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HAPPY CHRISTMAS (director/writer: Joe Swanberg; cinematographer: Ben Richardson; editor: Joe Swanberg; cast: Anna Kendrick (Jenny), Melanie Lynskey (Kelly), Mark Webber (Kevin), Lena Dunham (Carson), Joe Swanberg (Jeff), Jude Swanberg (Jude); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Peter Gilbert/Joe Swanberg; Magnolia Pictures; 2014)
“Endearing comedy-drama about the difficulties young adults have of maturing.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted prolific low-budget mumblecore helmer Joe Swanberg(“The Zone”/”Drinking Buddies”/”24 Exposures“) comes up with another endearing comedy-drama about the difficulties young adults have of maturing and leaving behind their aimless lives as youths. Swanberg depicts how excruciatingly difficult it is for ordinary folks to live normal lives.

The 27-year-old Jenny (Anna Kendrick) breaks up with her boyfriend and during the Christmas holiday season moves to Chicago and into the basement of her married older brother filmmaker Jeff Spillane (Joe Swanberg). Jeff’s smart wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) is a novelist, who is not writing a second book to be a homemaker taking care of their active 2-year-old son Jude (Jude Swanberg). She’s happy to care for the kid, but is anxious to start writing again.

The first night in her brother’s home Jenny gets drunk at a party and Jeff has to go over to the party site late at night to bring her back. It upsets the harried but mature Kelly that Jenny is so inconsiderate and immature. The two ladies have completely different personalities, and struggle to bond.

The situations that crop up as they live under the same roof are the ones that face most people, and all the characters seem genuine. It’s a small, indie film that I found very pleasant despite the slight story. The simple message here seems to be to try and get it together to enjoy and experience life to your max, and not to get uptight if things don’t seem to go as planned. In other words, chill out, get a little help from your friends and, maybe, smoke some weed when stressed. You lose if you let the mundane things that go awry bring you down and you can’t fight back.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”