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Happy Christmas: Joe Swanberg's Latest Is All About Hanging Out 

Tuesday, Jul 29 2014

Joe Swanberg's Happy Christmas has the same modern, semi-improvised indie feel and subtext about the perils of alcohol as last year's Drinking Buddies — and possibly others of the several feature films the startlingly prolific Swanberg has already made this decade — but it's also an improvement in that it's not as burdened by the needs of a plot as Drinking Buddies. That sounds like a criticism, but it really isn't, because Happy Christmas is at its heart a hang-out movie, and Swanberg gives it room to breathe. Not that there isn't a story: Boozy party girl Jenny (Anna Kendrick, effectively cast against type) comes to stay with her brother Jeff (Swanberg), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their infant son Jude (Jude Swanberg, direct relation). Some mild havoc is wreaked, unexpected relationships are formed, lots of grass is smoked, and nothing of great consequence happens, but it doesn't need to. Thematically, Happy Christmas is one of the rare films, let alone films directed by a man, to support a woman prioritizing her work life over her family life. The Scott Pilgrim vs. the World faithful will also get to see the actors who played Scott's younger sister (Kendrick) and his bandmate (Mark Webber) hooking up, and that alone is a terrific Christmas-in-August present.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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