As an exploration of the gifts and curses of creative vision, nothing beats the short, snappy Happy Christmas. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg, the movie takes a hard look at what happens when archetypal Neptune – whose bailiwick is artistic inspiration, music, color and visual talents, as well as altered states, escapism, the unconscious, intoxicants and drugs – comes to town.
The movie’s carrier of the Neptune archetype is Jenny (Anna Kendrick), the 27-year old sister of Jeff (Joe Swanberg). Jenny has just undergone a bad break-up. She’s come to Chicago during the holiday season to live with Jeff, his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their toddler Jude (Jude Swanberg, the director’s offspring, and a future Oscar contender if his performance here is any indication) in their ample-sized house.
A seemingly together gal, Jenny quickly meets up with her old friend Carson (Lena Dunham), who takes Jenny to a party as a guest. Jenny returns the favor by getting plastered, and refuses to arise from her stupor. Jeff is eventually is called to drive his kid sister home. But the incident has a negative effect on Kelly who now has serious concerns about letting her babysit for Jude.
Unfortunately, wine, beer and spirits are not Jenny’s only conduits to mental oblivion. She also smokes weed, gets involved with Jude’s babysitter (Mark Webber) who also deals pot and, through some more irresponsible behavior, nearly burns the house down.
But Neptune’s bailiwick is also compassion, and Jenny is profoundly sensitive to Kelly’s inability to find the time and space to write her follow-up novel. Jenny’s a font of ideas which Kelly takes in, and she helps get her brother’s mojo back, too. Suggestions pour out of her like wine from a cask.
In short, Jenny’s a gorgeously wrapped package whose ribbon contains spiny protrusions. You simultaneously disapprove of her reckless immaturity and embrace her ability to generously cheer and encourage. It’s two sides of Neptune which, ultimately, comprise a less than ideal house guest but makes for a nifty movie.
Astrology Film Rating: ♆ (Neptune)