Cold December (2007) (V)

reviewed by
Andrew Staker

Writer/director Brian Wright's movie about pre-midlife existential crisis sounds good on paper but as is often the case with such things, especially when budget is limited, the execution can let us down. His protagonist is Chicago resident Chris Payton (Chris Fountain) who has a regular, repetitive job which he dislikes and a boss he despises. He has a wife, Kate (Alyssa Roehrenbeck) and all seems well on the surface.

We open on this young married couple talking up Christmas--the exchange of gifts, the merriment, the time with family; just as in other years. But Chris is honest and says what he wants Alyssa cannot give him. He wants change: not for its own sake but because he is unhappy. He hates how he works through the week then on weekends he "drinks himself silly". As I said, this kind of premise is delicious in its creative potential and the chance to be subversive: perhaps there is more to life than work, gyms, drinks and sex.

Chris has regular discussions with his brother-in-law Jack Jordan (a hunky Frank Daczewitz): it is a cleansing confessional whereby Chris' life only appears all the more miserable because Jordan is happily married with a kid. We then meet Chris' friends: two married couples with whom the Paytons spend their weekends engaging in excessive intoxication. Chris knows he must change his life but the how is the meat of the plot.

Almost the entire film is shot in three indoor locales, giving it a claustrophobic, stifling finish which may have been intentional, designed to expose Chris' psyche: we can but speculate on the filmmaker's intentionality. The pace is slow, the dialogue long-winded and enervating in places.

My overall experience is one of frustration, because the scenario offers so much in terms of social critique and breaking free from routine (which is what Chris is seeking) but the whole project collapses into a predictable morass: the most conformist solution to existential pondering imaginable is the goal. It was a thorough disappointment, especially given the tinglings of homo-eroticism which are left so dead, so quickly, one wonders why they were bothered with at all.

Andrew Staker

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