Directed by Joe Swanberg, “Happy Christmas” holds up in the creative freedom of improvisation but now and then falls flat to it. The upside is you can’t argue with the authenticity that Swanberg strives for and substantially achieves.
After a bad break-up, Jenny (Anna Kendrick) moves to Chicago to live with her brother, Jeff, (Joe Swanberg) an independent filmmaker, his stay-at-home writer wife, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their son. While the three attempt to acclimate to their new living situation, Jeff and Kelly strain to adapt to their new domestic roles, balancing their family life while pursuing their own creative passions.
One of the highlights of Swanberg is that he allows something to happen and confronts relatable situations. “Christmas” isn’t any different, but does falter in moments that are so concentrated on being natural that its only recourse is to concentrate on the baby in the room. It’s honest, but is every moment worth capturing? The chemistry in “Drinking Buddies” isn’t as relevant here, and the narrative is so reliant on the actors to create something authentic that various pauses distract from the premise.
What makes “Happy Christmas” worth watching is that Swanberg catches the moments of ordinary so genuinely and instinctively that it’s hard not to stop, take notice and find comfort in soaking up the moment.
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