By Darin Skaggs
Joe Swanberg’s Happy Christmas tackles something that anyone can relate to, family. It takes a look on how easy it is to be frustrated with them, how easy it is to be the best of friends and then how easy it is to become irritated with their actions once again. While he creates this feeling successfully he packs it with odd moments and a bit too much free flowing dialogue that makes the film as a whole a happy mess.
The story stars Jenny (Anna Kendrick) who after a devastating breakup moves in with her brother and his wife, Kevin (Mark Webber) and Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Reluctant, they welcome her in. Then on her first night, after saying she can watch the two’s infant, she goes out drinking and passes out to the point where her friend can’t wake her up and Kevin has to be called to come and get her. Tension in the household begins but like any family friendships are shortly formed after.
Hiring the adorable Anna Kendrick as the family screw up that we are meant to question the actions of is a good move. She is one of those people whose smile could light up a room, but the decisions she makes throughout, with a few triumphant moments here are there, are not good. At times these moments could danger herself and those around her. The movie makes you pity her character and then makes you feel better about her with her successful moments. Although Kendrick along with all the other performers are good, some scenes go on too long and moments that are meant to be for laughs do not really work. It seems that the story could not fill a feature film runtime, the movie is only one hour and twenty minutes, so Swanberg let his actors improvise a bit too much. He also commits one of the worst occurrences of nepotism with his baby Jude, playing the couples baby Jude.
Besides the theme of the ups and downs of family the film also explores the now overly cliché theme of “What am I doing with my life?” If you are watching any sort of drama in the theater or on DVD you for certain will find two or three trailers that match that theme. There are way too many of these films so much so that this one will suffer for being trapped in lists made up of the “Get your life together” type of movies. This is not near original with performances that work, except when the actors are given too much freedom. This is a film that most likely will be lost in time, most likely by the summer next year.