Possibly the most bizarre Christmas movie since Silent Night Deadly Night, Chazz Palminteri’s romantic dramedy Noel is predicated on all sorts of chance encounters. A perpetually depressed Rose (Susan Sarandon) makes her way through New York City as if she were starring in a Zoloft commercial. Her life is going to shit: Mom is dying of Alzheimer’s, the asshole hottie at her workplace is trying too hard to get into her panties (possibly at the behest of the one-woman Oprah Book Club that takes her calls), and Robin Williams has just turned up in the hospital room next door to her mother’s. Somewhere else in the city, Nina (Penélope Cruz) is dating a jealous cop, Mike (Paul Walker), so unbelievably hot that his partner thinks some old guy (Alan Arkin) is trying to jump his bones. Except nothing is what it seems on this particularly serendipitous Christmas Eve, which is seething with all sorts of mixed messages and spiritual interventions. With the exception of a cloying storyline concerning a seemingly normal man’s attempt to celebrate Christmas inside a hospital’s emergency room, the pieces of Palminteri’s yuletide Short Cuts fit comfortably together. Though visually unexciting, Noel is warmhearted and manages to get considerable mileage out of a series of unpredictable and nutty spiritual flights of fancy. Palminteri’s actors are all remarkable, even Walker, who never bares his ass but still manages to steal the film as a teary-eyed alpha male trying to bring good karma to the world. But the film’s loveliest scene belongs to Sarandon, who walks into a stranger’s lonely hospital room at one point and simply yells out that she loves him. This delicate, unexpected emotional gesture points both to her loneliness and her inability to communicate with her own mother, and it seems to catch the audience as much by surprise as it does God, who responds with a very special gift. And though the gift comes in the form of Robin Williams, that’s really neither here nor there. Maudlin maybe, but Noel doesn’t so much ask to be believed as much as it asks for us to believe in its spirit of togetherness.
- The Covex Group
- 96 min
- Chazz Palminteri
- David Hubbard
- Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penélope Cruz, Alan Arkin, Marcus Thomas, Donna Hanover, Chazz Palminteri
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