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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went in to watch this movie expecting it to be a lot more sugary,
maybe some poor guys discover the meaning of Christmas and everything
is glowing in the end.
I was wrong. Sort of.
This movie teaches you a few things if you're willing to see them: - Sometimes life just won't cut you a break, no matter how noble your intentions or how much you suffer or work - you may discover you're dedicated to goals that much surpass your personal well-being and give up any rewards if only you can see them fulfilled.
The storyline is simple: guy, Dennis (Paul Giamatti), gets out of prison, wife tells him to go away and announces that their daughter now thinks he's dead. Wife also announces that she's about to marry a good friend of his, Rene (Paul Rudd), just as soon as he gets his divorce. With no house, money, or family, Dennis asks Rene to take him to New York on his yearly tree selling trip.
Both men are resolute to not commit any felonies anymore this becoming a comedic point because from the get go, they're not exactly law abiding. Dennis leaves the country although he's released under parole, and hides in the truck among the trees to pass customs. He threatens other sellers as soon as they arrive, steals petty stuff at any chance he gets.
When the season ends and they count the good money, they get robbed by a guy who earlier pretended to be blind at which point by the way he had the funniest line in the movie. At the end they plan a robbery to the wealthy house where a woman they became friends with worked. They're not stealing what you'd expect, and I'll leave it at that.
Other commenter criticized the fact that they didn't put the money in the bank. Well, for one they're cons so they don't think that way, and then they're cons and have records, you can't just walk into a bank and then start sending funds to your account from another country.
It's the obscure/dark humor, hopeless and sad humor at the same time, combined with the survival situation to achieve relatively small, but unattainable goals, that give the movie its character.
Some characters are delicately crafted: the Russian woman they befriend is a simple house maid in some dentist's house. She is poor, and shares the same passion as Dennis' daughter playing the piano.
Rene is added depth when his current wife announces she'll give him a divorce. He's not happy, he's not celebrating he is devastated he didn't even take her on a honeymoon. Granted he's a hypocrite because he's trying to marry another woman, but still it was a different reaction from what you'd expect.
Dennis and Rene remain in a hanging-by-a-thread kind of relationship, and that thread is survival. Dennis, despite what you'd expect from an ex con, cares about his (ex)wife and daughter so much that he's willing to stick it out, and stick up for, with the guy who took them from him in order to give his daughter a gift that he promised in his mind, and in order to not make his wife suffer because of Rene's behavior. ("Why would I lie for him?")
While they're making a tree sale to 2 guys, Dennis actually has a breakdown about how Rene stole his wife and the 2 guys are strongly on his side and encourage him to do all that he can to get her back. That's the voice of the viewer, I'd say, because that's what other movies teach you to want. I like to interpret Dennis not following this path of action as the selfless choice of reason: his wife and daughter have been through a lot while he was in prison and managed to rebuild their lives. They seem happy and do not show signs of wanting him back. He realizes his fight to get them back will very likely be unsuccessful, and would add hardship to the wife's already tough time. So he chooses to step back (not without a few desperation fits) with the last gesture of getting his kid a piano, by any means. And by this gesture he does not aim to be the hero, to be lauded and acknowledged. He just wants to make his kid happy even without the reward of "good daddy".
I'm not surprised that the film has a low score and few reviews. It's not a general public type of film, and it's not an American type of film as it's not rewarding to watch - all things don't get fixed up by the end.
Both Pauls are remarkable in their roles, they make believable and deep characters. Sally Hawkins is funny and quirky as the Russian girl. I have nothing to say about Amy Landecker as the wife. This for me is also a good point of the movie: she's a regular woman with a kid and real problems, she's not a trophy.
The film has a nice offbeat rhythm that I enjoyed and that fits well with my understanding of how films should be (music too but that has no place here). I hope there are viewers out there who feel the same.
I must say for a comedy starring Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti, then "All
Is Bright" was somewhat of a disappointment if you look at the movie
from a comedy aspect. Why? Well, because there was almost no comedy
here. This was more a drama with some elements of pseudo-comedy thrown
The story is about Dennis (played by Paul Giamatti) who is released from prison, only to find his wife Therese (played by Amy Landecker) having told their daughter that he is dead. And to make matters worse, she is to marry his former partner in crime Rene (played by Paul Rudd). Down on his luck and low on cash, Dennis have to bite the sour apple and go with Rene to New York City to sell Christmas trees.
Now, as much as the story is without comedy that will make you laugh, then the movie is equally stacked with an interesting story that was really well acted by the lead actors, and they really carried the movie quite nicely.
The characters in the movie were well carved out, with lots of depth, personality and characteristics, as odd as they may be. But with the talent of Rudd and Giamatti, then the audience are introduced to two very different characters, that are each individually very likable for better or worse. And together on the screen, their chemistry is just magnificent.
"All Is Bright" is well worth a watch if you enjoy a movie that is something out of the ordinary.
