The new Christmas movie “Happiest Season” stars Mackenzie Davis as Harper, a woman who invites her girlfriend Abby (Kristen Stewart) to come home with her for the holidays. The hitch? She hasn’t come out to her family yet, so they’ll have to pretend to just be friends.
I laughed, I cried happy tears at the heart-warming ending, and I decided we should start a petition requiring Dan Levy to appear in all romantic comedies from here on out.
A bonus on top of an already fun and funny film: the house was pretty great, too. The Caldwell family gathers for the holidays at this traditional red-brick home with shutters in Pennsylvania, and it’s a picture-perfect setting for a Christmas movie.
Take a look!
Creating the Caldwell Family’s House for “Happiest Season”
“Happiest Season” was filmed on location in Pittsburgh and Grove City, Pennsylvania.
This house was used for exterior shots only. They built the entire interior on a soundstage.
Writer and Director Clea DuVall originally intended the story to take place in New York but explains, “When I started researching Pittsburgh, it’s such a cool city that I changed the script so that we could shoot Pittsburgh for Pittsburgh and take advantage of all the gifts that Pittsburgh has to offer.”
“The small town nearby where the family lives, I wanted that to be its own little world. When you go back home, it’s like going into a bubble – it feels like you’re stepping into a time machine and everyone regresses. Pittsburgh having so much range allowed us to create that feeling with Harper.”
The Entry Hall and Staircase
DuVall says they really enjoyed creating the interior of the house because they were able to design it exactly the way they needed it to be laid out to work for the various scenes throughout the movie.
Production Designer Theresa Gulesarian explains, “So much of the movie takes place in the house and because of the way the script is written, the geography of the house was paramount.”
“For instance, in one scene, Abby comes up the stairs and creeps past Ted’s office, and then past the family watching television in the den. She almost makes it upstairs, but then ducks back into the hallway.
“That’s just one piece, and there are million specific pieces like that written into the script. Clea knew exactly what she wanted, exactly how she wanted to experience the home. So that just required that we build it, so we did, and we made it work.”
The kitchen they designed is gorgeous with pale green cabinets, a dramatic marble backsplash
that covers the entire wall behind the range, and a cozy banquette tucked in the corner.
Who wouldn’t want to bake Christmas cookies in this kitchen?
Mary Steenburgen plays the Caldwell matriarch Tipper with three daughters:
Jane (Mary Holland), Sloane (Alison Brie), and Harper (Mackenzie Davis).
Victor Garber is their dad Ted. He’s running for mayor and wants everyone to
project the image of a wholesome, All-American family to help him get elected.
The Living Room:
They cast many familiar faces in this movie — most in such small roles that if you blink you might miss them. The mall cops, for instance, had a short but hilarious scene.
And Daniel Levy (“Schitts Creek”) was so much fun as Abby’s friend and confidante that I wish he’d had more screen time.
Sloane and Eric’s twins Magnus and Matilda sing for the guests by the fire:
They filmed the Main Street shopping and movie-theater scenes in Grove City, Pennsylvania,
about an hour north of Pittsburgh. I visited the town once and it really is charming!
Jane made a painting of Main Street for their White Elephant Christmas exchange.
They filmed the movie from January-February of 2020, finishing right
before the pandemic brought the film industry to a halt in March.
Their family may not be perfect (whose is?), but their house, with the Christmas wreaths
in the windows and the snow on the roof, is pretty close to it:
Candy Cane Lane in “Happiest Season”
The residents of the street accommodated the production by leaving their displays up until the end of January when those scenes were shot.
Production Designer Theresa Gulesarian describes Candy Cane Lane as “one of Pittsburgh’s most holiday-splattered streets. There are kids selling cocoa and holiday treats on the sidewalk. Carolers roaming the streets singing Christmas songs.
“When you step into that scene you know—this is a Christmas movie, everything people love about the holidays, and welcome to our world.”
You can read more about the Candy Cane Lane neighborhood and see photos of it here.
“Happiest Season” is now streaming on Hulu.
Visit my Houses Onscreen page to see more Christmas movies I’ve featured,
from “The Family Stone” to “The Holiday.”