14 December 2017 | JaynaB
A modern American Christmas classic
American cinema doesn't do ensemble that well very often, and it frequently gets punished at the box office, as well as by viewers and by reviewers, for even trying. This film pulls together a low-key cast with an intelligent script and ends up as a quirky, darkly humorous drama that unfolds over Christmas Eve.
The characters are a motley crew of misfits and losers, stereotypical small-towners on the surface, with the obligatory pregnant woman arriving as a tv reporter from the big city. The actors, many of whom we're used to seeing in bigger roles where they tend to take up a lot of screen, give dialed-back performances that allow - even expect - the audience to fill in the subtext.
And there's a fair bit of subtext lying behind and between the stripped-down dialogue: about power and corruption, war and trauma, family and gender roles, the nature of life's choices and the cold reality of death.
This could be done as a stage play and it would be getting rave reviews that mentioned Tennessee Williams. I'm not used to seeing so much packed into a contemporary, for-the-masses movie, and I'm plainly not alone in that. The poor reviews may be due in part to an un-sparing execution that's cutting too close to the tragi-comic reality of the modern American south.