Monday, November 18, 2013

All Is Bright (2013): Tales from the Tree Lot Men

It's time to start prepping for Christmas. That doesn't mean celebrating it or even taking out the LP's of Mitch Miller and Ray Coniff. You have to stock up on some essential seasonal viewing now, so that when December hits and you're spent all your money on presents, you can enjoy a movie like All Is Bright from director Phil Morrison starring Paul "The Animal" Giamatti and Paul "The Stud" Rudd. This is a Christmas movie that might feel like it has a familiar overall message, but I can safely say you haven't seen our protagonists before. You haven't been in their predicament before and mostly likely you will hope that the coal in your stalking is to keep you warm and not because you've been on the perpetual naughty list.

Disclaimer: Not a Horror Picture at All

Synopsis from Anchor Bay

Lie, cheat, steal…it’s all part of the holiday spirit for ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) and fast talker Rene (Paul Rudd) when they try to make a quick buck selling Christmas trees in New York. For Dennis it’s a chance to go straight, and for his best friend and former partner-in-crime, Rene, it’s a chance to make some easy cash so he can marry Dennis’s ex-wife. But for two not-very-bright guys now stuck together on the cold streets of Brooklyn, this holiday season may bring some of the most unexpected miracles of all.


Let's start off by being honest. The first 50 minutes of All Is Bright is tedious. It moves slow, has no energy, creates a general feeling of melancholy (very unbecoming of the Christmas season I suppose) and may have you tapping your foot in an attempt to get the damn thing to move at a fresher clip. My wife fell asleep while watching it. That may not be the hallmark to identify a stinker, but it certainly means that you don't want to lie in bed with the lights out while you wait for All Is Bright to turn on (it does turn on I can assure you). I want to get this point out of the way first because if I simply recommend you watch it then you'll probably ask yourself why I'd do a thing like that.  50 minutes of bleak, hopeless, development... and then... subtle hints of  real transitional development, conflict... you can finally enjoy being in the same room with these characters.

Rudd and Giamatti are two of my favorites and the first half of this movie left me curious as to why they would appear in a movie that is shot like a TV episode with strange camera zooms and pans. The director is successful though I admittedly unfamiliar with his work. The cast is brimming with talent, and I can't imagine at this point in either of our stars' careers that they would take a chance on a movie that didn't some how either benefit their career or their own well being. Rudd and Giamatti know how to play the subtle qualities of man that allow him to be genuine. We use the term character development, but for this picture we might consider discussing the evolution of individual emotions. Those are what you'll find behind the eyes of each of our protagonists. How does fear come out of love and greed and how does greed give birth to love and passion and strange romance or even charity? I suppose those are questions for this seasonal as much as any manger scene or tree farm could hope for. Sally Hawkins actually ends up stealing the show with her portrayal of a very put out maid who is ready to extend a welcoming hand to the downtrodden, ex-con in Paul Giamatti clothing.

With any holiday feature, I like to let you know just how prepared you should be for the season. While the backdrop of All Is Bright is New York City and Canada during December and a Christmas tree lot there in, the movie does not necessarily embrace the totality of the Christmas holiday. This may not be a new Christmas classic. It's message, moral... its lessons is more akin to It's a Wonderful Life which may rear it's Capra coated head during the winter months but doesn't actually have to be a Christmas or holiday feature. So this is a good primer if you want to feel emotional invigorated though not necessarily with all the warm fuzzies that most people desire during the Christmas season.

Remember, you have to let the characters and emotions marinate if you're to enjoy the final half of the movie. I don't mind suspenseful slow burn, but a slow emotional crawl to an epiphany is taxing. The end result of the build had me well up with real tears of joy and longing... perhaps even a hint of sympathy sadness. Yes there are moments of dark humor that will permeate some of this moodiness, but they are not belly laughers. These are quiet chuckles between moments of emotional heartache and delicate regret. If that's what you're ready for... an emotional ride with a brilliant cast... pick it up.

All Is Bright streets November 19th. Available for Pre-Order NOW!

-DoC TERROR (the softer side of...)

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