Drinking Buddies director Joe Swanberg zooms in on the lives of lost and confused 20-somethings in his latest slice-of-life drama. Anna Kendrick stars as Jenny, a gal who moves to Chicago after a breakup to live with her film-director brother Jeff (Swanberg), his novelist-turned-stay-at-home-mom wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their adorable two-year-old son Jude (played by Swanberg’s real-life son). Together with her friend Carson (Lena Dunham), Jenny pushes Kelly to return to her writing, and the three women collaborate on an erotic romance novel. But as Jenny and Kelly grow closer, Jenny’s life continues to unravel as she rebounds with a pot dealer (Mark Webber) and binge drinks with disastrous results.
Though at times uneven, Happy Christmas does a lot with just a few characters. It’s a family drama, a story of female friendship, a (belated) coming-of-age movie, and a comedy all rolled into one. Anna Kendrick continues to prove her talent, and Melanie Lynskey, a longtime character actress, shines in what’s really a second leading role. The choice to set the movie during Christmas, however, seems senseless; the plot would work equally well at any time of year, and the seasonal title will likely turn off moviegoers who don’t want to watch a holiday movie in the summertime. But don’t let the name turn you off. If you’re looking for a movie with complex female characters exploring female friendship—and of course you are!—Happy Christmas is definitely worth seeing.