Review: All Is Bright
PLOT: Newly paroled Dennis (Paul Giamatti) returns home to discover that his wife, Therese (Amy Landecker) has taken up with his former friend Rene (Paul Rudd) and that their daughter thinks he’s dead. With nowhere to turn in his small Quebec town, Dennis convinces Rene to let him in on a scheme where the two of them sell Christmas trees in New York City.
REVIEW: The most surprising thing about ALL IS BRIGHT is that it's taken director Phil Morrison seven years to make a follow-up to his indie hit JUNEBUG (a film that kicked Amy Adams’ career into the stratosphere and garnered her an Oscar nomination). His sophomore effort is similar to JUNEBUG in that it’s another quirky comedy about a couple of misfits with good hearts. However, unlike JUNEBUG, ALL IS BRIGHT is more than a little meandering and while there’s still plenty to admire about it, the film as a whole never really satisfies.
While JUNEBIG followed a Chicago “outsider” in North Carolina, ALL IS BRIGHT does more-or-less the same, with Giamatti and Rudd being Anglophone Quebecois (like me!) spending the Christmas season in New York, trying to scrape together some cash. Heck, being Anglophone Quebecers on its own essentially makes them outsiders even at home, which is nicely referenced in a scene where Giamatti has a hard time getting served in English by his francophone parole officer. Too bad the bit is ruined by the Inspector Clouseau-style accent the parole officer uses, which is obnoxiously goofy.
Both actors more or less play only slight variations on their established types. Rudd's the same lovable, nice-guy he usually plays, albeit a slightly more simple variation here that sees him take a backseat to Giamatti (although the faux-Quebec accent he adopts to impress New Yorkers is funny). Giamatti plays the harder edged, almost clever half of the duo, although again, it's not unlike other roles he's already played and not too much of a stretch. At times he seems to be doing a kind of Canadian accent, which sounds phony considering that anglophones in Quebec, such as Giamatti's character here, don't actually have accents. Alas, this is an American playing a Canadian, so I guess it's not a surprise, and Giamatti still manages to create a likable character, who's sympathetic if unlucky. The two guys have good chemistry, and play off each other well (the story actually has some striking similarities to another Rudd vehicule from this year, PRINCE AVALNCHE). Meanwhile, Sally Hawkins, who's getting tons of buzz for her part in BLUE JASMINE, plays a Russian housekeeper, and is fun in the part, even if she seems a little cartoonish for such a relatively low-key movie.
Overall, ALL IS BRIGHT is an alright movie, but not terribly memorable, despite the high-pedigree talent involved (writer Melissa James Gibson is a show-runner on THE AMERICANS). It's not a bad film, but it's slow and takes a long time to finally pay off, although the surprisingly affecting ending makes me want to cut it some slack. It kinda works as an unconventional, indie-flavoured Christmas comedy (it actually screened under the more blatantly yuletide title ALMOST CHRISTMAS at Tribeca), although it still can't help but feel a little half-baked. If you see it pop up on Netflix or on cable, it's not a terrible way to kill a few hours, but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to see it.