I can be into Mumblecore movies, depending on my mood. Today was a snow day, a slow day, and an alone day, so I was
down for an onslaught of slow-moving plots that seem to go nowhere, meandering dialogue, and amateurish camera angles. Enter: Happy Christmas, a title that is one of the biggest misnomers I have come across in a movie. Sure, it takes place during Christmas time, but it’s more of an afterthought than a focal point. If anything, it is just there to add to the ambiance of a stagnant and frigid Chicago winter.
Jenny (Anna Kendrick) has just broken up with her boyfriend, and has decided to start over again in Chicago. She has returned to live with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their baby while she looks for her own apartment. Jeff and Kelly set Jenny up in their tiki-themed bar basement while she relives the reality of living with a parent once again, complete with adolescent behaviors such as coming home wasted in the middle of the night, passing out drunk while a frozen pizza burns in the oven, and sneaking bowls downstairs while online shopping for Christmas presents.
One thing I like about this movie is that Jenny never wallows in the breakup that she left behind, and she doesn’t spend half of the movie complaining about the ups and downs of relationships. She’s just 27 years old, a bit directionless, and in a strange limbo between post-college and post-post-college, that awkward time when society takes a look at you, one foot tapping, saying, “you are really supposed to have your shit together by now,” but you don’t. This is why the film is so relatable to me. I barely have my shit together now, but at 27 I was really at a crossroads of the social discomfort and hangovers that I was supposed to have grown out of by then.
Full of discursive and improvisational dialogue, this movie shows people being people and having conversations in an unscripted way that I usually like. It feels a little overdone at times, but I appreciate a movie that captures realistic human interaction just as much as I enjoy beautifully prosaic scripts handcrafted by a room full of professional writers. It is exactly this kind of movie that I become more and more uncomfortable viewing in the company of others, for whatever reason. So many people want movies to have a point, a big and obvious breakthrough or resolution. Happy Christmas doesn’t really have one of those big messages at the end, but it’s relatable, and I really like that about this movie.
So if you ever felt a little lost and irresponsible while in your mid- to late-20’s; if you have found yourself a part of the boomerang generation that moves back in with family members or at least back to some semblance of the “home” from whence you once came; if you have ever woken up at noon, hungover, and thinking to yourself, “I’m getting too old for this shit;” and if you don’t mind reliving all of these uncomfortable moments just once more, you will like Happy Christmas, in spite of its hideous title.