Happy Christmas

  • Review Date: July 24, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Well-acted holiday dramedy has drinking, mature themes.
  • Review Date: July 24, 2014
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 88 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jeff and Jenny's relationship shows how important it is for siblings to be there for one another, even if it's not convenient or easy. Family and unconditional love are needed to get through tough times.

Positive role models

Jeff and Kelly are loving, patient, and caring brother and sister-in-law to Jenny, who continues to act inconsiderately, self-destructively, and irresponsibly. They're also good and devoted new parents who want to make sure that Jenny is responsible enough to watch their son.


Jenny is slapped a couple of times while she's nearly passed out drunk. She's dragged and then carried out of a house party. Kelly slaps her in anger for almost setting the house on fire.


Passionate kissing and a lovemaking scene between a married couple, plus a couple of more involved sex scenes between a couple that has just met. The woman gives the man instructions on how to please her (like pulling her hair in a certain way). They scenes are shot in an intimate close-up, but the people are partially clothed.


Lots of casual swearing and strong language, especially "f--k" (as both a term for sex and an exclamation) and "a--hole," as well as "s--t" and "bitch."


Not frequent, just iPhone and a brief shot of a stack of board games like Trivial Pursuit, Sequence, etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of adult drunkenness and use of drugs, particularly cocktails and marijuana. One character is both a part-time babysitter and a part-time pot dealer. A couple of adults are shown drinking recreationally, but the main character drinks so much that she basically passes out.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Happy Christmas is an indie holiday dramedy with mature themes and family dysfunction that aren't likely appeal to young teens -- so while fans of Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick may be curious about the film, but it's clearly aimed at adults. There's drunkenness (as in passed-out drunk more than once) and marijuana use (one character is a part-time pot dealer), very frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," etc.), and a few sex scenes (although none shows nudity). The protagonist isn't an ideal role model, but at least her relationship with her older brother demonstrates the importance of having strong relationships with your siblings and family.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

HAPPY CHRISTMAS is a dramedy set in Chicago. Jeff (writer-director Joe Swanberg) is an independent film director living happily with his author wife, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their baby boy, Jude (Jude Swanberg, Joe's actual son). But their early lives are turned upside down when, just before Christmas, Jeff's little sister, Jenny (Anna Kendrick), turns up for an extended stay after a difficult break-up. Jeff and Kelly think the 27-year-old Jenny will be up for babysitting and helping around the house until she gets a job and settles into the city, but it quickly becomes clear that Jenny is a mess who wants to spend her time partying, hooking up, and acting irresponsibly.

Is it any good?


Swanberg is famous in indie circles for his semi-improvisational, ultra-realistic mumblecore indie dramas, with his last film before this one, Drinking Buddies, being his most commercially successful. His style can lead to uneven results. While some actors are up to the task of taking the concept of their roles and running with them, others seem stifled rather than empowered by the unscripted portrayals. Kendrick, who was good in Drinking Buddies, seems unable to fully capture what Jenny is about, whereas Swanberg and Lena Dunham, who plays Jenny's old friend, Carson, know exactly how to add layers of humor and depth while still keeping it real.

Probably the biggest scene-stealer of all is Swanberg's baby, Jude, already a veteran "actor" who has appeared in both of his parents' projects (mom is Kris Swanberg, who makes a brief appearance here as the landlord of a messy house share that Jenny visits). Baby Jude's attempts to talk and kiss and cuddle his dad and other characters are ridiculously genuine and sweet, and they make Joe and Kelly, the new parents trying to figure out how to balance their parental obligations with their professional aspirations, much more compelling than Jenny, who's a lot less self aware than the striving Girls characters Dunham created. The subtlety of Swanberg's films is always notable, but Happy Christmas is slightly too uneven to be his best work.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether the improvisational nature of the Happy Christmas screenplay was obvious. Do you prefer improvisation in comedies or dramas? Why?

  • Parents can discuss how the movie presents drinking and drug use. Do you think Jenny parties too much? Does her behavior seem believable? What are the consequences for her hard partying? Are they realistic?

  • What's the movie's message? Who do you think it's aimed at?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 25, 2014
DVD release date:November 11, 2014
Cast:Anna Kendrick, Joe Swanberg, Melanie Lynskey
Director:Joe Swanberg
Studio:Magnolia Pictures
Topics:Friendship, Holidays
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, drug use and some sexual content

This review of Happy Christmas was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byleiajordan09 November 30, 2014

So good!

A really quirky, funny, sweet, and drama-filled look into the life of a girl who's going through a rough time in her life. While it does have sex and drugs in it, I doubt any of what the movie portrays is new to kids 15+ a lot of parents don't realize what kids in HS are like anymore... I mean, the other day in my math class (I'm a sophomore) we found a marijuana pipe on one of the desks.
Adult Written byeleanorj August 16, 2014

Unlike anything other!

As a fifteen year old Happy Christmas did not appeal to me as it is aimed at adults however after watching Drinking buddies and now Happy Christmas I find that Swanberg is a master of dramatic observation and I find his films are unlike anything other filmmakers are giving us right now. It contains mature themes such as drunkenness, marijuana use, strong language and sex scenes that shows no nudity. Overall I think this film is worth checking out if only for Kendrick (I’m a big fan of Anna’s) and Lynskey. I recommend this film!
Parent Written byMeta-Critic July 28, 2014

Very well thought out movie

This movie is a fine movie for anybody over 16. I think people will enjoy this movie.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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