Filmmaker Phil Morrison received praises for his indie debut movie Junebug, which launched the Hollywood career of Amy Adams in 2005. Even without the performance of Adams, the film features complex and uniquely written characters.
Almost Christmas arrives eight years later. The latest movie from Morrison doesn’t have the sparks that made his debut film special. It is about two French Canadian friends who got to New York to earn a living. It lacks a forward narrative engine and is devoid of fun or humor. Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti don’t have the dynamic chemistry needed to make the movie worth your while.
Giamatti is Dennis, an ex-convict who is just released from a four year prison term. He comes home to the surprise of his wife Therese (Amy Landecker) who has told their daughter that Dennis is already died due to cancer.
Dennis finds out that his wife is now in love with his best friend and former partner in crime Rene (Paul Rudd). Therese asks Dennis not to tell the truth to their daughter. Dennis agrees. Without a home and in need of a job, he goes to Rene and tells him that he owes him for the betrayal. Rene makes him a partner in his business of delivering Christmas trees to New York.
It is clear to Dennis that Rene has no clue how to run the business. It might be an analogy to the movie. It feels like Morrison doesn’t know how to treat Almost Christmas. The two men wait for customers to buy their trees without any conflicts to keep the movie interesting to viewers.
There’s a subplot that is not fully explored by the director. A best friend steals the wife of another. While it causes some tension between the two, it is never used as comically or dramatically as it should be. Dennis suffers in silence because he needs money.
There are interesting ideas in Almost Christmas but they fail to make an impact. It took Morrison eight years to come out with his sophomore movie but it is not something you’re hoping to see.