When we first meet Plaza’s character, Harper and Abby are at a family dinner where they’re met with a surprise guest—Harper’s ex-boyfriend from high school, Liam. After a quick “girls chat” in the bathroom about how suffocating it is for Abby to have to hide who she is to her girlfriend’s family, they bump into Riley, who’s seen wearing a bomb dot com dot au blazer pants combo. Already off to a good start, for sure, but it’s the backstory behind Riley and her relationship to Harper that we slowly get to discover that makes her character truly tragic.
P.S. Twitter is in an absolute meltdown from her performance.
*Spoiler alert for Happiest Season*
See, when Harper was in high school, her and Riley were an ~inseparable~ pair of best friends, and eventually, developed feelings for each other. With neither of them out publicly, they began dating secretly, sharing love letters in each other’s lockers and passing notes in class—y’know, like an adorably typical high school romance. One day, one of Harper’s friends found Riley’s letters and confronted Harper about it. Instead of coming out or even playing the letters off as faux romantic, Harper lied, outed Riley and told them that she was stalking her. The reveal comes as a gut wrenching twist of the knife but also a sign of emotional abuse and what someone is willing—whether intentional or not—to do to stay in the closet.
Cutting back to the present, and Harper is still afraid of being herself and being publicly in a relationship with another girl. When Harper starts to return to her old family life as the perfect straight daughter fighting for affection, she begins to distance herself from Abby, who, as this is all happening, keeps bumping into Riley. Abby and Riley start to spend time together, going out for drinks and bonding over their shared experience of feeling neglected and abandoned by Harper. There’s an endearing moment where the pair sing a Christmas song in a gay bar with RuPaul’s Drag Race queens Jinx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme, and it really does feel like they’re end game.
But, sadly, they aren’t. Harper eventually is forced to come out to her family and Abby is welcomed with open arms, Levy’s character, a literary manager, helps publish Harper’s sister’s fantasy series, and Riley… is left completely on the sidelines. Something both us and the rest of Twitter are Not Happy about.
Speaking in an interview, Aubrey Plaza jokingly said, “I hope people leave the movie feeling disappointed that Kristen Stewart didn’t end up with my character and they riot in the streets about it.” So, uh, Happiest Season sequel starring Aubrey Plaza and Dan Levy getting their sweet queer romance when???
Happiest Season is currently airing in cinemas.