Happy Christmas is the quintessential sibling disaster story. Jenny (Anna Kendrick) breaks up with her boyfriend and decides to go live with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg) and his family. A back and forth film dealing with a woman desperate to get her life back together, but simultaneously effecting everyone around her in ways she can’t comprehend. Immature to a fault, Jenny is a whirlwind that sees no signs of slowing down. When she arrives at her brother’s house the first night, Jenny begins her selfish spiral out of control. While reconnecting with her old friend Carson (Lena Dunham), Jenny shows that not only is she not reliable but completely irresponsible as a so called adult at 27 years old. Getting incredibly drunk and high she needs her brother to come and take her home. Proving to Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), Jeff’s wife, that she can’t even be relied on to babysit their child the next day. In the most obvious of ways Jenny is a mess. Even by her speech pattern you can get a sense of how frenetic she has grown to be. Not finishing thoughts and the overuse the word “like” was designed to exemplify how child like she truly was. Director Joe Swanberg pushes this example and many similar ones in good measure. Jenny is a likable character, but she is also frustrating to all the people she tends to interact with on a daily basis.
The likability of our main character is done through a myriad of ways. Primarily, Anna Kendrick is just a cute and charming actress which goes far. Secondly, Jenny’s influence into the lives of her brother and his family are two fold. She causes a level of newness that makes them re-evaluate their current path, but she also challenges their life choices openly to further that notion. The best example is Jenny’s influence on Kelly to get her back into writing again. The way in which it happens is a uniquely Jenny idea, but the end result is just what Kelly needs and what her role as a mother, wife, and more broadly a woman needed.
The film has a nice retro feel to it and that makes you feel like you are at home. Ironically, the house in which the movie is filmed in is the director's; tiki bar and all. There is a familiarity to what we witness not just in locales, or people but in situations as well. The characters feel flushed out and genuine. Jenny, Jeff, and Kelly are people I’ve known, people I’ve tried to forget, and people I’ve loved. That sense of comfortability allows the film to dig deeper than one might imagine from reading a synopsis. Quite an enjoyable small film with big heart.
[easyreview title= "Review of Happy Christmas" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]