Happiest Season Director Clea Duvall Talks Her Own LGBTQ Journey And What Made It Into The Kristen Stewart Movie

Clea Duvall with Happiest Season's Mackenzie Davis and Kristen Stewart

Over the past few years there's been a ton of conversation in the entertainment world about representation. Audience long to see themselves reflected onscreen, and projects like Clea Duvall's Happiest Season highlights the positive change happening in the industry. The holiday romantic comedy arrived on Hulu and has become one of the streaming service's biggest hits. And Duvall recently spoke to how her own queer journey affected the Kristen Stewart-led movie.

Clea Duvall has had a long career in as an actress, while also using her talents behind the camera. She became known through iconic teen movies like She's All That and The Faculty, as well as 1999 cult favorite But I'm A Cheerleader. Duvall wasn't out when she made that over the top gay comedy, and reflected back on that time in her life, saying:

When we made But I’m a Cheerleader, I was 21 and very closeted. I was so happy to be in the movie and loved it so much, but there was also the side of me that was so scared. To end up in this place where I am now, a 43-year-old happily married woman who is so comfortable with myself … That journey was one that was not always easy.

But I'm a Cheerleader is an over the top satirical comedy about the coming out process, and the pressures to conform for LGBT folks. Clea Duvall and her friend Natasha Lyonne starred as the lead romantic couple, and the movie was the first of its kind in many ways. But while Duvall wasn't out at the time of filming, her queer identity was eventually explored in projects like Happiest Season.

Clea Duvall's comments to The Atlantic highlights what an individual experience coming out of the closet is. While she was deeply closeted when filming But I'm a Cheerleader, it's been decades since that project hit theaters. And now that Duvall is living is living out and proud, she's able to once again inspire young viewers thanks to Happiest Season. What's more, she was putting some of her own experience into the struggles of Mackenzie Davis' Harper. Later in her same interview the filmmaker went on to say,

I’m so grateful that this movie is out now, no pun intended. There is nothing torn from my life in a literal sense, but going home with people as the ‘friend,’ having people come places with me as the ‘friend,’ there is this very casual closeting that happens that I think is very relatable for a lot of queer people.

Spoilers ahead for Happiest Season.

While Happiest Season's plot forced the main couple into the closet and might have been frustrating for Hulu viewers, Clea Duvall included this in the movie's story because it's such a familiar experience for so many LGBTQIA+ folks out there. While some fans were hoping that Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza's characters would end up together, the holiday rom-com ultimately gave us a more traditional happy ending.

It should be interesting to see how Happiest Season's legacy continues to grow in the years since its release on Hulu. The streaming numbers indicated a ton of folks watched the new release, so it has the potential to be re-watched annually for the holidays. Clea Duvall has also mentioned how she's got some ideas for a sequel, so we'll just have to wait and see if this occurs.

Happiest Season is currently streaming on Hulu. Be sure to check out our 2021 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.