Christmas Countdown: Happy Christmas

The only thing you’ll remember about this movie is the baby.

I am (mostly) joking, but as many times as I’ve seen this movie (and I quite like it), I never really remember, specifically, what happens. But that’s because “what happens” isn’t the point.

Happy Christmas (2014), from writer/director Joe Swanberg, is about (as much as it’s about anything) Jenny (Anna Kendrick) moving in with her brother, Jeff (Swanberg) and his wife, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Jenny’s a bit of a mess and has trouble adapting her partying ways to the demands of family life. She’s also jealous of Kelly, who did have some success as a writer.

That’s basically it. The dialogue is all improvised and so the movie has a lived-in awkwardness. It doesn’t feel uncomfortable, though (although it can be in places), and it’s mostly sweet. Jenny isn’t quite self-destructing, just adrift and irresponsible. Kelly is trying to remember who she is after becoming a mother. It’s a glimpse into this short period of these people’s lives.

I like watching Happy Christmas during this season because it exists in a space between sentimental, nostalgic classics and the weirder things I’ve enjoyed finding and sometimes I need that.

Plus, the baby is pretty great.

Happy Christmas is Paramount+ commercial-free and a few other streaming services (Tubi, PlutoTV) with commercials. Also available for rent and purchase on most services. (Physical copies are still available but it’s likely out of print.)