'ALL IS BRIGHT': Three Stars (Out of Five)
Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd star in this comedy-drama film that's a lot more serious (and less comedic) than I was expecting (with that pair). It's a Christmas movie about two losers from Canada trying to sell Christmas trees in New York City. It was directed by Phil Morrison (who also directed the 2005 indie critical darling 'JUNEBUG') and written by first time film writer Melissa James Gibson. It's a lot more of a downer than it looks like (in the trailers) and isn't really that funny but it is a somewhat interesting character study.
Giamatti plays an ex-convict named Dennis, who just got out of prison in Quebec, Canada. His wife, Therese (Amy Landecker) is now sleeping with another man, Rene (Rudd). She also told their daughter, Michi (Tatyana Richaud), that Dennis was dead. In order to make enough money to buy Michi a piano for Christmas Dennis agree to sell Christmas trees with Rene in New York City. Neither is especially good at the job and it's a big challenge.
For a Christmas movie and a comedy the film is pretty depressing. It's also surprisingly sad considering it stars Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd. Giamatti does a lot of serious dramas as well as comedies but it's definitely not Rudd's usual thing (it does mark his second quirky indie film this year though, after 'PRINCE AVALANCHE' from a few moths ago). He is his usual dimwitted and easygoing self in it though and you can't help but love him (and root for him) despite his flaws. Giamatti is definitely less likable in the movie and is pretty hard to like but both of their characters have their hearts in the right place. If you're expecting big laughs this isn't the movie for you but it is a decent emotional buddy film.
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"Season's Greetings from Canada." After being released from prison Dennis (Giamatti) returns home to see his kid he is surprised when he finds out his wife told the daughter he was dead. Things get worse when he finds out his ex crime partner Rene (Rudd) is now dating his wife. Looking for work Dennis joins Rene on a trip to New York City to sell Christmas trees. The trip not only forces them to deal with the present circumstances but winds up affecting the lives of everyone involved. First of all even though this is about selling trees I would not call this a Christmas movie. Going into this I was excited because I love Paul Giamatti and think Paul Rudd is underrated. While the movie is good and the acting is great as expected it is very depressing. This is a movie that I can't really talk about what is going on too much because it will give something away but just know that you see the full arc of Dennis from happiness of being released to happiness with himself. If you are a Giamatti fan you will like this but don't expect a happy Christmas movie at all. Overall, great acting and worth seeing but don't be shocked if you are sad when its over. I give it a B.
I wouldn't call this a comedy. But it is touching and a serious account
of struggling for Christmas.
There is brilliant subtlety in the plot and ending that is easily not noticed.
Part of the film's charm is rooting the origins of Christmas in Quebec, where it deserves to be.
The movie is neither depressing nor uplifting while staying interesting, and the choice to make it so is interesting.
This is definitely worth seeing. Don't expect too much. Though this is arguably Giamatti's best acting since that wine tasting movie.
Phil Morrison blazed onto the scene with Junebug (2005) and managed to
introduce the cinematic world to the blissful abilities with Oscar-
nominated actress Amy Adams. With a near eight year stretch, he has
finally taken his directorial chair yet again to bring the whimsical
and fascinating Almost Christmas with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd.
The film opens up with Dennis (Giamatti), a recently released ex-convict that learns that his now ex-wife has told their daughter that he died in prison. To make matters worse, his partner-in-crime Rene is now dating her with intentions of marriage. With no job, home, or any real place to go, Rene's guilt partners with Dennis' opportunities and the two French Canadians embark on a trip to New York City to sell Christmas trees just before the holidays. During the daily antics and struggle to sell, eat, and sleep out of a wooden trailer, a dentist's wife (Sally Hawkins) presents a possible opportunity for them to learn more than just the meaning of the holidays.
Paul Giamatti continues to elevate himself to one of the greatest working actors today. As Dennis, he's utterly believable and encounters a new side of himself as an actor that is both funny and completely genuine. Giamatti's dedication to the craft allows him to continue to do what he normally achieves with all of his off-beat characters that are dreadful on the inside with a kind core that the audience can easily access.
As Rene, Paul Rudd continues his attempt at off-beat comedies on the independent circuit and presents himself as a very capable and gifted actor. His performance, which naturally brings many of the film's biggest laughs, is one of the Rudd's most surprising portrayals to date. Rudd shows vulnerability, skill, and a promise of a very endearing and powerful performance somewhere in his future. While the role is not a full-out home-run for the actor, he is more than average and presents some of the film's beautiful highlights.
Written by Melissa James Gibson, Almost Christmas is an incredibly original concept with a slight twist on a genre you may feel like you've seen before. The actions and story temperature are unhurried and at times cold, but ultimately is what makes the film succeed. There are some off-beat choices in character behaviors and an unrelated qualm about how someone should act in firm situations, but for a first-time screenwriter, it's a great plateau for her to step off. Gibson has only been credited as a writer on the show, "The Americans." She constructs authentic characterizations and gives them all an identity for the actor's to latch onto.
