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The French-Canadian Connection

MOVIE REVIEW
All Is Bright (2013)

Almost-christmas-movie-review-paul-rudd-paul-giamatti
Niko Tavernise/2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Phil Morrison made an auspicious directorial debut in 2005 with “Junebug.” Eschewing easy stereotypes, it masterfully painted a portrait of a sleepy American South haunted by a painful legacy and its people’s resignation to lives unfulfilled. The film also garnered the then-unknown Amy Adams an Oscar nomination and propelled her to overnight stardom. Given the eight years in between, expectations are naturally high for Mr. Morrison’s sophomore effort, “All Is Bright.” Regrettably, it falls short in every way imaginable.

Paul Giamatti plays Denis, a parolee who finds himself jobless and homeless upon his release. After a failed attempt to reinsert himself into the lives of his ex-wife and daughter, Denis coerces his ex-partner in crime/current romantic rival Rene (Paul Rudd) into getting him a job selling Christmas trees in New York City.

Although the new film centers on ne’er-do-wells just as “Junebug” did, this time you don’t get a sense of the geography and history that ferment the characters’ despair. To be fair, Mr. Morrison did not write the screenplay for either film. But “All Is Bright” scribe Melissa James Gibson seems intent on invoking a French-Canadian setting without necessarily illustrating the cultural forces at play.

The fact that Denis and Rene are anglophone Quebecers could itself easily add another layer to their psychological profiles, but it registers as a mere footnote. The anglophone-francophone dichotomy is certainly as ripe for exploration as the North-South clash in “Junebug,” since the people entangled in both cultural wars never got a chance to pick a side. By transporting the characters and action to New York City, Ms. James Gibson is essentially leaving the most interesting dynamic in the rearview mirror. In the end, “All Is Bright” is reminiscent of those utterly forgettable Canadian movies bankrolled on the government dime in the name of cultural preservation.

ALL IS BRIGHT

Opens on Oct. 4 in Manhattan.

Directed by Phil Morrison; written by Melissa James Gibson; director of photography, W. Mott Hupfel III; edited by Jeff Buchanan; music by Graham Reynolds; produced by Elizabeth Giamatti, Dan Carey, Sidney Kimmel and John Penotti; released by Anchor Bay Films. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

WITH: Paul Giamatti (Denis), Paul Rudd (Rene), Sally Hawkins (Olga), Amy Landecker (Therese), Peter Hermann (Monsieur Tremblay), Emory Cohen (Lou) and Tatyana Richaud (Michi).

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