After the death of his parents, 10-year-old, Jackson Mayhew (Culkin), moves in with his Aunt. But when he befriends an elderly man (Cronyn), he begins to suspect that the old man is actually Santa Claus.
Jackson Mayhew, a 10-year-old boy whose parents died in a tragic accident, moves to Florida to live with his aunt Patty, a bartender and aspiring singer who lives and works in a failing hotel. During his summer vacation at the hotel, Jackson meets Sam Clausner, an elderly man with white hair, a white beard and a curious last name. After Jackson spreads a rumor that Sam is Santa Claus, a curious Richard Frangello checks into the hotel. Written by
You're probably familiar with Rory Culkin's detached persona in Signs 2002. Replace Mel Gibson's helpless grimace with Sherilyn Fenn's impossibly perfect face and signing voice and you've got the setup for the juxtaposition of grief and holiday magic.
For a movie with a strong cast and an even stronger script, it's almost impossible to see on cable or rent. I've seen it once and can't get it out of my head. I connected with this and even identified with Jackson (Rory) because I lost a parent when I was 9. Off Season brought back the weirdness of my slo-mo wanderings through the minefield of good intentions. Hume Cronyn's last performance will be remembered as a holiday classic but I see it as children's fantasy noir.
The real magic happens when we shift from feeling powerless to help Jackson to believing that Sam Clausner (Cronyn) IS Santa. Don't get too comfortable because you'll never be completely sure. As a bonus Sam & Jackson deliver memorable adages like, "I'm in the Joy Business... now do you wanna join me?" It's a Christmas gift without the tinsel.
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