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

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. 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