Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Happy Holidays

Grade : A- Year : 2008 Director : Running Time : Genre :
Movie review score

In a way, it’s fitting that this film is shot in black-and-white. Thematically, it deals with its’ characters worldviews and how they inform the lives and thinking of three friends one holiday season. While the character’s sometimes see their lives in very black-and-white terms, there’s a lot of grey to muck up the works for each of them, a lot like a film shot in black-and-white. I’m not sure that this was a deliberate choice on the part of the filmmakers- who were working on a low-budget and short shooting schedule- but it did make the film perhaps be more contemplative than it might have been otherwise.

Don’t take that last comment as a reason to miss out on this film- which will be hitting online distribution formats this winter- which is a surprising and entertaining holiday entry from co-writer/director James C. Ferguson. In a more opportune time and less competitive movie climate, it might even have an outside shot at an Oscar- just keep listening during the end credits for an original holiday jingle- “Generic Winter Holiday” (written by Ferguson, singer Molly Beck Ferguson, and Zack Hexum)- that’s witty and has all the makings of a holiday classic, even if the film may not.

That’s quite a shame, too (about the film, not the song), because anyone who has a chance to check it out will find some real heart and hearty laughs in the story of Patrick (Paul Hungerford), a small-town business owner in Rhode Island who’s living with his partner Kevin (Bill Daly) in his parent’s old house. Patrick and Kevin are separated this holiday season- Kevin’s gone to visit his sister while Patrick (who’s been stressing out about their relationship recently) has stayed in town to console his friend Alden (John B. Crye), in from out-of-town after his girlfriend- who wanted to get married- broke up with him. While the two are going around town hanging out, they run into an old high school acquaintance named Kirby (Thomas Rhoads), who’s in town for his father’s funeral and not afraid to speak his mind…or hit on the local women despite a wife at home. Together the three travel around town, digging up old memories and arguing with one another that pours salt on fresh emotional wounds in a manner that culminates to a trip to the hospital where all three find some peace of mind, just in time to celebrate Christmas together.

Writing that last sentence, it occurs to me that I’m making this film sound like a sappy piece of Hollywood formula. But while it certainly has it’s moments of sentiment, “Happy Holidays” earns each one while maintaining an irreverent yet respectful tone to each character, the backgrounds that have shaped them, and the situations that have each one unsure of what they want this holiday season. The result is as satisfying as a holiday dinner with the family, even if- for the characters- it can sometimes be as maddening. This is the fourth film I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing through an independent inquiry by the filmmakers- by the end of it, I was thinking that Christmas had come early for me.

Leave a Reply