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HiT DVD Review: ‘Happy Christmas’

The indie drama, out Nov. 11 on DVD, follows a floundering 20-something as she reaches out to her brother for a lifeline. Only the sister isn’t troubled. She’s just mildly lost. And her journey isn’t exactly epic.

It’s more of an extended yawn.

“Happy Christmas” is like eavesdropping on some very boring people made less interesting by bland camera work and improvised dialogue.

Where’s a Real Housewife when you need her?

 

Anna Kendrick stars as Jenny, a lost soul who moves to Chicago to live near her stable brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg) and wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey). Jenny’s boyfriend headed for the hills, and now she’s as aimless as your average Mumblecore slacker.

Can Jenny bond with her mildly frazzled sister in law? Will she find love with a local stoner (Mark Webber), or will they be too high to carry on, like, an adult conversation? Will audiences’ jaws drop over the supremely slack finale?

Several scenes feature long, excruciating takes capturing the inanities of everyday life. The awkward pauses of a first date hold potential, but we’re let down once again by everyone on screen. Every line of dialogue feels made up on the spot, and rather than taking the best of 10 takes director/star Swanberg opts for the worst. Every time.

Other conversations are simply long-winded, the kind of chatter heard at a hipster coffee shop.

Swanberg directed the infinitely superior “Drinking Buddies” last year, a film with palpable romantic tension between the leads. The only tension in “Happy Christmas” is how many times the film can show either a cute dog or a toddler to keep us from nodding off.

Suddenly, you don’t mind the fact that reality shows manufacture tension via creative editing and sleight of hand.

And then there’s the extensive pot content, from procuring the weed to smoking it. Maybe the whole movie is a devious 527 group ad against pro-pot legislation.

It’s ironic that one of the film’s few plots involves the characters coming up with a dumb romantic novel meant to make the author rich. That fictional book would be far more interesting than any sequence in “Happy Christmas.”

DID YOU KNOW: The adorable toddler featured prominently in the film is the real-life son of writer/director star Joe Swanberg.

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