All is not calm in All Is Bright, as ex-con Dennis (Paul Giamatti) returns to his rural Quebec home after 4 years in the penitentiary. His wife, Therese (Amy Landecker), wants nothing to do with him, tells their young daughter he's dead, and even plans to marry Dennis' old buddy Rene (Paul Rudd). Burn! With no home/family/money/work, Dennis breaks parole and heads to New York City with Rene to sell Christmas trees on the street. Holiday hijinks ensue, but things are hardly joyous between the two former partners-in-crime as they struggle to earn an honest buck. Need a little Christmas right this very minute? Check out these 5 festive facts:
1. More Naughty Than Nice: The last time Giamatti appeared in a Christmas movie, he played Old St. Nick himself in Fred Claus, opposite Vince Vaughn. Giamatti's lying, thieving character in All Is Bright isn't nearly as jolly, though he does sport an impressive mutton-chop beard. The actor also exhibits some of his trademark angry-pathetic meltdowns (à la Sideways), most hilariously attacking an inflatable elf with a hacksaw. We don't think Santa would approve.
2. French and Russian: As fast-talking charmer Rene, Rudd sports a Mohawk, multiple piercings and stained teeth—plus a meandering French-Canadian accent. Meanwhile, British native Sally Hawkins adopts a Boris-and-Natasha dialect to play Olga, a straight-shooting Russian housekeeper who takes a surprising interest in Dennis. Hawkins, so wonderful as Cate Blanchetts sister in Blue Jasmine, gets some of the best lines in All Is Bright, but her relationship with Dennis remains a puzzle.
3. Sophomore Slump: Previously titled Almost Christmas, All Is Bright marks the second feature from director Phil Morrison, who previously helmed the charming Southern indie Junebug (2005). That breakout hit, which also dealt with ne'er-do-wells and a character's difficult journey home, gave Amy Adams a Supporting Actress Oscar nom and helped launch her career. Morrison doesn't seem to have fared as well, since it has taken 8 years for his follow-up film.
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4. A Whole Lotta Giamatti: The prolific actor has no fewer than 6 movies coming out this fall. After All Is Bright, you can catch him in Parkland with Zac Efron; Romeo and Juliet with Hailee Steinfeld; 12 Years a Slave opposite Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Chiwetel Ejiofor; Saving Mr. Banks costarring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks; and The Congress with Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel. Whew! Giamatti will also appear in Season 4 of Downton Abbey, airing now in the UK but not in the U.S. until January, grrr.
5. Blue Christmas: Ho, ho, holy cow, it's early for a Christmas movie! You're probably not in the holiday spirit yet, and All Is Bright won't do much to grow your Grinchy heart, with a tone that's more dreary than merry. The pacing, especially during the first half, is as slow as…well…Christmas, and the soundtrack could further bum you out with sad, jazzy Muzak versions of popular carols. Pass the spiked eggnog.