Anna Kendrick Melanie Lynskey Joe Swanberg Mark Webber Lena Dunham
I quite enjoyed Swanberg’s improvised Drinking Buddies, where Olivia Wilde gave one of her best performances. Happy Christmas seems to follow the same no script experiment, as nearly everything they say and do seems genuine, as if Swanberg is out to prove these actors can fully embody the characters he has created. Oscar nominated Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) does both some of her best work and most annoying. She plays an unbelievably unlikeable character, not unlike Wilde’s in Drinking Buddies. All of these characters (save Lynskey’s) are representations of really poorly behaved and immature women (the kind Sasha Stone is beguiled with), providing an interesting insight of how he thinks of females.
Jeff (Swanberg) and Kelly (Lynskey) are getting some company for the holidays. Jeff’s 27-year-old sister Jenny (Kendrick) is moving into their downstairs until she discovers what she wants to do in life. Instead of finding a job or helping Jeff and Kelly with their 2 year old Jude, she does drugs, drinks so much she blacks out at parties and only causes more trouble. Jenny has a fear of responsibility and reacts like a child when she is reprimanded for nearly burning the house down or getting so drunk Jeff has to remove her in the middle of the night. Kelly begins to worry about the safety of their child while Jenny is around.
This is certainly not the first recent film about annoying women failing miserably with life; Lola Versus and Obvious Child are other examples, but Happy Christmas seems more organic thanks to the balance of Jeff and Kelly, who don’t just degrade Jenny for her behavior but try and help her by setting an example. Kendrick, who typically plays the nice, cute girl really changes her interior while still personifying the girl next door image. Immaturity is always an interesting subject for an actor to explore, but often times it's treated as careless comedy. Swanberg and Kendrick don’t make judgments about this character nor do they provide some life changing scenario for her before the end credits.
Happy Christmas is certainly a film bogged down by the negative connotation associated with “the hipster” crowd, and its inclusion of Dunham (whose character is equally as obnoxious and immature as Jenny) over exaggerates it as if it’s Urban Outfitters the movie. One particular scene I found extremely interesting and a particular topic of discussion in line with Jenny’s character is when Mark Webber’s character turns her down for sex over spending Christmas with his family. Her response is a face of complete disgust and utter repulsion followed by “you’re an idiot”. And that's a version of a female character I haven’t seen before.
Final Thought – Kendrick really tries on something different and challenging.
By: Dustin Chase