All Is Bright Movie Review

December 6, 2013 – For an ex-con trying to go straight, the bumpy road of life is rife with potholes, and trying to keep on the straight-and-narrow can be challenging.  On a cold rainy night with no place to call home, the urge to employ old vices beckons hard.  With little in the way of transferable skills, the world outside the big house can be a daunting place. But, all is not lost as a down on his luck ex-con and his partner in crime, summon something extra special in this heartwarming, cross border comedy, ‘All Is Bright’.

After four years in a Quebec lock-up, hapless grifter Dennis (Paul Giamatti), is coming home, but home to what exactly.  He soon finds out his now ex-wife Therese (Amy Landecker), who he still has feelings for had him officially declared deceased.  Dennis comes home to no home, no daughter, no wife and few if any job prospects.  All is not so bright for Dennis.  Enter the fast talking shyster-in-crime Rene (Paul Rudd), who has made inroads on Therese in his absence.  With Christmas fast approaching, Rene needs quick cash to marry Therese while Dennis not only wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his ex but, give his daughter Michi (Tatyana Richaud), the special present she always wanted. These two wizards team up to sell Christmas trees in Brooklyn, New York for a little cash. The operative word here is little.

Storylines incorporating trust, redemption, friendships and a lot of holiday cheer all converge in this dark comedy of second chances.  There is a robbery afoot in All Is Bright and it comes in the form of scene stealing Olga (Sally Hawkins), a sassy Polish housekeeper whose combative style and verbal jousts with Dennis are epic. Olga’s thorough disgust in working for her ball-busting well-heeled dentists is delivered in an acid tongued broken English diatribe.  Her eye-watering rant on Hole of Jackson, Fix Teeth, Vana White and Fortunes Wheel is comedic gold.  Director, Phil Morrison (Junebug), mines the blue collar blues to perfection. Humorous yuletide sequences of the hard scrabble transplanted grifters pushing the Christmas pine with Quebecois sensibilities and a little New York chutzpah is a fresh take on the familiar.

Establishing competing narratives that contrasts the uniqueness of small town Quebec with the hustle of Brooklyn, Writer, Melissa James Gibson has penned strong memorable characters from which Giamatti and Rudd can leverage their uniquely textured brand of humour.  The tension that revolves around the love triangle of Rene, Therese and Dennis adds further complexity.  That being said, the successful mastery of the Quebecois accent that is so critical to Rene’s sales hook falls well short of the linguistic mark. Morrison’s makes up for this by exposing the grifter side of Dennis’s character every chance he gets. A sandwich here, a wallet over there, even a Swarovski dish isn’t safe.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5:  Poignant storytelling is the foundation of ‘All Is Bright’. Morrison deconstructs the small town values at the heart of this narrative through emotionally engaging characters. Giamatti’s turns in a soulful downtrodden performance of a con with a conscience in this formula driven story.  Note to the Gibson – the Olga character practically writes itself. You’ve found her voice and you definitely got something here . . . go with it.  The colour palette of the film is effectively drenched in a melange of dark dreary tones allowing the light and spirit of Christmas and second chances to shine through in the final act.

Final Thought: All Is Bright shed light during this yuletide season.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Country: USA
Language: English
Director: Phil Morrison
Writer: Melissa James Gibson
Producer(s): Elizabeth Giamatti, Dan Carey, Sidney Kimmel, John Penotti Release Date: October, 2013
Runtime: 107 minutes
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Sally Hawkins, Paul Rudd, Amy Landecker, Tatyana Richaud, Adam Phillips, Michael Draper, Peter Hermann, Colman Domingo, Hailey Feiffer
Review – John Dash
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