abby/Harper relationship, or at least that they were at the point where Abby was planning to propose. Their careers were mentioned in such offhand ways and otherwise largely unreferenced in a way that felt… weird? Like I’m really supposed to believe that Abby is… an art historian? And that Harper is an important journalist?

    And we’re supposed to believe that Harper’s rich family (with the exception of one sister) didn’t notice 1. that their successful daughter has a roommate or 2. has a roommate in her 1 bedroom apartment? Riley’s character was the best part of the movie — the character development of Riley was frankly an anomaly compared to the others, and Aubrey Plaza is a great actor who brought a lot to the table.

    Considering the “orphan” thing was a sizable plot point, it felt weird and incomplete. So much of the “comedy” around her treatment from Abby’s family just doesn’t make a lot of sense for a seemingly wealthy/financially stable adult who lost her parents as an adult. As someone who has been the “orphan” friend brought home by well-meaning friends to their WASPy families, and has been treated like Abby was (accused of stealing, openly pitied, showcased as proof of goodness, etc) it felt a bit like punching down. I might have felt differently if there was any kind of meaningful dialogue about it between Abby and Harper (or even Harper and her family) as salve to the additional trauma of the particular cruelty Abby is being put through, but it wasn’t there. Personally, the whole orphan thing felt like jokes about people like me for everyone (but people like me) to laugh at.

    I got the impression that the plot point about always wanting the sister’s husband and kids included in photos was a similar “joke”—intended for an audience of people who don’t personally relate to being the subject to find funny rather than any kind of meaningful inclusion for the people who would actually relate.

    To me, there really wasn’t enough to redeem Harper’s character within her arc—she invited Abby to Christmas on a whim and then didn’t have the wherewithal to make up an excuse to cancel, waited until the very last minute to tell Abby she hadn’t come out, didn’t adequately prepare Abby for the scale and intensity of the holiday, introduced and perpetuated the “orphan friend” thing to her family, didn’t defend Abby to her family, didn’t support her emotionally even in private, repeatedly ignored and abandoned Abby over the holiday, etc all while knowing that Abby has avoided Christmas because she finds it traumatizing… but the ending message felt like “Sure, Harper’s behavior was cruel, but it’s just so hard! To have so much pressure! From such a rich and ambitious family! And after horribly hurting and embarrassing Abby she DID apologize! So everything’s great! Heartwarming! Christmas is saved! Daddy won his election, Mom loves Instagram, and the neglected sister gets a book deal!” Abby deserved better.

    I really like Clea Duvall as an actor and wanted this to be better than it was. I will temper any remaining faith I have in her gaze as a writer/filmmaker, but hope that whatever success her work has opens doors for people who are going to tell better, more diverse queer stories.

  37. I love Christmas movies. I love anything with lesbians (we have all sat through some D grade shit just because two women hook up at some point). And I LOVED this. I really genuinely thought it was a great holigay film. I thought they managed to cover drama while keeping the tone quite light. Aubrey Plaza <3 I did want them to end up together or at least hook up (full well knowing it wouldn't happen, because, Christmas romcom) – But thinking about it now, I feel like if Kristen Stewart and Aubrey plaza were the central relationship it would be too much queer, awkward, quirk and the queerverse would implode upon itself and maybe everything worked out as it should. Would however watch the movie with the alternate ending if they released it. On repeat.

  38. I loved it. It was funny, heartbreaking, two-worlds-colliding crazy.

    Harper and Abby 4eva !

    Loved them, loved their struggle, loved the kids finally ‘fessing up, loved Harper coming through in her own way, after being outed in a worst-nightmare scenario. Loved the deep look they gave each other at the end.


  39. I think I fell on the side of liking it. It had massive flaws, as others have pointed out, and I think a great deal of the appeal was that is was just nice to see a queer women movie that well-produced, well-acted, and big budget. I also thought it had some really relatable and well-written experience fragments amidst the less realistic overarching plot, like Dan Levy’s speech (if not in the movie’s context) and disconcerting way some people act totally differently around family. I’m actually relieved that Riley and Abby didn’t have “a moment” because I wouldn’t want to see Riley demoted to a plot device, as I think lazier writers might have done. I loved the queer solidarity.

    I’m even willing to excuse Abby going back to Harper, considering the context of a year long relationship with, I assume, much better experiences, weighed against 3 days of her being terrible. But I just wanted Abby to go home and sleep on it!!! She had a long, emotional day and deserved her rest and also wtf was Dan Levy doing signaling to her to kiss Harper??? Whenever a romantic interest has treated me badly my best friends hate them more than I do and do not forgive easily; Dan Levy’s character is truly inexplicable here. I wish the movie had let the characters take a breather for at least another 12 hours before a romcom ending.

