Friday 31 October 2014

Film Review: Happy Christmas

From director Joe Swanberg, Happy Christmas is a indie comedy/drama about adulthood and responsibility. It stars Anna Kendrick, Lena Dunham and Melanie Lynskey.

After breaking up with her boyfriend, Jenny (Anna Kendrick) heads to her brother's (Joe Swanberg) house for Christmas. She's lost in a post-relationship limbo, drinking her sorrows away with friend Carson (Lena Dunham) and fooling around with Kevin (Mark Webber). It's when Jenny butts heads with Joe's wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) that her lack of maturity and responsibility starts to catch up with her.

Happy Christmas is peppered with all the tropes you'd expect in a micro-budget Swanberg movie - low-key, hand-held direction, 'natural' improv-dialogue and everyday characters all set to the tune of fuzzy, feel-good indie pop tracks. This last one in particular is notable right from the get-go, and I'm sure it'll get on some peoples nerves. Personally, I didn't mind it that much.

Anna Kendrick (as always) is a cutie as her usual 'girl-next-door' self. She suits this aesthetic of movie well, and feels so effortless as Jenny, the tearaway little sister. Melanie Lynskey's performance was also good, and essentially washes away any memory of her ever appearing in shite like Two and a Half Men. I liked that the film focused on two female characters for

At only 88 minutes, Happy Christmas isn't that much of a 'commitment', and certainly the kind of film you can bowl over on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It's short and sweet, but also not terribly affecting. I liked the story, and the sentiment Swanberg is trying to convey, but I wouldn't say its the most layered film ever, with the plot being as thin as they come and essentially just the same moral strung out across the short runtime.

At the end of the day, the low-key nature of Happy Christmas, and Swanberg's films in general, is all part of the charm. Completely stripped back, with dialogue driven scenes that are purposely rough around the edges, the grass-roots approach is endearing and a refreshing change of pace.

I like that the actors come across in such a relaxed, natural way, almost as if you're hanging out with friends or watching a small local theatre production. Hip young things like Kendrick and Webber seem right at home in the snowy, hipster, ramshackle setting of the film.

This tone won't gel with everyone, especially those that crave production value and slick, punchy direction. That's simply not Swanberg's style. Happy Christmas, thankfully, is the antithesis of its subject matter. Unlike Christmas, it's brief, crisp, chilled out and not overstuffed.

The Verdict: 8/10

Intelligent, well-acted and wonderfully low-key, Happy Christmas matches Swanberg's previous high-point (Drinking Buddies) and promises the director has a bright, satisfyingly indie, future ahead of him. Lynskey and Dunham shine bright, Kendrick is like the angel atop the tree.


  1. I will definitely check this one out when it hits Netflix, later this month. But, I didn't care for Drinking Buddies, so my hopes are quite low!

    1. I quite liked Drinking Buddies, but if you didn't, then I'm not too sure what this one is going to do to win you over - they're very similar :)

  2. I really love Anna Kendrick but didn't get on well with Drinking Buddies. I'm always open to second chances though! Great review :)
    - Allie

    1. I hope you like it! :) It's pretty similar to Drinking Buddies though...just saying :)



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