I was sent a copy of Happy Christmas and, to be honest, I can’t decide how I feel about it. I guess one of my biggest issues is that it’s difficult to even categorize since it barely feels like a Christmas movie at all. If you separate the supposed holiday factor and just see it as an independent film, it makes a little more sense. Still, the fact that the theatrical release was July 25, 2014 further complicates things.
The dramedy has an impressive cast starring Joe Swanberg (who also wrote, produced and directed the film), Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Lena Dunham and Mark Webber. When it premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, it was actually nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category.
The plot follows a young couple, Jeff (Swanberg) a young filmmaker, and Kelly (Lynskey) a novelist who has had to put writing on hold in order to care for their young son. Their life is in a predictable lull until Jeff’s sister, Jenny (Kendrick) shows up. She’s in her 20s, recently broke up with her boyfriend and causes all kinds of mayhem while she stays with the little family. In fact, some of the stuff she does is so disruptive that, in real life, most wives would have insisted that their sister-in-law be asked to leave but I digress… Ultimately, Jenny’s arrival ends up reawakening Kelly’s desire to work and be more than a mother after she spends time with the troubled young woman and her feminist friend, Carson (Dunham).
The film quality is what you’d expect from an independent, lower-budget film, the storyline is aimless and Lena Dunham can’t keep her legs closed, but there’s something about all of it that makes it so realistically charming. An added bonus is that the dialogue is completely improvised. Very impressive.
If you’re looking for a cheesy, traditional holiday film this is not a good choice. If you are willing to feel awkward and curious as the actors struggle to find the words and their characters develop, then check this out. It’s currently available for rent and is also streaming on Netflix.
Also check out: 10 Ways to Ruin Christmas for Everyone.