Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Christmas in July: Noel (2004)

Noel takes the bullshit everything-is-connected genre and adds gooey Christmas sentimentality to it, along with some metaphysical nonsense. This combination of various types of hokum makes for a pretty unbearable viewing experience, even with a solid cast led by Susan Sarandon as Rose, a lonely children's-book editor trying to make a connection on Christmas Eve. She briefly crosses paths with Penelope Cruz as hot paralegal Nina, who's engaged to Mike, a jealous, short-tempered cop played by Paul Walker. He in turn has to deal with a waiter played by Alan Arkin who believes that Mike is the reincarnation of his late wife. The plotlines center around a hospital where Rose's mother is being treated for Alzheimer's disease, and where she meets a mysterious man played by an uncredited Robin Williams who helps her better appreciate life and find redemption blah blah blah.

The movie is full of these quasi-mystical moments that could be attributed to the spirit of the season, or divine intervention, or just lazy screenwriting. Characters are constantly accosting each other with uncomfortable truths in the form of lame platitudes, and every moment and bit of dialogue is weighted with fake profundity when most of it actually says nothing. The connections between characters are forced and awkward (one major player, played by Marcus Thomas, seems entirely divorced from the rest of the movie and could have been completely removed without any effect whatsoever). Sarandon gives a strong performance, but has to carry around so many heavy emotions that ultimately the movie fails her. Her scenes with Williams, who (spoiler alert) turns out to be some sort of spectral version of a man dying of cancer in the same hospital as Rose's mother, are painfully sincere and dragged down by the Robin Williams serious face (you know the one).

Walker and Cruz, on the other hand, are pretty much terrible as the volatile couple that must learn to reconcile in the cheesiest, most heavy-handed way possible. Pretty boy Walker should never attempt genuine acting, and Cruz is once again defeated by the English language (although she looks amazing). And even Alan Arkin can't make me believe that his character thinks Walker's Mike is the reincarnation of his dead wife. Director Chazz Palminteri (who has a cameo in a terrible wig) seems to want to give his stars a lot of acting moments, but they just make the movie seem more pretentious. Christmas is burdened with enough significance that it doesn't need Crash-style moralizing added on.

The True Meaning of Christmas: Everything is, like, connected, and life is totally precious.

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