All is Bright Blu-ray Review
The dark and moody Christmas film is a sect of the ever-expanding catalog of holiday titles that receives at least one or two new entries each year. Sometimes comedic like BAD SANTA (2003), sci-fi like GREMLINS (1984) or even a horror film like BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974, 2006). Amidst all the bright, cheery-eyed, perfect family rhetoric, the trend for films that center around December 25th seem to be nudging farther toward more reality-based themes and characters whose flaws and problems only become magnified when contrasted with “the most wonderful time of the year.” ALL IS BRIGHT attempts to throw its jingle-less balls into contention as a perennial alternative to the usual suspects on most people’s holiday playlists, and even though the film poignantly achieves delivery of its ultimate message, the journey sinks the story so far into a cold pit of mundane that it can salvage little more than a lukewarm conclusion.
Dennis (Paul Giamatti) is an ex-con in Canada. After being paroled, he finds life on the outside to be even harsher than his incarceration as he is unable to find work, his former partner Rene (Paul Rudd) is about to become his estranged wife’s new fiancé and his daughter has been told that he is no longer among the living. Trying his best to keep his word of “going straight” and win back his family, Dennis swallows his pride and asks Rene for a job. Guilt ridden, Rene offers Dennis an opportunity to sell Christmas trees with him in New York for a few weeks. As the duo endure the highs and lows of a street corner business and attempt to hash out their personal differences, they encounter Olga (Sally Hawkins), a customer who takes a liking to Dennis and assists him in keeping an internal promise that he’s made to his daughter.
At first glance, a dark Christmas comedy featuring these two Paul’s is a very enticing concept. Giamatti, who is an Oscar-caliber dramatic actor, actually has incredible comedic timing as fans remember from some of his early work in PRIVAT PARTS (1997). And Rudd, who would be an Oscar-caliber comedic actor if there was such a category, is also able to crossover into the drama pool as demonstrated by his characters in films like THIS IS 40 (2012) and OUR IDIOT BROTHER (2011). Unfortunately though, it’s not until the 3rd act that the script even begins to scrape at the potential of having these two extremely talented and versatile actors in close quarters for virtually an entire film. Most of ALL IS BRIGHT is spent with a moody Dennis being unable to forgive a glass-is-half-full Rene for taking up with his wife, which would’ve been fine if either the script or ad-libbing from the main characters were able to properly exploit the inherent comedic undertones. Instead, the repartee between Dennis and Rene was frustratingly curbed into a dull reality just before each instance where a laugh or at least a cringe should’ve emerged.
Short of a disclaimer in the opening credits, ALL IS BRIGHT clearly communicates that its title is to be interpreted as 100% sarcastic. Sadly the comedy, dark or otherwise, never quite achieves that same middling level of cleverness. Somewhat reminiscent of a previous Paul Giamatti vehicle titled SIDEWAYS, ALL IS BRIGHT’s director Phil Morrison is able to convey a bleak scenario for his characters while preserving the viewer’s thin slice of hope that everything will be puppy dogs and sunshine for them at the end. Although he fails to replicate the same balance of somberness and humor that SIDEWAYS carried through its plot, Morrison does manage to lift the tone to just above the level of “doom and gloom” in order to deliver what some may feel is a memorable, if not heartfelt payoff.
ALL IS BRIGHT BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4, 1.85:1 Widescreen: Even though this is a very gray and overcast film, the video quality is very sharp. The color pallet is purposefully bland due to the subject matter, but it does a great job of making you feel the harsh chill of winter. Contrast floats around a little but always stays in within an acceptable parameter.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: In a film like this, dialogue is really the only key, and unfortunately this track does not succeed in obtaining it. Music and effects are good and for the most part equalized, but the low register during conversations become muffled forcing you to hit the “up” arrow on your volume control and then back down when any of the music starts to blare.
No Bonus Content