    • Yes!!!!!! This!!!!! Wtf exactly was his problem?! I thought he’d be more understanding than that. Apparently fucking not.

  40. I really appreciate all your viewpoints!!

    Personally I think the fundamental problem of the film is that it tries to fit itself into a heteronormative genre, instead of redefining it. Assimilation is not the answer. There’s a “Christmas movie” formula that the film awkwardly tries to fit into, as you all so eloquently said already, and the movie could have been so much more…

    It would have been better if the creators of this film reimagined the genre and made the movie a safe space for queer people. It would have been nice to have a queer film that celebrated queerness instead of regurgitated internalized and externalized homophobia. Like, a queer film that made queer people feel warm and fuzzy inside, you know?

    We really need more queer stories out there that doesn’t try to fit into the cis heteronormative patriarchal white world. While the film does seem to commentate on this, it doesn’t truly succeed in breaking free from it.

    And yes, more Aubrey Plaza please. Every scene that had Aubrey Plaza in it was my favorite, she really saved this film.

  41. I didn’t mind this movie – but I think the movie misunderstood itself? The problem with Harper and Abby isn’t that Harper isn’t Out. The problem with Harper and Abby is that Harper is a selfish, thoughtless asshole. If you’re bringing your gf home to your homophobic family to pretend to be your straight friend, you better be fucking GROVELING. You should be ditching your family obligations at every opportunity to supply your girl with a steady stream of rum & cokes. And through this entire movie, Harper doesn’t just fake straight – she leaves Abby to fend for herself in unfamiliar territory. She blubbers about making it up to her, but the deed is done, Harper. You don’t deserve a second chance with Abby. Your second chance is with your next girlfriend. Riley hobbled so Abby could walk so whoever you date when Abby finally gets the courage to dump you could run.

    Anyway, I will be watching it again with my parents. I am lucky to have very supportive and open-minded parents whose reaction to my coming out was “thank god! we were worried you would die alone!” and I can already guess what scenes my mom will cry at and what emotional speech they will make at the end. Bless.

  42. So many thoughts about this movie. Agreed with most everything the panelists said! It was complicated and messy and hit me in my feels and was a trashy lesbian movie and a holiday rom com and so many things.

    Definitely add me to the list of people who the situation resonated with, in a hard way. Having been the Abby in this situation, I felt that the movie didn’t really do justice to Abby OR Harper. In a lot of ways, it felt like the movie blamed Harper for not being out more than her awful behavior, and that was a trope that I felt really overly simplified Harper’s situation. I wished that the way Dan Levy’s character framed it was more prevalent throughout the movie: when to come out to family, if ever, is such a personal and terrifying decision, and something that someone can only do when they’re ready. I don’t think the movie properly addressed at all the experience of being outed by a sibling at a huge family party??

    And at the same time, Harper’s character treated Abby horribly. Honestly, one of the plot points I found most disturbing was Riley’s story of her high school relationship with Harper. It was a small moment, but it seemed like the turning point for the whole movie that reframed Abby’s understanding of the whole situation. That kind of high school queer story is real and incredibly painful. For Harper not to have dealt with it and not to have told Abby is wild. Harper is very much an in-progress person, and even though that’s what the plot of the movie is centered on, I don’t think it really gave her space to grow or deal with her shit.

    Put me on team Abby + Riley! Can’t say enough about how incredible and queer Aubrey Plaza was!!! IMO her acting was head and shoulders above everyone else, and she and KStew had incredible chemistry. Could have watched an entire movie of the two of them talking. This is frankly the best I’ve seen Aubrey Plaza! Alison Brie was also great in her side role.

    So, a complicated movie, that hits some fun notes but doesn’t really do justice for either of its main characters. And yet, I have watched so many trash lesbian movies! My standards are very low! Ultimately, I think it actually fits very well into the messiness of lesbian movies, especially lesbian rom coms; it’s not prestige drama, but I didn’t expect it to be. On one level it was wholly unrealistic and not trying to be, and another it definitely hit some deep points of queer relationships and life – again, very in-genre for a lesbian movie to not know what it wants to be!

  43. This and Love Actually are the only Christmas romcoms I’ve ever watched. Really not my genre (I dislike Love Actually). Surprisingly enough I enjoyed it, though that may be largely because Kristen Stewart looks so good in it. Didn’t care for the dead fish jokes. Or the valorisation of marriage — I’m with John there. Did like the friendship between Abby and John and the opening credits. Overall…meh. There’s a better (gay male) version of this coming-out story in the 2000 French TV film Just a Question of Love.

Comments are closed.