Starring: Anna Kendrick, Lena Dunham, Mark Webber
Director: Joe Swanberg
Running Time: 82 mins
Happy Christmas is an American film about an irresponsible woman who, after breaking up with her boyfriend, goes to live with her friend and her husband. However, her presence shakes up their calm home life, and begins to put a strain on everyone’s relationships.
Despite the originality of this very stripped-down and deliberately naturalised movie, I have to say there is a point where this type of art just gets boring. Its techniques, such as improvised dialogue, a hyper-low budget and a super-real world story, are definitely bold, but this film unfortunately suffers from being all style, and no substance, never managing to interest me in what it was trying to say.
Let’s first talk about what this film is. It’s a part of the independent ‘mumblecore’ movement (other such films include Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies), which is intended to create extreme naturalism in film through the use of a lower budget, and an entirely improvised script that surrounds a story all about the problems of day-to-day life faced by normal people.
Now, there’s no doubt that it’s boldly going hard against what Hollywood normally puts out, but I just don’t think it makes for compelling watching.
The issue is that the extreme minimalist style is actually pretty underwhelming when you’re subjected to it for nearly an hour and a half, and therefore it’s hard to be impressed by it, leaving you only with the wafer-thin story to provide some interest.
And unfortunately, there was just nothing here to get me interested. The story was meandering and slow-paced, and when it’s coupled with the frustrating improvised dialogue, which feels even less natural than scripted dialogue due to long periods of dead air and the excessive use of ‘like’, it becomes almost unbearable to watch.
Overall, credit to Swanberg for pursuing with an original concept, but this mumblecore style won’t make a compelling film until he’s got the story perfect, because the style itself is extremely underwhelming, and very frustrating to watch, and that’s why Happy Christmas gets a 4.9 from me.
(By the way, this has pretty much nothing to do with Christmas. Just saying.)