Happiest Season is a delightful holiday rom-com from the great Clea Duvall (who co-wrote and directs) and her super talented co-writer Mary Holland that focuses on family and relationship dynamics and the complexities of coming out. The cast is stupid good. Kristen Stewart! Mackenzie Davis! Dan Levy! Mary Steenburgen! My dad Victor Garber! Holland pops up too and almost steals the damn thing. Same with Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, and Ana Gasteyer… it does not stop. And then you get to the cameos. Michelle Buteau, Lauren Lapkus, and Tim Simons specifically. It’s great, and while it delves into fictional local politics and elements of conservativism as a cause for the main character’s hesitancy about coming out and introducing her family to her partner, the film isn’t infected by actual politics and Trumpy red hattery. Harper’s parents Ted and Tipper (really) aren’t presented as scary culty “to the end of the world” conservatives, just uptight rich assholes with a slavish dedication to looking catalog fresh. Which is why it’s a shame what I’m about to do.
Spoilers ahead, by the way. I’m sharing an ultra minor detail but it’s a detail all the same. While Simons is barely in the film, his role as an overexcited and overcaffeinated security guard with a chip on his shoulder stands out. Partly because Tim Simons always stands out. He’s a monolith in the comedy desert. This is meant to be a timely and complementary observation. God damn if his hapless mall cop character doesn’t seem a lot like Jonah Ryan from Veep, though! Like, if he wound up in retail security services purgatory. Which is not to say that mall cops have to be sad or bad, just that Jonah would be miserable in that perfectly fine job following the exhaustion of his innate ability to fail up and his impeachment as Vice President of the United States. And while I know it’s not the case, I also want to believe that Duvall and Holland (who both worked with Simons on Veep) did this on purpose as a tacit nod that their film and their old show exist in the same universe. Because it’d be perfect. And because it might be the closest thing we’ll get to seeing the Jonah-esque ruling class catch a consequence for their wicked ways.
I don’t mean to real-world this junk up, but America’s rich and powerful don’t seem likely to incur the burden of justice anytime soon. Have you heard? They seem to get away with a lot! The donations keep rolling in, mean tweets still act as a deterrent for the spawning of spines, and self-pardons and never-ending campaigns loom. These bits, among many many other things, all stand as evidence that life is not fair. And hey, that doesn’t feel great, so why not go with me on this and escape the reality of things out of your control? Why not watch or rewatch Happiest Season, appreciating its charms and goodness and outstanding performances before getting to that 2-minute sample of disgraced Vice President Teenage Mutant Ninja Asshole taking petty theft way too seriously while clearly feeling his ultimate irrelevancy? Take a hit. Hold it, love it, and move on. It’ll feel good! It won’t hurt anyone (save for a film that probably doesn’t need this association mere days after Ben Shapiro, the silica gel pack of people and a pint-sized Jonah clone, called it out).
The point is, I like stories where bad people lose. I’m old fashioned like that, but a fading belief in karma has me looking past real-life to secure that satisfaction now and I’ll take what I can get even if it means I need to reach big time to concoct an imagined back story for a fun cameo. Give me this.
‘Happiest Season’ is available to stream on Hulu. ‘Veep’ is streaming on HBO Max (or CNN, depending on your outlook).