‘All is Bright’ Movie Review – Flatlining
You’ve got to take chances to reap the rewards. Although this isn’t true in some facets in Hollywood (look at all the non-original movies not taking chances and still raking in the dough), it’s certainly true when it comes to storytelling. With hundreds (check that: thousands) of movies releasing a year, it’s easy to see similarities from movie to movie. Phil Morrison’s (Junebug) All is Bright is a perfect example of a movie with plenty looking good on paper but a lack of flair to help it stand out. It’s not horrible by any means, but it’s also not particularly good.
The film establishes Dennis’ (Paul Giamatti) character right away, showing him walking from prison after a four year stint. We later find out he was put in there for robbery, but that’s not the point of the movie. Instead, it’s a tale about Dennis trying to pick up the pieces in his life following his incarceration. When he finds out his daughter thinks he’s dead, he embarks on an unlikely quest from Canada to New York City to sell overpriced Christmas trees. He joins an old friend, Rene (Paul Rudd), who happens to be the guy with his girl (Amy Landecker).
The situation seems similar to this year’s Prince Avalanche. More than just because Rudd stars in both movies, but because All is Bright tightens in and follows two primary characters with maturity problems at much older ages.
Unfortunately, this movie is less obscure, less funny, and ultimately less effective.
All is Bright interestingly wears its emotions right on its title. However, it doesn’t do quite as good of a job wearing its characters’ emotions on their sleeves. Giamatti does a fine job acting, but his character takes a route you’d expect from any ex-convict trying to win his daughter’s love back.
I’m not saying the movie is all hunky-dory by the end, but going back to the risk and rewards part, All is Bright doesn’t take enough risks to reap any rewards. Conflict and characters aren’t the only thing lacking the extra special quality, it’s the film as a whole.
“Boring” has always been a dirty word for me since I started reviewing films because it feels extremely harsh to call out a movie – which partially makes up the entertainment (emphasis here) industry – for being unentertaining. However, if you want to avoid this dirty word, and you don’t want to resort (yes, resort) to visual tricks, the entertainment comes in the plot. This plot flatlines the minute Dennis meets back up with Rene…which is pretty early in the film.
The pulses and spikes only come when Olga (Sally Hawkins) pops up throughout the story. She’s the only character that presents any kind of hiccup to the plot.
Again, it harkens back to the risk and rewards notion.
All is Bright doesn’t take a risk. Giamatti is one of the most underrated actors working, and he tries his best to keep the story going. However, Melissa James Gibson’s script doesn’t let him step out of anything you’d expect given his character’s background. His background is only so interesting…and there’s not nearly enough “interesting” to keep a two-man Christmas-tree-selling story going.
All is Bright is now available in limited theaters after releasing on Video On Demand services September 10th. Check it out if it sounds appealing.
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