Golden Globe Winner Sally Hawkins is amazingly charming and wondrous in her role. With her delightful and appealing accent partnered with her cutely delivered monologue about "Fortune of Wheel," it's another strong turn from the gifted actress that has yet to take off in the big Hollywood manner as of yet. Hawkins is absolutely hilarious.
Phil Morrison's direction and choices aren't as bold or as inventive as his styles in Junebug. The story doesn't lend itself to those traits that made him a quiet sensation in the mid-2000s. He lends himself to a more defined genre of filmmaking that doesn't go for the big moments or audience reactions. It's a undemanding yet solid directorial work. The film's narrative is paced at a leisured speed, which may take some out of the story. It does take a minute to lift off but when it gets going, Almost Christmas has you hooked. It's a fine film event for movie-goers and a possible contender for year-end citations by independent groups.
Oscar CHANCES: Lead Actor for Paul Giamatti, Supporting Actress for Sally Hawkins, Original Screenplay for Melissa James Gibson
Read More @ The Awards Circuit (http://www.awardscircuit.com
I really liked this film - like many of Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd's
movies. They seem to go for interesting characters and quiet, realistic
stories rather than sentimental or violent American claptrap.
It's a movie well worth watching more than once - there are nuances and side remarks I missed out the first time. Don't watch if you are into smartarse one-liners, car chases or beautiful young rich airheads covered in heavy make-up. More reminiscent of British/European films before they started targeting the US market. The characters are neither supergood nor evil - just human and flawed like all of us.
Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd in a film also known as Almost Christmas
and you expect a festive comedy and instead you get this dreary downer.
Giamatti is Dennis, a small time crook in Canada just out of prison who had found his best friend has shacked up with his wife and his daughter was told that her father had died.
Paul Rudd plays the buddy Rene and in order to survive Christmas and buy Dennis's daughter a piano they go to New York to sell Christmas trees and it seems they are not good at that. Dennis befriends a Russian lady who helps him out by giving him selling tips. Dennis and Rene who do not sound like Canadians especially French-Canadians bicker and argue and get into scrapes.
The film meanders, is very dull without an ounce of comedy. It really is a feel bad festive film.
Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd (the two Pauls) in the role of two rather
inept Canadian Christmas tree salesmen and the quirky characters they
encounter while in New York City cannot save this flick from the big
Why this story doesn't work I do not know. All the right ingredients are there for a light hearted funny story but it just can't bring it together. Sort of like the two Pauls trying to sell their trees when they set up in NYC. No one really notices them except for a few and their sales are almost nil. That's this movie.
Then the one on parole turns to his criminal mind to bring in the buyers. This action should have had some humor to it but his actions comes across as desperate and sad. And the piano heist at the closing of the story just comes across as unbelievable instead of being wickedly sneaky and crafty.
The two Pauls should have been able to create more lighthearted and endearing characters. But sorrowfully for me that just doesn't happen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Caught this last night on cable, expecting at the very least a decent
film, considering the two Pauls. Giamatti is one of my favorite actors,
I even created a yahoo group called talkpaul after he was overlooked
for an Oscar nod for Sideways a few years back. Paul Rudd ain't no
schlub either; he's always good no matter what he plays as well. The
problem here, as it usually is, begins with the script.
A lot of critics have mentioned how implausible most of the goings-on are in this mess, which they are. I was willing to overlook a lot because I found myself invested in Giamatti's character. But by the time -=- SPOILER ALERT -=- the money box from the Christmas tree sales gets lifted in the most unbelievably contrived manner and the two Pauls resort to their old thievery habits, stealing, of all things, a grand piano, out of an apartment window, so that Giamatti's young daughter (who's been told by her mother who's now engaged to Rudd's character that her daddy died of some unnameable cancer) can have a piano for Christmas (he promised one to her in his head, see) I was shaking my head in disappointed disbelief. -=- END OF SPOILER -=-
Something else that bugged me: If you are aware of karma, you will know that what you do to others will be done to you in one form or another eventually. Here we have the two Pauls resorting back to thievery after they've just been stolen from, with no awareness whatsoever, of course, of the karma law. This is understandable considering these two ain't the most enlightened characters on the planet, but it bugged me because they hadn't learned anything, especially Giamatti's sad sack, who'd spent four years in the slammer for a theft crime. Just sayin'.
The movie ended up this way -=- SPOILER ALERT -=- (the stealing of the piano, with his daughter running outside her house to play it in the snow, still never knowing about her father, who skulks off into the sad, lonely night) -=-END OF SPOILER -=- to keep the heavy-handed contrivedness going. This is a shame, because with more care given to the details of the story - letting it unfold in a far more organic, believable fashion - this could have been very decent, poignant, even moving. Everything was heavy-handed, including the title: All Is Bright, which of course is supposed to be ironic considering the anything-but-bright situation these guys are in, and the tagline is even more heavy-handed. The original title, Almost Christmas, is almost better, but obviously it doesn't matter since the film was so disappointing in so many ways.
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