Harper loves Christmas. There’s just something about the season’s glowing lights, cheery songs and crisp wintery breezes that warm the cockles of her heart. And so, she simply had to take Abby, the woman she loves and adores, out to walk the light-strewn Christmassy streets to share a little of that joy with her.
It’s not that Abby doesn’t like Christmas. But since she lost both her parents, the holiday just doesn’t appeal to her as much anymore. After walking along a street called Candy Cane Lane and just soaking in the carols and the glowing, sparkling colors, though, Harper is alight with excitement. She kisses Abby deeply and invites her to come home with her to spend Christmas at her parent’s house.
“I want to wake up with you on Christmas,” Harper says gleefully. “And if that doesn’t convince you to love Christmas, I’ll never bring it up again!”
Abby can’t help but say she’ll go.
When Harper wakes up the next morning, however, the full impact of accepting that invitation hits her like a candy cane hangover. You see, Harper told Abby that she’s told her parents about being gay. But the truth is, she never … really … has. She will! There’s no doubt about that. But … not quite yet. Harper will probably wait till after the holidays. She doesn’t want to negatively impact their Christmas with that kind of stress.
When Harper gushes all that out while they’re driving to her parent’s home, however, Abby isn’t so sure the trip is a good idea any longer. But Harper assures her that all they have to do is avoid any talk of being gay. They can just be roommates for a few days. Great, loving friends. They’re both of those things, too, after all.
“I promise I’ll tell them everything after the holidays,” Harper declares.
And Abby thinks it through and then reluctantly nods. “It’s five days … how bad can it be?”
There are numerous family conflicts afoot here, but it becomes clear that all of Harper’s family members love one another dearly. And in spite of the family chaos that predictably ensues, they all eventually apologize and rally together. Harper’s parents respond to her eventual confession very graciously.
The film also makes a statement about loving outsiders in general. Harper’s sister, Jane, for example, is shown to have great personal value in a number of ways, in spite of always tending to be the family “oddball.”
During a campaign speech as a city councilman, Harper’s dad says that their community is built on a solid foundation of “family, tradition and faith.”
The main story here focuses on Harper and Abby’s sexuality as Harper struggles with revealing her “true self” to her parents; her parents try to reconnect Harper with ex-boyfriend Conner; and Abby becomes increasingly unsettled with their seemingly floundering romantic relationship. That said, the two women kiss and make out frequently throughout the film—in bedrooms, bathrooms, alleyways, rooftops, etc.
There are several different character speeches suggesting that being honest with your sexuality, especially gay sexuality, is of utmost importance. For instance, Abby’s gay friend John talks about that imperative moment of mustering the courage to tell parents and loved ones the truth. And Harper’s first girlfriend from high school, Riley, talks about of Harper denying her gayness and instead ruining others’ reputations. She laments “being in love with someone who’s too afraid to tell the world who they are.”
Abby tells John that she plans to ask Harper to marry her. He balks at the idea of “tricking the woman you love into a box of hetero-normality,” and he suggests it will ruin their relationship.
It’s implied that Harper and Abby have sex together one night (offscreen). They wake the next morning and scramble out of bed in their underwear. A T-shirt that Abby wears at one point is revealing. And she wears a shirt that’s unbuttoned down to her stomach as well.
Abby tumbles down to hang off the ledge of someone’s roof and people in the house believe she is peeping. They run outside, then, dressed in “Christmas” bondage paraphernalia—including handcuffs and a rider’s crop.
Harper’s parents talk of a summer vacation when Harper smooched with boyfriend Conner and gave him chickenpox. An old schoolfriend of Harper’s sees Conner and Harper together and says, “If she doesn’t sleep with him, I totally will!” Abby and Riley go to a gay club for drinks. One of Harper’s sisters, Sloane, finds her husband in a closet, kissing another woman.
When Harper reveals the truth about her sexuality to her parents, they embrace her. “All I want for you is to find the same love and joy that you gave me, no matter where it comes from,” Harper’s dad tells her.
We see several of Harper’s social media posts at movie’s end. One announces that she and Abby are “en-gay-ged” and another shows her father in a gay-pride celebration with family members.
Harper and Sloane are very competitive. And their jousting grows from verbal jabs to physical competitions (racing around an ice-skating rink and sending family skaters flying) to out-and-out wrestling matches. The women slam each other into walls and the floor at one point, tipping over the Christmas tree and destroying a painting that someone worked long hours on.
Abby falls off a rooftop. Harper’s other sister, Jane, drops a large box full of liquor bottles that smash on the floor.
Several s-words are joined by one or two uses of “h—” and d–n.” God’s and Jesus’ names are misused five times total (including two combinations of God with “d–n”).
There’s a lot of drinking here, including beer, mixed drinks and shots of booze at various bars, clubs, dinners and parties. In some cases, certain individuals—including Harper and Abby—get a bit tipsy from the abundant consumption.
One character talks about taking too much Ambien and doing things she didn’t later remember.
It’s said that part of Harper and her sister’s competitive nature is brought on by the fact that they had to compete for their parent’s love. Their parents were hyper-controlling and always tried to project a perfect image to the world around them.
There is quite a bit of lying in the holiday mix. Sloane’s two children, purposely steal and plant something on Abby while shopping in a store, causing her to be arrested.
Let’s face it, Christmas movies come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve got monster flicks, action pics, murder mysteries, stoner comedies, even a film about attempted suicide in the long list of movies classified as Christmas fare. They’re all backed by a secular, jingle-belled color and glitter, but really could have taken place at Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve or any other holiday for that matter.
Such is Happiest Season.
This is the tale of a young gay woman who has to face down her fears and come out to her parents and family. It’s couched in familiar romcom tropes, laced with twinkling lights, and underscored with totally unrelated Christmas carols and songs. But beyond the tinsel and evergreen garlands, make no mistake: This is a lip-locking, sexual identity pic at heart.
There are funny bits here, to be sure, as well as some nicely crafted characters. But if you’re looking for a faith-focused reason for the happiest season, well, you won’t find even a hint of it here. Instead, Happiest Season delivers a holiday-themed lesbian romance that appropriates the genre’s predictable formula and feel-good vibe.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.