Wednesday, December 25, 2013

For a dose of real Christmas spirit -- and a look at Paul Walker in one of his best roles -- try to find/view Chazz Palminteri's under-seen NOEL

Such a holiday curmudgeon am I -- reviewing a Netflix series I didn't much like for Christmas Eve, and then following it the next day with a Christmas "turkey" of a movie -- that I feel I ought now suggest to you a fine, overlooked holiday film, NOEL, with a sterling cast, smart writing and good direc-tion by Chazz Palmin-teri (shown below).

Unfortunately, Netflix only has the DVD (don't know why the company doesn't stream it, at least during the holiday season), but you can also watch it now via Amazon Instant Video and maybe elsewhere.

Below is the review I posted on Netflix during the 2005 holiday season, soon after the movie made its DVDebut.

An incipient classic in the holiday movie genre, NOEL is for us urbanites who hate the holidays on the surface but secretly pine for connection, redemption and a little real joy. Suffused with sadness and longing (and occasional quirky humor: the winning-the-Xmas-tree scene), the film connects a group of disparate New Yorkers in ways that are humane, sentimental and, in one case, otherworldly. 

This sort of thing could easily become predictable and tiresome but thanks to the thoughtful screenplay by David Hubbard, tactful direction (plus a cameo) from Chaz Palminteri and fine performances from Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Alan Arkin, an uncredited Robin Williams and a spot-on ensemble cast, the movie works beautifully, leaving you up to your ears in a pile of used Kleenexes--what every good sentimental holiday movie aims for. (You can take or leave the "spirituality" angle, which is played tenderly and realistically enough to please even an agnostic reprobate like me.) 

The biggest surprise of all is the rich, wonderful performance given by Paul Walker, a "looker" who heretofore has been given little chance to act ("The Skulls," "Timeline," "Into the Blue"). As a big city, lower-middle-class cop with an attitude/jealousy problem, he sports a fine accent and an even better range of emotions--from anger and love to confusion and joy, with each moment utterly believable. I hope some of our better directors see this one and realize the possibilities possessed by Mr. Walker. Released briefly in theatres and treated like a poor relation, the movie deserved a lot better. From the tone of most other reviews here on Netflix, it will thankfully find its true standing on DVD.

Catch Noel if you can. It's one of those under-seen and under-sung independents.

No comments: