Movie Review: Joe Swanberg’s ‘Happy Christmas’ Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey & Lena Dunham

  • Pin It

When I saw Joe Swanberg‘s Drinking Buddies at SXSW, I was in heaven. The all-improvised film about employees working at a small brewery was teriffic and I loved every second of it. You can read my review here. Even upon repeated viewings, the film, starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston, still holds up. I”m betting that it’ll be in my list of top 10 films for years to come.

In his new film, Happy Christmas, Swanberg once again teams up with Kendrick and grabs one of the lead roles for himself. He even features his real-life son, Jude, who might just be the cutest baby ever. This is coming from a person who hates babies in movies.

The story starts when Jenny (Kendrick) moves in with her brother, Jeff (Swanberg), and sister-in-law, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), after a breaking up with her boyfriend. Kelly’s aimless and a big drinker, causing the families quiet life to quickly go to pot. Speaking of pot, Jenny starts to causally date Kelly’s pot dealer/baby sitter (Mark Webber). The longer she stays and the more irresponsible she becomes, the more Kelly begins not to trust her, especially around the baby (who again, is the cutest kid EVER). Things start to change as Kelly and her friend, Carson (Lena Dunham), encourage her to start writing her long-gestating novel.

The film, like Drinking Buddies, all-improvised and ultra-realistic. It’s like if a reality show were actually real and not staged, it would be like this. It’s just immensely interesting to see how Swanberg can grab these performances. There are no actor-y moments here.

Unfortunately, the story is lacking. There’s no real plot to move the story forward and at times it feels like it’s treading water. As an audience member, I need something to hold on to. I need to feel like we’re watching a story with a beginning, middle and end. Here, it feels like we only got to the end of Act 2.

Also, I didn’t buy the relationship with Kelly and the pot dealer. Kelly only hooks up with him because he’s the only guy around and it just didn’t seem plausible. There was nothing interesting at all in their scenes and I even caught myself drifting off the couple scenes they had together.

Swanberg is a gifted director (and surprisingly great actor) and even though this is a bit of a stumble, if you’re a fan, you this is definitely well worth a look.

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg

Writer/Director: Joe Swanberg

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/jessica-chastain-oscar-issac-wri.jpg
Jessica Chastain, Oscar Issac, & Writer/Director J.C. Chandor Talk ‘A Most Violent Year’
Coming out just in time for awards consideration (and it’s been considered for many awards) is A Most Violent Year, the period crime drama starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain that was written and directed by J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost). In this conversation sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation moderated by Jenelle Riley […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/watch-andy-serkis-talks-motion-c.jpg
Watch: Andy Serkis Talks Motion Capture, His Career and More
This week saw the release of the final film in The Lord of the Rings saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Out of the dozens of actors who appeared in the series, the one whose career was most defined by the six-film franchise is Andy Serkis, who portrayed Gollum in the series […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/dan-stevens-summer-in-february.jpg
Dan Stevens Recalls When Shia LaBeouf Disrupted One of His Broadway Performances: “I wish I’d had a broadsword then”
Though Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is billed as the final movie in the fantasy series, it still incorporates some new blood into the mix alongside franchise favorites like Ben Stiller and Robin Williams. The most significant new addition is Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey, who plays Lancelot. Lancelot doesn’t realize that […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bradley-cooper-the-elephant-man.jpg
Bradley Cooper Takes A Grad School Dream To The Broadway Stage With, ‘The Elephant Man’
Bradley Cooper is proving to be an actor who wants a career defined by strong work. Instead of solely relying upon franchises like The Hangover, the Oscar nominee is mixing it up again between the big screen and the stage. Cooper is starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway this theatre season. It’s a role […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bob-balaban-a-delicate-balance.jpg
Bob Balaban on Being a Character Actor: “It’s what I do and who I am and I really enjoy it”
With Glenn Close and John Lithgow in the cast of Broadway’s A Delicate Balance, it’s okay if you didn’t notice that veteran actor Bob Balaban is also in the cast. Balaban, who is probably best known for his roles in Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries and for his supporting roles in dozens of other films, has returned […]