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Happy Christmas

Year: 2014
Production Co: Lucky Coffee Productions
Director: Joe Swanberg
Producer: Joe Swanberg
Writer: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, Joe Swanberg

Mumblecore hipster god Joe Swanberg strikes again, and if this kind of ultra-verité dialogue is your cup of tea, you might think this is the best film since his last effort Drinking Buddies. But like that film, Happy Christmas is very much an acquired taste.

Anna Kendrick is Jenny, a pixieish modern girl with an alcohol problem who arrives at her brother Kevin's (Mark Webber) house to have Christmas with him, his Kiwi wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their baby son.

The extremely thin plot concerns Kevin and Kelly trying to live their lives, raise their son, get on with their respective jobs and make Jenny welcome even though she's essentially a ne'er-do-well who drinks too much, hooks up with guys and causes trouble that eventually can't be glossed over or ignored.

All of this is delivered in the same kind of characterisations and dialogue as Drinking Buddies. Swanberg obviously wrote a story treatment rather than a script, telling his actors what they had to accomplish with each scene and letting them improv the dialogue.

The result is the same kind of dramatically flaccid and dry affair as Drinking Buddies, trying to look realistic but ending up irritating. A naturalistic feel is one thing (and worthy), but why it takes presumably educated people so long to get a coherent sentence out amid so many utterances of 'it's like' is not only very mysterious, it annoys the shit out of me. And just to cement the hipster credentials, Lena Dunham shows up as Jenny's best friend.

It makes for a story with very few dramatic beats, no real arc (at least not one that's visible enough to matter) and no real resolution to the proceedings. Look to Swanberg's work in the V/H/S horror anthology series for much more exciting work.

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