Genre: Drama
Director: Chazz Palminteri
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Paul Walker, Penelope Cruz, Alan Arkin, Marcus Thomas
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: TBA

Opening Day : 24 November 2005

Synopsis :

Bringing about the true spirit of Christmas and holiday cheer is “Noel”, a magical and heartwarming film where the lives of five people intertwine. Rose (SUSAN SARANDON) a successful book editor whose personal life has gradually deteriorated over time, New York
City police officer Mike Riley (PAUL WALKER) and his fiancée, Nina (PENELOPE CRUZ whose relationship is on the rocks, an older man (ALAN ARKIN) appears who takes an intense interest in Mike, and Jules Calvert (MARCUS THOMAS) , a young street hustler with no family and friends. The lives of these 5 people will intertwine this Christmas Eve in New York City, and with some help from each other, or more importantly help from within themselves, they may get more than just holiday cheer. They may find their own personal miracles.

Movie Review:

It is that time of the year again when you can feel the festivities in the air. The bright lights decorating the streets, the carols playing in the malls and the mouth-watering food items lining the super-mart shelves – yes, Christmas is here again. Made in 2004, this is the one of the earliest movies hitting local cinemas to welcome the Yuletide season. Unlike many other feel-good Christmas movies, this one has a lonesome undertone which makes it a worthy watch.

The movie takes place on a Christmas Eve in New York City, where a group of strangers will be eventually affected in ways more than one by the holiday season.

There is a lonely old woman who tries to get into the holiday spirit, but is bogged down by her own gloomy past. There is a young couple who is about to get married. All seems perfect on the surface, but the woman is tormented by the man’s immense jealousy. There is a strange old stalker who believes that his wife is reincarnated in another man’s body. There is a disturbed young man who seeks of having a perfect Christmas at the local hospital, and goes all out to achieve his dream.

As with many movies nowadays, these characters’ paths intertwine during the movie’s 100 minutes, creating a picture that curiously tugs at your heartstrings – not in the usual fuzzy manner, but in a more melancholic way.

This is Chazz Palmenteri’s directorial debut on the big screen. The seasoned actor may not have created a breakthrough with this movie, but it is still a decent piece of work backed up by a trustworthy cast.

Leading the veteran pack is Susan Sarandon, who plays the lonely divorced old woman. She effortlessly shows how vulnerable her character is beneath the strong front she puts up in front of others. The bittersweet sequence between her and Robin Williams is a guaranteed tearjerker.

Also playing his character effortlessly is the underrated Alan Arkin, who once again shows why he is such a joy to watch on the big screen. He portrays the character of the stalker with such wit and charm; you cannot help but sympathize with him.

The icing on the cake would be the obligatory eye-candy characters played by Penelope Cruz and Paul Walker. Cruz is as seductively beautiful as ever, displaying her usual charisma. Walker manages to emote surprisingly well in a few touching scenes, showing that he is not just a stud good at driving fast cars and diving deep seas.
The movie’s screenplay may not weave the characters together as brilliantly as Richard Curtis’ well-loved Christmas flick Love Actually (2003), but it still manages to display some competency, which is commendable as writer David Hubbard is fairly new to the industry.

As with other Christmas movies, this one features a heartwarming soundtrack, accompanied by a wonderful score composed by Alan Menken, whose most well-known works include Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992).

The greatest plus point of the movie is its ability to touch hearts with its stark feel of loneliness, nicely exemplified by the huge crowds and tall buildings in New York City. One can almost feel the lonely heart break when Williams’ character asks Sarandon’s character whether his company is “just to (help her) last through the night”.

Given that the movie only features five main characters, they are somehow unfortunately not developed to their fullest potential, leading to a predictable and somewhat unsatisfactory finale.

However, at the end of the day, viewers will still appreciate the fact that they have loved ones to spend the festive season with. Other trivial matters aside, this would be most valuable lesson you will take away with the movie.

Cynical viewers may criticize the movie for being melodramatic and shamelessly tear-inducing, but hey, it’s the season to be thankful of people around you. Don’t be a scrooge; bring your loved one to see this movie for a unique Christmas experience.

Movie Rating:

(A decent festive movie that reminds you the joys of having your loved ones by your side)

Review by John Li

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