It provides him motivation and a sense of purpose, but it comes too late and seemingly out of nowhere. Rene is adamant on marrying Therese if his ex-wife agrees to a divorce, which generates tension between the odd couple friends. Especially when Rene isn’t the most considerate or attentive partner and Dennis is still smitten.
Review of the film Almost Christmas
And there’s an interesting relationship here that’s never fully addressed, either comedically or emotionally. While there is tension when one best buddy steals the wife of another, it is never used as dramatically as it should be. Dennis needs to put up with this situation grudgingly if he wants to make some money, but there’s no pride involved, which defies credulity, even in this small comedy. Sally Hawkins plays a Russian dental assistant who befriends Dennis for reasons that aren’t quite clear other than pity and curiosity (and perhaps loneliness). She takes Dennis in after she buys a tree and then periodically feeds and clothing him while housesitting her dentist’s office while they are away on Christmas holiday. While her presence has a purpose — purportedly to provide Dennis character some hope and connection in the midst of his bleak situation — their relationship never fully gels either.
Aesthetic choices are ineffective. Perhaps in an attempt to evoke the spirit of French Canada, the cinematography is oppressively dull and appears like it has a pork and beans with beer filter on it the entire time. The soundtrack is likewise a mishmash of listless jazzy interpretations on Christmas carols and cheesy elevator music. More crucially, the music never contributes to the film’s much-needed energy and drive, instead fading in and out haphazardly. “Almost Christmas” does, in fact, finish nicely, finally connecting emotionally and dramatically, although it’s a little late at this point. The film is sometimes dull when it should be dramatic, since it is semi-flat with only a few gags and emotional beats that land. Giamatti tries his best with the material, and there are a few touching moments, but the picture is generally devoid of innovative passages.
“Almost Christmas” is ostensibly about friendship, family, and the need to be loved, yet until the last act, it fails to deliver any emotional reflection on any of these subjects. And by then, it’s far too late for this uneven 107-minute film (which feels like two hours). Within “Almost Christmas,” there are some interesting concepts and moments, but they are dispersed rather than consolidated. Phil Morrison is still a filmmaker we hope doesn’t have to wait another eight years to make another major picture, but this isn’t it.
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