2006-03-30 13:24


On a typical Christmas eve in New York, Rose Harrison (Susan Sarandon) is settling in for a night of pure Christmas hell by the hospital bed of her ailing mother, who is losing her battle with Alzheimer's. Across the hall, a man lies semi-comatose. Feeling sympathetic, she enters his room and meets his lone visitor, played by Robin Williams. The film follows the relationship formed between these two, as well as the breakdown of the relationship of Nina (Penelope Cruz) and Mike (Paul Walker) whose engagement is ravaged by his jealousy. Thrown into the mix is Jules' (Marcus Thomas) obsession with being admitted into the hospital for the Christmas party, in an effort to relive a fondly remembered childhood experience. The paths of the characters cross every so often, each one touching the other ever so slightly. Bonds are formed, old wounds are healed and miracles occur in the most unexpected ways.


Another Yuletide season has crept up on us, bringing with it the usual string of Christmas tales. And what Christmas movie would be complete without the white and wintry Big Apple as its backdrop? No points for originality as far as location goes but probably a smart move on director Chazz Palminteri's part. Noel's depth doesn't fit the typical Miracle on 34th St vibe and probably ran the risk of being overlooked as one of the season's must-see films.

Noel takes you on a journey through the darker, more painful side of Christmas Eve. The side we all experience one year or another, which never quite makes it to the pages of our 'cherished memories' scrap book.

Susan Sarandon's portrayal of a lonely divorcee hoping for her mother's miraculous recovery is sincere and engaging - qualities we've come to expect from Sarandon. She fits comfortably into this genre and delivers plausible performances every time. She's not the chameleon queen of the big screen so don't go expecting a whole new side to our Same Old Sue. She is merely doing what she does best.

Enter Penelope Cruz and Paul Walker. The almost-married-but-being-torn-apart-by-insane-jealousy couple who could really do with a moerse Christmas miracle. An odd and quite brave choice of characters for a Christmas movie, but even these two manage to weave themselves comfortably into the surroundings and once you're over the initial shock it's almost as comfy as Disney in a duvet.

It's also good to see Robin Williams pop his head up in this movie, but, once again, he seems to be following his recent trend of cameo-like performances. Although his character plays a vital role as the storyline unfolds, he doesn't really say much, and one wonders whether he's just there to lend himself, as yet another screen icon, to the end titles.

Be warned - credibility starts to wear thin as the story drags itself through the snowy New York streets and into the wee hours of Christmas morning. It's one of those flicks where everything begins as the sun is setting and ends as it pokes a ray or two through the morning smog. The filmmakers seem determined to cram so much into the plot that you might find yourself wondering whether you've nodded off into your popcorn for a few minutes and come around on Boxing Day. You haven't. It's only 4.37am and there are another couple of hours until sunrise. Make yourself comfortable.

All cynicism aside, Palminteri's take on classic Christmas schmaltz manages to be both touching and painfully honest to the point where you actually wince in your seat. For the more sensitive amongst us, there is even the promise of a couple of tears, although it should by no means be classified as a tearjerker.

If this is the year you decide to throw out your fake tree in favour of the real thing, then this should be the movie you watch the following night. With more big names than an LAPD drunk driving charge sheet, there's sure to be at least one reason for everyone to go and watch Noel. Just think of it as a mug of good ol' Christmas cheer with a shot of vodka or two.

Bottoms up!

- Kate Pare

Open wide for your annual dose of oddly enjoyable Christmas schmaltz.

Riaan 2005/11/28 12:23 PM
Noel I saw the movie last night and enjoyed it a lot. Its not the best I've seen so far, but it make you think a bit of your own life and future and does draw a tear now and then. For Paul Walker fans, its a definative must.
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