Chalk it up to the Canadians to ruin Christmas for us Americans!
Ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) gets out of jail and put on parole, and begins the rest of his life. However, once he shows up to the home where his wife (Amy Landecker) and kid live, little does he know that not only does she want nothing to do with him as she’s started a relationship with his ex-con partner, Rene (Paul Rudd), but that she’s told their kid that he’s died from cancer as well. Basically, nothing is going well for Dennis in his life and to make matters any worse than they could possibly already be, his parole-officer doesn’t really seem to care too much about his job and basically leaves Dennis without any job, source of income, or references where to get his life back on track. So, who can Dennis go to for help? Well, try that same dude who’s now banging his wife, and gets him hooked-up with a holiday job selling Christmas trees in the heart of NYC. Problem is, it’s cold as hell, they’re not selling any trees, and business isn’t quite as booming as they originally thought it would be, which leaves these two former friends angry at and tense-as-hell with one another.
While most of you probably already saw that I wasn’t totally fond of Junebug, I do have to say that given the talent involved with Phil Morrison’s first flick in 8 years since, I was a little excited. Not only do I love Giamatti, Rudd, and Sally Hawkins in almost all that they do with their lives and careers, but honestly, come on. It’s not even Fall yet, and we’re already getting Christmas movies. Now I don’t know about you, but that gets me extremely amped-up for the holidays and prepare for the cold, the tree, the presents, and most of all, the wholesome and happy feel everybody has in their minds.
That’s what’s made me relatively excited for this movie even though, yes, it is still technically September. But who cares for technicalities, it’s the holiday cheer! Now cheer!
But the problem with this movie is that, save for maybe 2 or 3 scenes scattered throughout, the movie is not really cheery, happy, or even interesting. Some of it feels like Morrison was working on a very low-budget, didn’t want to hike-up his costs too much, so just had the movie and its story take place in the same 3 locations, throughout the whole hour-and-a-half and depend on character-development and the performances to swoop in and save the day, but they don’t even work in the film’s favor. The performances all feel like their own type of animal, whereas Morrison’s direction just tries too hard to be slow, sullen and a little too dark for its own pleasure. Reminded me a lot of Junebug in that aspect, but with better results, if only because of the cast. And hell, this movie doesn’t even have Amy Adams in it, so you already know which one’s more pleasant to watch.
However, most of you reading this will probably think my complaints of this movie not being pleasant, happy, and as joyous as the season it’s taken place in as “idiotic” or “incomprehensible”, and I wouldn’t really argue against you if that was the case. The movie definitely will appeal to some more, cynical viewers out there who may have a harsher-view of the world, so much so that they feel as if they can share their own opinions and feelings with this movie, and make some sort of connection. If that is the case, then good for you. But for me, myself, and my feelings: I just wanted this movie to turn its big ol’ frown, upside down. Now you tell me, is that too much to ask for in the end? No, I’m serious: Please, tell me! I want to know!
While I’m starting to jump away from the bad of this movie, let me just focus in on the goodness of it all, and that’s mainly the cast that came prepared to act and do what they do best: Be funny. Paul Giamatti is playing, once again, another version of Paul Giamatti, but the only difference here being is that he has a French Canadian accent to go with it. And even that goes in and out every once and awhile. However, that doesn’t matter because Giamatti is great at these sorts of roles and while some may find it unoriginal for him to be playing the same old, sad-sack character that we usually see him portray in any flick he shows up in, I can’t say I’m all that bored of it, especially since he throws his own little pieces of skill in there for good-measure.
For instance, Dennis isn’t considered a bad guy because he’s actually trying to make an effort to change his life. Sure, he was a crook and he got caught in the middle of his action, but at least he wants to make amends for all the mistakes he’s made in his life, despite life not really welcoming him in with wide open arms. In that aspect, Giamatti owns this role as Dennis because it shows him the world against him, and how he’ll never quite lay down, and let the world get the best of him, despite it being quite clear that he should. Still though, it’s Giamatti, and it sure as hell doesn’t matter who’s he playing, cause you love him and want to bear-hug him everytime.
Same goes for Rudd, even though he’s playing a little more-against type than Giamatti may be. Nonetheless though, Rudd is still great at playing-up Rene’s charm, while also showing him as a bit of a snake-like character that has yet to divorce his own wife, yet, has no problem sleeping with Dennis’s. Yeah, if you think about it, Rudd’s character isn’t the most likable guy in the whole world, but he isn’t necessarily the most distasteful guy either, he’s just made some bad mistakes in his past that he’s sort of paying for now. Just like Dennis, his old buddy. The only difference is that Rene didn’t get caught, Dennis did, and look who paid the whole price.
See what I was talking about though with this movie’s dark view? It never ends, not even when Sally Hawkins shows up as a Jewish house-maid that comes by to pester Dennis every once and awhile, and believe it or not, actually have a nice dynamic going on between one another. She’s sort of miserable and bothered with life in her own, quirky way, whereas he’s the same, just with a more depressed, and worn-out look and feel. Their scenes are fun to watch, and bring out the best within both of each other’s acting-skills. Hell, I maybe would have even liked to see them get their own movie maybe, eh? Never mind, highly unlikely, but still. If only.
Consensus: The cast in All Is Bright excels at everything that they have to do with the thin-script, but it does come off as a bit of a bore at times, especially given the premise, where it takes place, and during what season. I mean, come on: It’s the Holidays for Christsakes!
6 / 10 = Rental!!