Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's the behavior of an incredibly immature person.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like Christmas is becoming an obstacle in my life, something that must be survived, if not altogether defeated. Getting everyone the perfect gift is maddening enough (essentially it's the simultaneous birthday of everyone you know), but that impossibility can't hold a scented candle to the unrelenting chaos of getting together for the holidays. This year in particular, turned out to be one for the record books in the annals of Brown Family Holiday Disasters. And while there's certainly plenty of blame to go around (myself included), it can really be boiled down to one simple thing: selfishness.

I'll tell you right now, it is truly remarkable how much Happy Christmas seemed to highlight the personal lowlights of last week's holiday festivities. Sure, it's not a carbon-copy of what happened with our brood, but damned if it didn't feel close. Really, really close.

Jeff and Kelley are preparing for Christmas with their young son Jude, when Jeff's younger sister Jenny shows up from out of town. Jenny (an intentionally annoying Anna Kendrick) is moving in, and the plan is that she'll be able to help out by watching the kid. Lucky her, she even gets to move into their sweet ass basement bar, a room Jeff rarely, if ever, uses. 

Her first night home, Jenny heads out with her friend, Carson, to some sort of hipster party where she gets impossibly trashed. Jenny's so far gone that her friend can't even rouse her, and Carson ultimately has to wake Jeff to come and carry her home. While it's really embarrassing for everyone involved, it's a good thing that it'll never happen again. Promise.

The next day, Jenny sleeps through her prearranged babysitting gig, and wakes to find family friend Kevin (Mark Webber) watching young Jude instead. This guy should probably turn and run in the other direction, but being that Jenny is kind of hot, well, you can only assume what he does next. You can also probably guess how it will turn out, too.

From there, like any holiday reunion with family, it's a roller-coaster of highs and lows, lightly sprinkled with substance abuse and misguided bonding. Oh, and it ends on a down note, further adding to its authenticity. 
For an eighty-two minute movie, Happy Christmas feels a lot longer, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's presented in a very natural, no-budget style, that certainly complements how ordinary and unspectacular these people are. It's almost refreshing how realistically the whole thing plays out.

On the other hand, though, I have to be honest: I never realized how much I enjoy close ups and well-lit rooms. Seeing this one not around Christmas, or not moments after your own sister 'ruined Christmas', might make it feel a little laborious. But for me (my wife fell asleep), I enjoyed Swanberg's simplistic take on holiday/familial insanity. Well, as much as I could (at the time) anyway. The wounds were a little fresh, you know?

Speaking of fresh wounds, here is the latest batch of Yays and Boos. They've been living it up these last few days, you know, in preparation for changing everything about themselves simply because they've bought a new desk calendar. Who knew the power of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders?

