Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Merry Christmas

If Henry Jaglom remade Fanny and Alexander, you would have something like Merry Christmas, a less-than-merry movie.

Dec 5, 2013

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1390768-Merry_Christmas_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

First-time feature filmmaker Anna Condo’s Merry Christmas starts with an intriguing idea—involving a murder-mystery weekend—but never follows it through with anything especially witty or insightful. Even those looking for an offbeat Christmas-themed movie will be disappointed.

Condo’s story, such as it is, tells what happens when a wealthy New York family travels with friends and loved ones on a trip to a Pennsylvania bed-and-breakfast in order to celebrate the holidays. Adding to the mix, a murder-mystery game has been arranged in advance and everyone dresses in 1970s “glitter” garb.

During the couple of days at the inn, family tensions rise and all the arguing and fighting diminish interest in the game. A homeless man also shows up, further testing the attitudes of the various guests. The occasion ends with the surprise revelation of “the killer.”

What could have been funny or suspenseful never becomes either in a script that seems wholly improvised by the cast. The characters are generally unpleasant, yet there isn’t nearly enough criticism by the filmmaker of their boorish, elitist behavior. Condo’s on-the-fly filmmaking approach (Merry Christmas was shot in a couple of days) would be more welcome—including the jerky zooms—if the story led anywhere. Even Henry Jaglom’s most self-indulgent works arrive at a climax of sorts, and reveal something worth waiting for to the audience. Most annoyingly, the actors speak over one another so often that what was once considered a breakthrough in screenwriting—the overlapping dialogue technique of Orson Welles—is just noise here.

Sadly, some of the actors try hard but have little to show for their efforts. Alexandra Stewart plays the kind of part Gena Rowlands might have portrayed had John Cassavetes made this film years ago. Stewart’s self-contained matriarch offers character possibilities unexplored by Condo, but Stewart, like the film itself, is overwhelmed by an excess of nothingness.


Film Review: Merry Christmas

If Henry Jaglom remade Fanny and Alexander, you would have something like Merry Christmas, a less-than-merry movie.

Dec 5, 2013

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1390768-Merry_Christmas_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

First-time feature filmmaker Anna Condo’s Merry Christmas starts with an intriguing idea—involving a murder-mystery weekend—but never follows it through with anything especially witty or insightful. Even those looking for an offbeat Christmas-themed movie will be disappointed.

Condo’s story, such as it is, tells what happens when a wealthy New York family travels with friends and loved ones on a trip to a Pennsylvania bed-and-breakfast in order to celebrate the holidays. Adding to the mix, a murder-mystery game has been arranged in advance and everyone dresses in 1970s “glitter” garb.

During the couple of days at the inn, family tensions rise and all the arguing and fighting diminish interest in the game. A homeless man also shows up, further testing the attitudes of the various guests. The occasion ends with the surprise revelation of “the killer.”

What could have been funny or suspenseful never becomes either in a script that seems wholly improvised by the cast. The characters are generally unpleasant, yet there isn’t nearly enough criticism by the filmmaker of their boorish, elitist behavior. Condo’s on-the-fly filmmaking approach (Merry Christmas was shot in a couple of days) would be more welcome—including the jerky zooms—if the story led anywhere. Even Henry Jaglom’s most self-indulgent works arrive at a climax of sorts, and reveal something worth waiting for to the audience. Most annoyingly, the actors speak over one another so often that what was once considered a breakthrough in screenwriting—the overlapping dialogue technique of Orson Welles—is just noise here.

Sadly, some of the actors try hard but have little to show for their efforts. Alexandra Stewart plays the kind of part Gena Rowlands might have portrayed had John Cassavetes made this film years ago. Stewart’s self-contained matriarch offers character possibilities unexplored by Condo, but Stewart, like the film itself, is overwhelmed by an excess of nothingness.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Calvary
Film Review: Calvary

An invidious, enervating piece of work blessedly relieved by Brendan Gleeson’s empathetic portrayal of a worldly priest confronting the sins of the world. More »

Rich Hill
Film Review: Rich Hill

This study of teens trying to make it in a very depressed and depressing heartland would have benefited from more hard info and less pictorial meandering. More »

Child of God
Film Review: Child of God

Depravity abounds in this James Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which despite a committed performance by Scott Haze proves a one-note endurance test. More »

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
Film Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

A return to the stripped–down ferocity of Eli Roth's no-frills 2002 shocker, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (which the title suggests is a prequel, though it doesn't really feel like one) lacks originality but delivers the body-horror goods far better than genre minimalist Ti West's Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break (2009), a broadly campy spin on ’70s high-school horror clichés. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here