Happiest Season

Happiest Season ★★★★½

I’m glad to see a mainstream Christmas lesbian film be unabashedly lesbian, a nice and wonderful and funny romcom made by and for lesbians (very clearly side-eyeing that one review that was pressed that this was a “lesbian” film and not a “queer” one, whatever the fuck that means). It filled my disillusioned-with-Christmas heart with so much love and joy and tears. It’s a great start to the season & it filled me with lots of holiday cheer (I had initially planned on starting the season with Black Christmas, just to give you an idea of where I’m at). I loved seeing such an accurate depiction of a lesbian couple (always do!), in their daily routine and the small detailed interactions, the touches & the sneaking & the love that passes through every gesture. And how that routine is broken, how it can easily be broken when it is confronted with an older, deeply-rooted, toxic routine. Christmas does bring out the worst in people! Many big events do! For many of us, it’s very stressful, and if there’s an added pressure—like having to juggle between your family and your partner—it’s even more stressful. People who are hurt and terrified make bad choices and make mistakes, and in holding on so tightly to self-preservation, they can lose what and who they hold most dear. But they are still worthy of love, and in recognizing the hurt they caused and asking for forgiveness and making amends and actually standing by those promises, they prove their worth. There is so much truth in this film, so many details I recognize from my own life, but also from my friends’ lives, and random gay people’s lives who I only talked with once or twice, and it’s wonderful to me that it can be that while also being a fun christmas film with all the silliness and tropes and exaggerations straight films have (and who remain beloved despite their glaring mishaps). Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis make such a lovely pair, the gay friendships are a delight (one, with Dan Levy (a god amongst men!!), is so lived-in, the support between them broke me and built me up again & one, with Aubrey Plaza (who has never been hotter), feels so fresh and true, that instant kinship with the only other queer person in the room, a kinship built on mutual experience and recognition), the family dynamics are both funny and devastating & the fact that they are confronted and admitted to being bad and everyone has to make amends and "come out" in their own way is a rare blessing, the entire soundtrack features exclusively LGBTQ artists, I love that it treats gay marriage as a revolutionary act & that someone challenges the concept of marriage in the same scene & that both of these ideas are treated as equally true and valid, there is so much nuance offered to a very complicated reality & it’s done with so much love and kindness and truth. And I am so happy!

And I would stay happy & blissful, staying in this joyous moment that I shared with my mom and (long-distance) with my partner & feeling the christmas spirit, if there wasn’t such an aggressive negative reaction to this (mainly from people who are not lesbians :))) ). In an ideal world, I would only feel the happiness this brought me, I would be able to mute and/or block out all the ridiculous discourse surrounding this film (and the sincerely upsetting accusations that Harper’s character is abusive). But it isn’t, and I feel the awful need to go on and write a defense of a cute lesbian romcom because people are ridiculous, overly critical, hypocritical, and sometimes just plain stupid.

I will never tire of coming out narratives (or of lesbian period pieces, or of any other type of film that some people keep insisting are “done too much” as if there are somehow too many LGBTQ films or can ever be). Not because I particularly like them, but because they are necessary, they are a reality that most LGBTQ people have gone through or will go through, and it is never a pleasant experience. I have mostly rejected the burden of coming out, for a multitude of reasons that I don’t owe an explanation of to anyone, but I am out to family without ever having come out, and I am lucky and privileged that I was able to do that and to be accepted and loved. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its consequences and downsides, but it is something I have done for my own self-preservation and I am content—not necessarily happy—with how it has turned out. But Harper’s story is beautifully, truthfully done. It is not easy to give up your family, your safety & your comfort zone & the dynamic you have always known. It is especially not easy to give up your family when you love them. The fear of disappointing them, especially when you have seen how they act toward the children they are disappointed in (as they do in the film), the fear of losing that love (perhaps not all, but there will always be a bit of love, some form of intimacy, that is lost, they will always see you differently and it will never be the same kind of love, the same kind of relationship), the fear of revealing yourself and being so incredibly vulnerable is terrifying. Like truly, genuinely terrifying. Being in the closet is a burden. And the burden of the closet is accentuated when you have heard what your family (or friends, but this is specifically a family coming out narrative) says and thinks about gay people, when you have carried the weight of their words and actions with you your whole life. From the smallest microaggressions to the jokes to the clear & plain homophobia and everything in between. And inevitably, things will be different. It might go well, if you’re lucky. It might go very badly. It might go lukewarmly. But it will always change something in your relationships and your reality. And change is terrifying. Especially if that change stems from yourself, from who you are, from who you can’t help being. When you’re in that fear, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns, it’s easy to pretend, it’s easy to hide who you really are, it’s easy to act like someone else because you have pretended to be that someone else for so long that that someone is now yourself, or part of yourself. It’s easy to latch onto that because it (partially) rids you of your stress, of that heavy burden. It can make you do fucked up things to yourself and to people you love. And the film shows the burden of the closet in so many ways—through Abby having to pretend to be someone she’s not, through John’s speech about coming out and how it’s a unique experience for everyone, through Riley not being closeted and the way people talk about her behind her back (and most likely to her face too), and especially through Harper, who has never come out because it terrifies the living shit out of her for all the reasons mentioned above. I have little patience for Harper haters. I have zero patience for anyone who says she was abusive/a gaslighter/toxic/etc. Harper is a great girlfriend, this is established in the beginning of the film. She is great until she finds herself in a position where she has to juggle her relationship with her family and the one with her partner, and then she becomes a girlfriend who makes mistakes. Lots of them. But! The narrative never lets her off the hook for her behaviour toward Abby (or Riley). It understands her without ever justifying her actions, it shows her empathy and confronts her with what she has done. Realizing that not coming out minimizes and cheapens what Abby means to her & that she will lose her, she comes out (officially, after a particularly humiliating and traumatizing event). And it is just as terrifying as she expected. But that isn’t enough. She has to take an even further step and fight for Abby. Because Abby is self-assured and stands up for herself and finally refuses to be belittled. And it’s only natural for them to come back to each other—they love each other, there was never any doubt about that, and they deserve their happy ending. It’s a Christmas romcom after all. I'm adding half a star as a reaction to all the bad takes, but also for the inevitable rating I will give it after yearly rewatches.

One day, I will get to spend Christmas with my partner, and it will be stressful & fun & messy & lovely & complicated & magical, and she will make me see the magic of Christmas, and it will be just as joyous as this film.

Block or Report

Maria liked these reviews

All