Thursday, September 19, 2013


It's a rough world out there.  And returning after a long absence is a difficult proposition.  How appropriate is it that Phil Morrison's less than prompt follow-up to his 2005 indie hit Junebug concerns itself with a man attempting to find his bearings, both familial and internal, after having his life interrupted by a long stay in prison?  In many ways, Dennis (Paul Giamatti), the protagonist of All is Bright suffers under far less steep expectations than Morrison does here.  No one expects anything from Dennis; in fact, his wife, Therese (Amy Landecker), has completely written him off, telling their young daughter that he died, rather than bothering with the messy truth about his incarceration.

The film picks up shortly after Dennis is released from prison.  What's his first move?  He returns to his rural, French-Canadian home where he's swiftly informed both Therese's lie and her involvement with Dennis' former best friend and partner-in-crime Rene (Paul Rudd), who Therese plans to marry once Rene's wife grants him a divorce.  With nowhere else to go, Dennis tracks down his romantic rival at a local bar, tries to beat him up, and (naturally?) ends up joining his Rene in an annual trek down to New York City to set up a seasonal Christmas tree selling business.  Yeah, this IS a Christmas you never saw that coming.

If the plot sounds convoluted, rest assured, this film, like Junebug, doesn't grind too heavily on plot mechanics.  Instead, Morrison and screenwriter Melissa James Gibson treat these characters as people, albeit ones that sometime stray into situations just a smidge over the line separating the real from circumstances of a cartoonish nature.  When All is Bright sticks with its primary motif of two losers holding a predictably bad hand, it's at its best, resembling at times a modern update on a flavor of male camaraderie rarely portrayed in film since Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky (a bromance, this is, thankfully, not).  But, on the few occasions when the script pushes Dennis and Rene to act like people trapped in an indie comedy, the film stumbles, drops focus, and feels oddly flat.

All is Bright is unlikely to enjoy the same strong word of mouth leading to a slow-building success that Junebug did.  It's just not a film designed to register with a broad audience.  The characters aren't that likeable, nor is the action all that identifiable.  But it is a movie that deserves a chance from fans of quietly observant, character-driven cinema because, for each slight misstep that it contains, there's a charming counterpoint hidden just around the corner. 

All is Bright is currently available for viewing on VOD platforms such as Amazon Instant Video & iTunes.  The film opens theatrically in October.

Remember to find and "like" us on our Facebook page.
Subscribe to the blog's feed here.

No comments:

submit to reddit