This looks like my living room on Christmas morning.
With a lot less Skylanders, however.
  • I had a hunch at the time he was an insider, but regardless, Jude is an awesome kid. That little goofball routinely stole whatever scene he was in. [he's director Swanberg's actual son]
  • In fact, I could probably watch this kid totally house Cheerios for the rest of my life.
  • There's a certain degree of serenity watching a guy defend his crazy family to his wife. You know, when it's not you doing it.
  • Being the uncultured a-hole that I am, I was only familiar with writer/director Joe Swanberg from his role as Douchey Brother in You're Next [review]. Good to see him in a more realistic horror film.
  • And finally, the ending. Even after what would appear to be the last straw, I love how ultimately the solution is to forgive and move on. That's usually my plan of action. I mean, how mad can you be on Christmas day? [That question was for anyone with a penis, by the way. Because you ladies? Apparently, you can be very mad.]
Did you ever see The Exorcist?
  • That opening montage encapsulated my life all too well. Honestly, if I could somehow get paid hourly for the time I spend picking up toys from the bottom of the tub, I'd be all set.
  • Melanie Lynskey. I've had a thing for her since Detroit Rock City. The Boo? I never knew she had an accent. Seems I've been misled.
  • Speaking of...Jenny, you tease! Man, this chick is a real enigma between the sheets. She's either calling it off mid-boner, or demanding things get entirely too physical. Either way? Not a fan. At all. That's no way to treat someone.Though each time, I'm sure moments later he took matters into his own hands.
  • Okay, on a more serious note, even outside the bedroom, Jenny is kind of a real bitch. Look, she means well...sure, but damn, girl. You gotsta grow the f--k up at some point. For reals.
  • Okay, okay, an actual serious note. There is a scene (somewhat pictured above) where Anna Kendrick looks completely f--king terrible. You would think that the budget wouldn't have room for such technical wizardry, but trust me, it's remarkable. Gollum, I buy. This? No f--king way.
  • And finally, the difference between being a grown up with a kid, and simply being a kid who thinks they're grown up. I deal with it every single day of my working life, which is bad enough. But when it's my own family? Much, much worse. It's not anyone's fault that they're in their twenties when I'm not. If that doesn't make sense to you...it will.
As a kid, I always insisted to myself that life-long grudges and family infighting wouldn't be a part of my adulthood. But there I was, driving my sister to the train station on Christmas f--king Day. There I was, later on, endlessly rehashing the events that led up to that moment, for seemingly hours on end. And what did I do later that night, to try to separate myself from the whole mess?

There I was, firing up Netflix and starting a little holiday flick starring Anna Kendrick.

Happy Christmas!


  1. I had an unbelievably good Christmas this year, but I feel the pain. It never ends though, does it? Even if I get my own family? Still shitty? Oh well. You really sold me on this film (well, the 82-minute part did, at least...) because honesty's just refreshing. I hope your New Year's Eve is better. By the way, there's a film by that name I'm sure you'd love. Very refined, very classy. Exactly as you like them, right?

    1. Good for you, Elina. I'm glad you had a good holiday. Mine wasn't as bad as this post might suggest...just exhausting. Oh, and when you get your own family, all the chaos is still there, you just get a different seat to view it from.

      Proceed with caution here, as the film is good, but definitely not for everyone. It's almost like watching a documentary starring Fat Amy's friend.

      Holy shit. I think I saw New Year's Eve. Or maybe it was Valentine's Day. Either way...very refined entertainment indeed. The perfect way to start 2015!

  2. You didn't know Lynskey had an accent? I love her Kiwi accent. lol

    You're so right about Jenny during that sex scene. I was expecting Kevin to get up and leave. I think I would've.

    Great review!

    1. I didn't have a slue. When I finally realized it was her, I was thinking...wow, she totally nailed that Kiwi accent. It's actually kind of hard being this clueless.

      Kevin was a trooper, I suppose. I would've probably had to just walk away. I'm not a big fan of ridiculous demands in the bedroom. Was that improvised?


  3. O

    I swear sometimes that we are the same person. I've spent way too much time defending my family to my wife and watching my sister(s) ruin everything in their path. UGH.

    1. Ha...yeah, man. Even if we don't live near the bulk of them....I spend a decent amount of time defending my family to my wife.

      Even though I know better than anyone that they're all out of their f--king minds.

  4. I am sorry you had a stressful Christmas. I've had those kinds of family holidays, too. They were kind of like our own personal dysfunctional family dramas. :-/

    1. Thanks...but it wasn't so bad, I guess. I know for a fact that it could have been much worse. I mean, no casualties has to be a plus, right?

      Hopefully yours was the right kind of uneventful!

  5. Great review man. I really liked this movie, far more than any other Swanberg film I've seen. Great to see Kendrick play a sort of deplorable character. Who knew she could fill a role like that so effortlessly haha. Also, Melanie Lynskey... love her.

    1. Thanks, AW. I've never seen any other Swanberg flicks, not entirely sure I'm going to seek them out.

      Kendrick being an awful person was a nice change of pace. She was the worst.

      Lynskey! Amen to that.