The Scene I Like:
This scene comes from Joe Swanberg’s newest film, Happy Christmas, in which Anna Kendrick (pictured) plays the recently dumped Jenny, who has come to stay with her brother and his wife in Chicago while she figures out what her next step in life is. We skip over a lot of the middle part to get to what I’ve pictured here and beware, there are some mild spoilers I guess.
This scene has Jenny in one of the more intimate, tender moments of the film. It maybe the most tender moment. Here she’s talking to her sister-in-law, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) who’s just kinda gushed about how much she really does like Jenny. By this point in the film Kelly has been upset with, annoyed by, and damn near afraid of Jenny’s disaster-waiting-to-happen lifestyle. But this moment is the culmination of the good times they’ve shared, where Jenny has been helping Kelly write a trashy erotic novel to sell for millions, which has also relaxed Kelly so she could work on her serious book as well.
I like this scene for a couple of reasons. One being that it’s a great example of how brilliant all the performances in this film are, especially Anna Kendrick’s. I’ve seen her as far back as Rocket Science, and in her Oscar nominated role in Up in the Air. I’ve seen her in the instant-hit Pitch Perfect and in Swanberg’s much smaller (but pretty commercially successful by his standards) Drinking Buddies. All of this is to say, I’m fairly confident that this is her best performance so far. This film was apparently made without a full script and you can feel throughout from how raw and realistic the interactions feel that the actors are just hitting on some genuine, honest notes to carry the film along.
I relate to Jenny, more in this scene than anywhere else, because of how much trouble she has just returning a compliment with her true feelings. Because she’s also really enjoyed getting to know her sis-in-law, but she’s so embarrassed of being mushy and I can just feel how awkward she feels for someone being so genuinely nice to her. The scene isn’t awkward at all, but she communicates that emotion perfectly. Earlier in the film she’s in a sex scene with her new love interest (co-star Mark Webber) and she’s purposely and effectively less emotional there than we see her here - refusing to look Kelly in the eye and giggling uncontrollably. It’s so sincere and really sheds light on a layer of her character. I love it.