On Christmas Eve the lives of a group of troubled New Yorkers intertwine and connect in a magical way that helps them deal with their own personal issues and those of their loved ones. There's divorced publisher Rose (Susan Sarandon) who lives a thankless life revolving around her Alzheimer's suffering mother, young engaged couple Nina (Penelope Cruz) and Mike (Paul Walker) who are trying to deal with Mike's terrible jealousy and temper, older man Artie (Alan Arkin) who stalks Mike over a supernatural connection, and down-on-his-luck nobody Jules (Marcus Thomas) who is looking to recapture the most magical Christmas of his life.
Review by Craig Miller:
Not a genre many directors would choose to make their debut, feature first-timer Chazz Palminteri shows a knack for dealing in the warm and fuzzies with Noel, a Christmas classic wannabe dripping with all the sappy clichés and "it's a Christmas miracle" shamelessness that this style of film thrives on.
Palminteri looks a seasoned emotional pan-handler with this whimsical fairytale but it's the promise and poignant angst prevalent here and in so many of these schmaltzy seasonal offerings that make it so sickly and hard to digest.
Even if you like this sort of thing (the type of non-cynical, sentimental person that gets whisked away by the touching aspects of miracles in the Christmas season, hi mum!) much of it will be familiar to you, stories of unsatisfactory lives injected with hope and the rekindling of love once lost.
It's not only full of Christmas clichés and festive farce, there are some well-constructed dramatic scenes that work thanks to the appealing nature of character redemption and the power of love, Noel tends to linger in its own sentimentality and that is a big no-no, even for a feature that is so deliberately dealing in the sappy "miracle of wonderment" currency of Christmas.
Palminteri's ensembled big-name cast isn't given much to work with here with the standard festive stories the same as most genre fare. Paul Walker is challenged about as much as you want to see him challenged and Susan Sarandon holds it all together as best she can as the merry martyr looking after all but herself and finding peace in her own thankless actions, a role she's well suited to even with its inconsistencies.
Attempting to pull on those typical festive emotional heartstrings, Noel looks a holiday season winner for those lovers of typical Chrissy drama out there, the rest of you may actually see it for what it is. Mostly filmic bah-humbug!
Published December 1, 2005
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NOEL: DVD (M)
CAST: Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Paul Walker, Alan Arkin, Marcus Thomas, Chazz Palminteri,
DIRECTOR: Chazz Palminteri
SCRIPT: David Hubbard
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
PRESENTATION: Full Frame, Dolby Digital
SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailers
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: MRA Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: Dec, 2005