Thursday, November 21, 2013

Movie with Abe: All is Bright

All is Bright
Directed by Phil Morrison
Released September 10, 2013 / November 19, 2013 (DVD)

Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd are both well-known actors who tend to play the same kind of role on a regular basis. The two Pauls have extremely different styles, however, and it’s strange to see them both in the same movie. Giamatti, in movies like “American Splendor” and “Sideways,” portrays gruff individuals who gradually develop a sense of humor but have to work hard to be endearing because of their prickly, sarcastic exteriors. Rudd, on the other hand, is much more aloof and affable, more difficult to be taken seriously, though ultimately charming, in films like “I Love You, Man” and “Our Idiot Brother.” Together, their archetypal characters make for an eccentric and odd pair.

“All is Bright” follows Dennis (Giamatti) shortly after his release from prison as he struggles to make a living and earn back the respect of his ex-wife and daughter, whose mother told her that he had died when he went to prison. It doesn’t take long for Dennis to hook up with his old friend and his ex-wife’s new partner, Rene (Rudd) and start selling Christmas trees in New York. Predictably, business is not booming, and earning enough money to survive proves to be quite difficult, which does little to lift up Dennis’ dismal spirits.

“All is Bright” is a type of Christmas movie, released theatrically in September and on DVD in November, and those off-season dates mirror the film’s inability to capture the holiday spirit. There isn’t much optimism to be found in the film, and it’s not particularly entertaining to watch these two characters sit around and mope. Rene is giddy but with little reason, and his energy quickly becomes tiring, especially because Dennis is so draining. Dennis’ friendship with a dental secretary, played by Sally Hawkins, comes close to being redeeming, but she’s far from sunny herself.

“All is Bright” tries to be a tongue-in-cheek, dry comedy with a dramatic interior, centered on Dennis’ love for his family. Yet neither Dennis nor Rene proves to be a suitably engaging protagonist, and it makes it hard to connect with both of them and with the film’s plotline. These actors have put their talents to excellent use in the past, and it would be nice to see them return to more complex and enjoyable projects in the future. This miserable, unenthusiastic dramatic comedy doesn’t cut it.


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