Retro Movie Review: 'Noel' (2006)

On a snowy Christmas Eve in New York City, 5 strangers are brought together, and alter each other’s lives in "Noel." As abundant as films that’s plot centers on the 6 degrees of strangers, intersecting during a holiday have become in recent years, “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” to name a few, this film stands out.

Director Chazz Palminteri (“A Bronx Tale”) guides an excellent ensemble that includes Alan Arkin, Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz and Paul Walker, through a maze of emotionally captivating revelations. “Noel” hits upon something that is missed in many films of this genre. It satisfyingly builds these characters into people that are likably flawed and authentic. Each vignette and story is filled with an equal amount of care and told with abundant heart.

There’s the forlorn eccentric brought to life with sincerity and humor by the one-of-a-kind, Arkin. The lonely middle-aged singleton portrayed by an ethereally warm, Susan Sarandon.

The robust and madly-in-love young couple (Penelope Cruz and Paul Walker) who are trying to navigate their way through some relational strife and a man (Marcus Thomas) attempting to recreate memories of a better Christmas. 

Surprisingly, all of these stories are organically tied together and the characters are integrated into each other’s world, without a forceful push in one another’s direction. There are effective moments of comedy and resonant amounts of drama. This is a superb use of “dramedy,” as both drama and comedy are given ample and even play.

One of the film’s greatest achievements is how effectively it utilizes a modest amount of cast members, without ever feeling claustrophobic. They are all given their moment to shine without overstating the message they are trying to convey.

The performances that Palminteri captures are all pleasantly emotive. They are all presented in an absolutely natural way and the style feels unrehearsed, devoid of bombastic theatricality.

Penelope Cruz shines opposite Paul Walker, evoking a fiery spirit that spurs Walker into one of his best on-screen romantic pairings. Alan Arkin has a similar effect on Walker and herein lies one of the film’s keystone advantages -- the cast inspires the best out of one another. This is how an ensemble is supposed to work and when it does, you can tell.

Heartwarming with a copious amount of soup for the soul, its message is warm and its approach; tender and light. “Noel” makes one sit back and reevaluate with an inspiringly vibrant appeal.

This movie has a good sense of itself and what it’s trying to say, without busying itself in unnecessary cliché or preachy overtones. It is an experience, a glimpse into the lives of others, imparting its gift to audiences in the form of a little self-introspection. Rating: 8.5/10

[Featured Image by Convex Group]

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