Review: Happy Christmas (2014) – Joe Swanberg

happy-christmas-posterHAPPY CHRISTMAS: Directed by Joe Swanberg

From IMDB: Irresponsible 20-something Jenny arrives in Chicago to live with her older brother Jeff, a young film-maker living a happy existence with his novelist wife Kelly and their two-year-old son. Jenny’s arrival shakes up their quiet domesticity as she and her friend Carson instigate an evolution in Kelly’s life and career. Meanwhile, Jenny strikes up a rocky relationship with the family’s baby sitter-cum-pot dealer.  

– Last year I saw DRINKING BUDDIES (another film directed by Joe Swanberg) and I wasn’t impressed.  At the time of viewing I didn’t realize that all of the dialogue was improvised, and knowing that I think I would be able to appreciate the film more.

– I’m looking forward to watching some of Swanberg’s eariler films.  His upcoming film, DIGGING FOR FIRE is also very appealing to me, considering it has a cast of; Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Sam Rockwell, Orlando Bloom, Jake Johnson, and Rosemarie DeWitt.

– Even though the film doesn’t have too much to do with Christmas, it’s a little funny that the film came out in the middle of the summer.  It’s a small budget film that features some actors that I have interest in.  I like Anna Kendrick and Mark Webber, and it’s always interesting to see Lena Dunham in something other than her role as Hannah in GIRLS, although she does act the same in almost everything.  Which isn’t a bad thing, as I always find her sarcastic humour fairly amusing.

– I’m a fan of films like this.  Just a simple story about ‘normal’ people.

– One of the strongest parts of the film was the casting choices that were made.  Melanie Lynskey, who always pops up in random films is very good in this.  Her character’s personality is almost the exact opposite to the younger Anna Kendrick’s, but the two form a realistic relationship with one another.

– Lynskey plays Joe Swanberg’s wife.  She’s a mature mother who’s looking to get back into the working world, and Anna Kendrick plays Swanberg’s sister, a 20-something who has no idea what she’s doing in life.

– I always like Mark Webber whenever I see him in anything.  Just like in many other films, he just plays your average dude in HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

– Joe Swanberg’s real life baby boy is in the film and they were able to capture some great moments.  The baby’s obviously not acting, so to have so many scenes with him talking and for it to make sense was great.  I found the baby to be so messed up.  He looked like a newborn baby that could walk and talk.

anna-kendrick-photoshoot-happy-christmas-portraits-2014-sundance-film-festival_6

Even in the last year, my taste in films has changed so much.  I feel like if I watched DRINKING BUDDIES right now, I’d love it.  HAPPY CHRISTMAS reminds me of a film an upcoming director would make with a couple of friends and no money.  It’s always fun to watch little films like this to get away from the big blockbuster hits.  Joe Swanberg was able to create real, interesting, and likeable characters, and each of the actors did a great job of bringing them to life.  I’m so interested to go back and watch some of Swanberg’s earlier films.  He’s certainly a director with his own unique style.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS: 7/10

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