Ruddtrospective #8: All Is Bright…?

Spoilers for the movie All Is Bright. Not that you care, nobody has seen or heard of this movie, despite it being the only Christmas movie Paul Rudd has ever been in. But this isn’t a very happy Christmas movie, so don’t watch it if that’s what you’re looking for.

All Is Bright(2013) stars Paul Giamatti, Paul Rudd, Sally Hawkins, Amy Landecker, and Tatyana Richaud. It was directed by Phil Morrison, who does have a comedy background in The Upright Citizens Brigade. And it was written by Melissa James Gibson, who later went on to write episodes of House of Cards and The Americans. Which are not particularly funny shows, I assume? But I haven’t seen them. She does a good job making this weird movie both enjoyable and not enjoyable at the same time. I will say most of the dramatic moments between Giamatti and Rudd are ridiculously written and directed, so I hope that this movie is not indicative of her later work.

Anyway. Paul Giamatti plays a Canadian ex-convict named Dennis who has just been let out of prison on parole. He goes to his wife’s house to see his daughter for the first time in four years…? I think that’s the right amount of time, but who cares. His wife sees him at the door, looking at his daughter, about to knock, and holds up a post-it note telling him to wait until she falls asleep, because she told his daughter he was dead. He’s furious, obviously. Probably because his wife and daughter both have French accents and he has a really weird, vague, half-assed Canadian accent. His wife tells him that she plans to marry his old friend and safe-cracking extraordinaire, Rene, when he finally divorces his wife. Dennis is pissed, and he leaves. Oh and his daughter loves playing piano but they don’t have the money for one so she has to practice by humming until she can use the one at church.

The next day he meets with his parole officer, who tells him there are no good jobs in the area and he should just stay with his wife and daughter. This isn’t an option, but he can’t leave the county either. So for some reason he decides to go get the help of Rene, the man dating his wife? At this point I was pretty sure who Rene was gonna end up being, but this movie is really oddly-paced, so I couldn’t be sure. But he walks into a bar with a bunch of people with French accents and says hi to Paul Rudd, who at this point in the movie has forgotten that he’s supposed to be Canadian. Neither him or Paul Giamatti sound remotely Canadian until they leave Quebec. If this were a movie made by a director who has made any other movies at all, I would maybe think this is purposeful. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Anyway, Dennis tells Rene he needs help, and, after a bit of whining, convinces Rene to bring him with on his next big job. We then see a very weird scene of a very large gentleman crying in front of Rene, who is trying to console him. And then he just pushes Rene into the snow. We are told this is Huge Antoine, Rene’s usual number two.

Later in the week Rene and Dennis pick up some Christmas trees, load them into a truck, and head off to the Big Apple to sell them to unsuspecting New Yorkers. They have a brief stop at border patrol where Paul Giamatti has to hide behind a bunch of Christmas trees because he doesn’t have a passport. He also steals the wallet of the guy inspecting the truck. He insists that he’s trying to go straight, but he’s always stealing from people. They set up shop in an empty lot. The next morning they see that someone else has opened their own tree lot across the street, and so Paul Giamatti threatens to kill the boss until he promises to leave the lot. They leave as quickly as humanly possible, but Paul later visits their new lot to steal their trees for sale sign. A few short days later, Paul Giamatti sells the first tree to a Russian woman, played by Sally Hawkins, housesitting for dentists. Giamatti steals a book from the library on identifying different types of trees so he can sell better.

Paul Rudd gets a call the next day that his wife is finally willing to get a divorce, and then disappears for several days without his phone. Oh, and Paul Rudd gave Giamatti’s kid an advent calendar that she really loves and so every day she eagerly opens the next slot. From what I can tell it’s meant to show the passage of time while also making us like the character, but it ends up just being a really weird and irritating collection of scenes. Eventually Rudd comes back with a ring for Giamatti’s wife and the two of them get into an argument. They keep selling more and more trees and Giamatti becomes better friends with Sally Hawkins, who gives him fresh clothes and all that. In the dentist’s house there is also a very fancy piano. Remember that. Anyway, the Pauls end up making over $2,000. Giamatti wants to use this money to buy his daughter who still thinks he’s dead a piano. But while they count the money, a man who had pretended to be blind to buy a tree from them previously barges into their trailer, knocks Rudd through a wall, and steals the money. So then the Pauls steal the piano from the dentists and give it to Giamatti’s daughter and the movie ends where Giamatti walks away from his house without his daughter seeing while she plays piano in the snow. It’s weird.

I was reluctant to watch this. I’m not sure why, it’s probably one of the better movies I’ll have to watch for this thing. But it looked depressing. And I like Paul Giamatti, but he’s one of those actors that’s in literally everything, and it can get a little irritating when he shows up in yet another movie. But he’s a good actor and he’s fine in this. Other than the weird accent that him and Rudd try to do and every scene where they try to be dramatic in any way, shape, or form. Those suck. But the movie is fine, I guess. But it’s a very depressing Christmas movie and I wouldn’t recommend it.

There are some good jokes peppered throughout the film, but not enough to be memorable. There are lots of scenes of Paul Giamatti being rudely woken up by people. The best line in the movie though, belongs to Paul Rudd. What a surprise, right? “Get over here and smell some memories.”

Oh and the camera work in this is bizarre. There are all these weird zooms and pans and it feels like they’re trying to imitate Wes Anderson. I don’t know. The movie is fine. Watch it or don’t.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10(It’s fun enough but I wouldn’t seek it out.)
Rudd Rating: 8/10(His character sucks but he’s still very charming in this.)

Next week I will be ranking all 2021 Paul Rudd performances because the year is finally almost over!!! So come back for that.

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